Do names such as Tilo, Jinthaaa, Mullai or Kisso ring a bell at all? Chances are slim as consumers can see them only four months in a year. Come summer and regional brands have a field day as soaring mercury levels push up beverage consumption. But this summer is turning out to be a lucrative period for these players as the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) predicts a very hot season between March and May. At least 27 aerated drinks are visible this summer in the southern market alone with the number expected to rise further as the temperature increases. The IMD had said in March that average temperature this summer would be above normal by more than a degree Celsius and that all sub-divisions in the country would be dry between March and May. An official from Renga Soda Company, which manufactures Kisso soft drink in Tamil Nadu, says that regional players understand local needs much more than national players do, allowing them to survive the blistering heat and competition. Typically, these local brands flood the market with Rs 10 PET bottles that are available in general trade as well as hotels, restaurants and caterers (HORECA), a key trade channel for beverage makers. These brands also have multiple flavours, ensuring that consumers have variety at hand, analysts tracking the market said. Industry estimates peg the overall beverage market in the south at around Rs 20 billion in size.
This includes national as well as regional brands. The market for local or regional brands alone is pegged at around Rs 6 billion, but growing at the rate of 15-20 per cent per annum, ahead of the overall market.Most of these local brands are also popular in tier two markets and beyond. Mullai, for instance, retails 100 kilometres away from Chennai in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. Ruby is popular in and around Madurai and Tilo is present in Tirupur, the textile hub of India. Incidentally, national players Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have taken note of this competition, lining up regional flavours and variants. Coca-Cola India and southwest Asia president T Krishnakumar said recently that the company would introduce ethnic drinks and fruit juices with an aim to localise two-thirds of its product portfolio. “The idea is that over time one-third of products will be global and two-thirds will be local,” Krishnakumar said. The company has already revived its jaljeera brand RimZim and is focusing on local drinks such as nimbu paani and coconut water this year, Krishnakumar said. PepsiCo India, on the other hand, is launching seven new fizzy drinks under its Slice brand to take on regional players. Apart from the standard lemon and orange flavours, the new fizzy drinks will have variants such as guava chilli and jeera, the company said.