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German froth Bitburger to debut in India

Ravi Menon  |  Bangalore 

More the bitter, all the better -- where the Indian beer market is concerned. Top German brewer Bitburger Braugruppe GmbH could soon join the line-up of MNC beer brewers in India. The Birburger Brewery Group, which leads the draught beer market in Germany, is said to be planning an India foray sometime this year. The brewer is understood to be looking for bottlers and contract manufacturers to brew, bottle and distribute its global brands in India, according to beer industry veterans. 

Production of Bitburger's beer brands is understood to be planned under a brand licensing agreement with the German beer giant providing technical know-how and marketing support under a franchise model. As of now, the company is not keen on entering the market by buying into an existing manufacturer, rather preferring to set up greenfield breweries in India. 

The company, founded in 1817, is among the largest privately owned breweries in Germany, and is said to be looking at retailing a strong and a mild beer under the Bitburger brandname in India for a start. The company will primarily compete for the secondary slot in the Indian market after Kingfisher, with its competitors being brands like Carlsberg, Thunderbolt, Beck's, Budweiser, Foster's and Tiger. 

Bitburger's press office did not respond to queries on its India plans. Bitburger had a annual production capacity of over 7.3 million hectolitres in 2008. Its marque range of brands include Bitburger premium, Konig Pilsener, a leading German draught, Wernesgruner, a wheat beer under the brandname Licher, Kostritzer, a pioneering black beer, two low alcohol beers, and a range of fruit beers. 

Wernesgruner, an over 570-year-old beer brand, was acquired and integrated with Bitburger in 2002. Konig Pilsener and Licher were integrated in 2004. The group also operates a market leading mineral water business in Germany. 

The German national football team has a sponsorship deal in place with German brewer Bitburger until 2012. The Italian and US markets comprise over 40 per cent of Bitburger's beer exports. 

The Indian market has been largely untapped and is viewed as having strong growth potential in the decade ahead. Industry experts estimate that Indians consume 86 lakh bottles (650 ml) of beer per day. The Indian beer industry has been witnessing steady growth of 10 - 17 per cent every year over the last ten years, according to industry reports. 

The rate of growth has increased in recent years, with volumes passing 170 million cases during the 2008-2009 financial year. Beer sales in India are forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 17.2 per cent to 2011. 

Vijay Mallya-led United Breweries Ltd – along with Millennium Alcobev – and SABMiller account for nearly 85 per cent of the Indian beer market. Noteworthy entrants into the Indian market in recent years include Asia-Pacific Breweries, Som Distilleries and Breweries, InBev, Anheuser-Busch and Carlsberg. 

First Published: Mon, June 21 2010. 22:55 IST