Brandy in a new light

Mohan Brothers, one of India’s oldest spirit companies, is looking to change the perception of brandy. From a health and wellness associated drink to a trendy, lifestyle spirit.

Founded in 1934, Mohan Brothers is one of the oldest entities in the Indian spirits space. While it was the country’s largest importer and distributor of alcohol in pre-Independence India, in the ’70s, it launched the iconic brand Doctor’s Brandy Reserve No 1. While both the spirit and the brand, well entrenched by now, were associated with health benefits, the company is looking to change this perception with its latest release, Burlingtons.

Made from hand-picked blue and purple grapes in Baramati, Burlingtons has a darker colour and bolder flavour than Doctor’s, owing to its longer maturation process.  

“Brandy has traditionally been associated with health and wellness. People used to drink brandy to cope with colds, and so popular was this as a remedy, even doctors used to recommend it to patients. But that was the story with Doctor’s Brandy. With Burlingtons, we are looking at a different approach. This brand isn’t for loyalists of Doctor’s but for an entirely new segment of consumers,” says Pooja Bajaj Chadha, CEO, Burlingtons Brandy.

Looking at a new segment of drinkers though, isn’t just a way to break new ground, but a carefully thought-out strategy based on market research. “Our research has thrown up some surprising elements. While traditionally brandy has been had as a nightcap or with water, these days people have found many innovative ways to drink brandy. Some drink it with soft drinks, in coffee, in hot chocolate while others are putting it in soup and even cooking with it. We’ve even heard of people use it in thandai during Holi. And all these innovative uses are by people in the 25 to 45 age bracket. This is one of the prime reasons why we’re looking so seriously at this segment of consumers,” explains Chadha.

Her love for the spirit shines through though, both in conversation and the initiatives being undertaken by the brand. The idea is first and foremost, to educate the consumer about brandy. “We launched Burlingtons in December last year and our first priority is to educate the drinker. The biggest gap lies in the questions consumers have about brandy. How do you enjoy brandy? When do you drink it? Do you drink it as an aperitif, as a nightcap or do you pair it with food? Our objective is to give the consumer the answers to these questions and leave the choice to them.”

One of the biggest learnings from Doctor’s Brandy Reserve No 1, was that the monsoons is peak season for people to drink brandy. But with Burlingtons, the positioning will be different. “We don’t want Burlingtons to be limited to a season. Cocktails can be enjoyed round the year, and that’s the position we’re vying for.”

To connect with a younger segment of drinkers, the company is starting its outreach with target groups, of both regular consumers as well as food bloggers and connoisseurs. The feedback from both sets helps with understanding how this new brandy drinker enjoys her drink, as well as formulate campaigns for the future which will help engage newer audiences. Alongside, the brand is also building a community of brandy drinkers. “We want to build a community that is not just trusted by consumers but those who believe in the brand and will be spokespersons and ambassadors who will spread awareness about it. Brandy still is a spirit that is associated with wellness and we want to put out the message that you can drink it for health but there are other ways to enjoy it too.”

This will be followed with virtual engagements across social channels, to promote brandy as a part of modern lifestyle in an organic way. “It’s important that our marketing efforts are geared towards our primary objective of educating the consumer. For example, we had a promotional offer where we gave a away a goblet with every 750ml and 1 litre bottles of Burlingtons. Because we want the consumer to enjoy the drink properly, in the way it’s meant to be had. We introduced Burlingtons Brandy with honey and ginger. Because we know there can be confusion about how to enjoy the drink. This is the simplest way to enjoy it and we created the mix, so the consumer doesn’t have to worry about proportions.”

Flavours of brandy are also in the offing, with a couple of fruits under consideration currently. Aside from this, there are other larger plans in the pipeline too, that of creating an entire range of spirits under the Burlingtons brand. Gin, with its growing popularity, would likely be the natural extension. “We have studied the gin market in India and feel it would be a great direction to move in. We also have some expertise in the field, having worked with several professional from the industry.”

This year’s focus though, will be on the brandy. Burlingtons is already in Pune and Nagpur, and Goa is next on the schedule. Southern India is an established market for brandy and that is where the company wants to extend to before other parts of the country. Towards this end, the company is also looking to partner with strategic investors who have a good understanding of the market and experience and the resources to make a mark.

Clearly, the brandy segment in India is set to witness some exciting times. How consumers take to it, is something to wait and watch for.

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