Clear spirits ahoy

Billion Air Vodka is looking to change how India drinks clear spirits by straddling the premium and accessible segments, and also, re-educating consumers about drinking culture.

India is primarily a dark spirits market and it’s only recently that clear spirits, led by a bevy of homegrown gin brands, have started making their mark. Sonaar Beverages, with its new label Billion Air Vodka, is looking to strengthen the case of clear spirits in India.

Unlike most vodkas, which are made with grain or potatoes, Billion Air Vodka is made with a combination of American corn and wheat (98 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively), and is sourced, distilled and blended in the US and bottled in India. It’s also gluten-free.

Sonaar Beverages’ approach to the market is different, evident in not just the manufacturing process of Billion Air Vodka, but also in where it sees the label fit into the market. “The Indian vodka market is dominated by big players who have a monopoly, and have been around for a very long time. These fall into two categories – poor quality cheap vodkas that can be mixed with sugary cocktails to conceal the taste, or imported vodkas which are expensive and unaffordable for most consumers. We wanted to change the status quo, and create a refined product at an affordable price,” says Vrun Murpana, Director, Sonaar Beverages.

The distinction with market approach is also reflected in how the label wants to position itself and the kind of customers it wants to attract. Given the proliferation of younger drinkers in India, Murpana is aware of the growing affinity for health-conscious consumption and has accordingly, fashioned the brand’s approach. “Vodka has always been the choice of beverage for those watching their diet – combined with water or soda, 30ml of vodka is less than 80 calories. Vodka also has an association with bad hangovers, due to the lack of quality products. So, we want to re-educate our consumers by creating a safe and responsible drinking culture.”

And where there are varied audiences, there’s always scope for experimentation. “Flavoured vodkas are making a comeback, so we have been experimenting with grapefruit and peach to create some signature infusions,” reveals Murpana.

The label might be just starting out, but there are plenty of plans in the pipeline. Initiatives that aren’t just geared at improving market share but also, improving drinking culture in the country and doing it sustainably.

“We are a socially conscious brand, whether that involves staying home to curb the spread of Covid or making sure we recycle our bottles and by-products. We will be collaborating with local vendors to change the way India drinks. We have a lot of curated events in the pipeline that we will start promoting once it’s safe to start going out again. Until then, we will be hosting some fun virtual events,” says Murpana. Billion Air Vodka is currently available in Mumbai and Pune, with Bangalore and Hyderabad in the domestic market and Dubai and Singapore overseas, on the charts for expansion this year. And that’s not all, Sonaar Beverages will keep furthering the cause of clear spirits in the country with its new gin label, The Cabinet.

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