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Indian Cuisines


North Indian

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South Indian

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  Akki Rotti
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  Ragi Rotti

East Indian

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North-East Indian

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Indian beer

History of Beer in India

Modern beer brewing began for India in the early days of the British Empire — the mid-1700s. The demand for beer in the hot climate of many parts of India by the British administrators and the troops was so great that it led to the creation of a completely new style of beer by George Hodgson in his London brewery — India Pale Ale also known as IPA. IPA is a strong, highly hopped ale designed to survive the five month ocean voyage to India without spoiling. India Pale Ale was shipped with every voyage for over a century and became very popular in Britain and North America.

In the late 1820s Edward Dyer moved from England to set up the first brewery in India at Kasauli (later incorporated as Dyer Breweries in 1855) in the Himalaya mountains, near Shimla, producing Asia's first beer called Lion. The brewery was soon shifted to nearby Solan (close to the British summer capital Shimla), as there was an abundant supply of fresh spring water there. The Kasauli brewery site was converted to a distillery which Mohan Meakin Ltd. still operates. Dyer set up more breweries at Shimla, Murree, Rawalpindi and Mandalay.

Another entrepreneur, H G Meakin, moved to India and bought the old Shimla and Solan Breweries from Edward Dyer and added more at Ranikhet, Dalhousie, Chakrata, Darjeeling and Kirkee. In 1937, when Burma was separated from India, the company was restructured with its Indian assets as Dyer Meakin Breweries, a public company on the London Stock Exchange. Following independence, in 1949 N.N. Mohan took over management of the company and the name was changed to Mohan Meakin Ltd. The company continues to produce beer across India to this day and Lion is still available in northern India. Lion was changed from an IPA to a lager in the 1960s, when due to East European influence, most brewers in India switched from brewing Ales to brewing lagers.

Today no brewer in India makes India Pale Ale. All Indian beers are either lagers (5 % alcohol — such as Australian lager) or strong lagers (8 % alcohol - such as the popular MAX super strong beer). International Breweries Pvt. Ltd. have recently announced an intention to work with Mohan Meakin to produce and launch an India Pale Ale called Indian IPA from India's first brewery at Solan. Kingfisher, Haywards, Kalyani Black Label, Soumitree, Jaguar, Foster's, Castle Lager, Royal Challenge, Max, Kings and Belo are popular Indian beer brands.

In various parts of north-eastern India, traditional rice beer is quite popular. Several festivals feature this nutritious, quite intoxicating, drink as part of the celebrations. The rice is fermented in vats that are sometimes buried underground. Elephants are known to attack villages, with the primary agenda of drinking from these vats. Following one such raid in north-eastern India, a police officer in Dumka was quoted in the press as saying: "Tribals who love rice beer brew the liquor at home. Elephants too are fond of this beer. Often it is found that, attracted by the strong smell of the liquor, wild elephants tear down the tribal houses where the brew is stored.

Indian Beer Industry

The Indian beer industry has been witnessing steady growth of 7-9% per year over the last ten years. The rate of growth has remained steady in recent years, with volumes passing 100m cases during the 2005-2006 financial year. With the average age of the population on the decrease and income levels on the increase, the popularity of beer in the country continues to rise.

Industry Consolidation and Emergence of a new Bi-polar Market Dynamic

The Indian beer industry has witnessed a big change during the last five years. The industry was previously dominated by competition between the Vijay Mallya-controlled United Breweries Group and the Manu Chabbria-controlled Shaw Wallace. The scenario changed, however, with the entry of SABMiller in India. The international beer giant started by acquiring small breweries in the south but then completely changed the landscape with the acquisition of Shaw Wallace’s beer portfolio for a reported US$132m in 2003. This gave SABMiller ownership of strong brands like Haywards 5000, along with its existing brands. After the acquisition, SABMiller focused on spreading its footprint across India, including opening new breweries in states where Shaw Wallace did not have a presence.

On the other hand, rival UB bolstered its presence in the country in 1999 by creating sister company Millennium Alcobev, which produces beer brands like Zingaro and Sandpiper. Today, this is a joint-venture between the UB Group and Scottish & Newcastle (S&N). The company started as a 61:39 joint venture between the UB Group and Ravi Jain, a friend of Mallya’s. In January 2002, this was expanded to accommodate Scottish & Newcastle (when it became a 40:40:20 joint venture between UB, S&N and Ravi Jain). In early 2006, Ravi Jain ceased to be an equity partner and Millennium Alcobev became a 50:50 joint-venture.

The SABMiller acquisition of Shaw Wallace gave the company a good position in the strong beer sector (beer with an alcohol content of 6% and over) which is the fastest-growing segment in the market. While SABMiller’s Haywards 5000 is the biggest-selling strong beer brand (a fact hotly contested by UB Group), UB’s Kingfisher is the largest-selling beer brand overall in the market.

UB has been making inroads into the strong beer segment during the last year. Kingfisher Strong, whose sales five years ago were only equal to one-fifth of Haywards 5000, is now running neck and neck with Haywards – indeed both companies claim market leadership for their brands.

Between them, UB – along with Millennium Alcobev – and SABMiller account for nearly 90% of the Indian beer market. There are some smaller, regional players too; of them, one of the most important is Mount Shivalik Breweries, which owns brands like Thunderbolt.

Mohan Meakin is also a strong regional player in the country, though family rifts have prompted the family-owned business to put itself up for sale. Consensus between family members is proving difficult to reach, but, with companies such as SABMiller, UB and APB showing interest, the company’s fate should be decided soon.

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