A little over five years ago, the senior management at United Breweries (UB), was finding it hard to conceal their excitement. The latest offering, Heineken beer, was now officially in India and a presence in the growing premium mild beer segment beckoned. With its Kingfisher range, the country’s largest beer company was all set. After all, Heineken, with its iconic green bottle and red star was among the largest brands globally.
Today, the brand has come a cropper with a market share of less than 1% in the ₹12,000 crore beer market. Heineken is not easily available and its equity, questionable. That is ironic considering UB’s strong distribution network has hugely helped its flagship brand Kingfisher to retain a position of dominance. Today, the company accounts for close to 50% of the beer market (Kingfisher and its variants bring in over 41%) by volume, according to Euromonitor, and Heineken’s accompanying indifferent performance is a serious cause for concern. And by the looks of it, it may just be the beginning of an uphill battle for the iconic brand in India.
For UB, the first big challenge came from Carlsberg, which was launched in India in 2007. UB responded with Kingfisher Ultra in 2009. Ultra encountered some level of success. This was soon follo