This is surely a big leap for Mr Vijay Mallya's spirits empire. The UB Spirits Division (UBSPD) comprising McDowell & Co and Herbertsons has edged out Bermuda-based Bacardi, an eponymous rum maker, to emerge as the fourth largest spirits marketer in the world. This followed the division's impressive performance in 2003-04 with sales topping 35 million cases.
Top UB group officials said the New York-based Impact International, a widely respected research digest of the international beverage alcohol industry, has ratified UBSPD's emergence as the fourth largest player ahead of Bacardi's roughly 34 million cases. It now follows Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Allied Domecq in the pecking order of the leading global spirits companies.
UB's spirits sales soared by roughly four million cases to cross 35 million in the just concluded financial year from 30.86 million in 2002-03 (one case contains approximately 12 bottles of 750 ml). "With over 35 million cases, we have been ratified as the fourth largest as Bacardi's sales have shown a slight negative swing," a top company official said.
UBSPD did not officially comment on the development but is preparing for a media blitzkrieg to showcase the achievement. It broke into the top five league only in 2001-02 with sales of 26 million cases. The domestic liquor major has come to unsettle the list of the top four companies in the spirits world that remained unchanged between Diageo, Pernod, Allied Domecq and Bacardi for a long while.
In 2001-02, Diageo topped with 93.2 million followed by Pernod Riacrd (45 m), Allied Domecq (43.6 m) and Bacardi (34.2 m). While the latest sales figures from Impact International is not yet known, it is believed that Diageo will push its leadership with sales close to 100 million cases.
UB's frenetic growth in the last eight years has pushed its global standing from ninth position in 1995 to seventh in 1997 and now to the fourth slot. Analysts said the growth of UB's spirits business "is a compelling story given the external environment, bitter rivalries and personal egos that blot the domestic liquor industry". It is the only Asian presence in the Top Five league despite the fact that Japan's Suntory Ltd has been an aggressive and respectable name in the global liquor scene. In 1995, Suntory with 17.2 million cases was ranked ahead of UB but since then has been outclassed by the Indian major through the strong showing in its large home turf, of course aided by the lifting of prohibition and regulatory changes in some key States.
UB has ten millionaire brands in its portfolio, which include Bagpiper whisky (6.5 million) and No.1 McDowell Whisky (5.5 million). UB's nearest rival in the Indian market is Shaw Wallace & Co (SWC), a distant second with roughly 14.5 million cases annually.