Waah Taj! IHCL hotels may serve craft beer

MUMBAI: Anheuser-Busch InBev and the Tata-owned Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) are coming together to open micro-breweries inside Taj hotel properties in what would be the first such exclusive arrangement for the world’s largest brewer in a market dominated by rival Heineken.

The plan, conceptualised by AB InBev’s innovation and investment group ZX Ventures, is to open about 15 outlets at Taj’s marquee locations where craft beer will be served. Under this partnership, the maker of Budweiser, Corona, and Hoegaarden will handle the backend, such as brewing and the beer recipes, while Taj will run the outlets, the first of which is slated to open next year.

“We will leverage our collective strength to shape the beer category in India. While Taj will bring hospitality excellence and beautiful locations, we have a vast portfolio of craft brands globally and together, that can elevate the country’s brew pub experience,” Ben Verhaert, president, South Asia, AB InBev told ET.

The beverages company said it will tie up with local brewers to make the products instead of selling draught versions of their bottled beer brands. The company, however, said it is awaiting regulatory approvals and is still working on the financial contours, branding, menu design and sourcing.

“The idea is to sell a local product portfolio and it is a fairly large investment. We will spend Rs 150 crore in the first five years,” Verhaert added.

Unlike Tata’s other global tie-ups within the consumer space such as Starbucks and Tesco, where it created new entities as joint ventures to operate stores, the latest initiative will have a profit or revenue sharing model within their existing companies.

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“This partnership, exclusive to IHCL, will be a first of its kind in the hospitality industry in India. With its diverse collection of 500 beer brands, AB InBev will be involved in setting up micro-breweries at some of our iconic hotels,” said Puneet Chhatwal, managing director at IHCL. The first outlet will open at a Taj Bengaluru property, followed by Goa, Mumbai and Hyderabad.

“These are the two best players in their respective business and their collaboration is a big positive for the entire beer segment. There will also be no pressure on rentals or occupancy cost,” said Rahul Singh, founder of Beer Cafe.



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