Gin is here to stay, and its popularity is likely to keep growing, believes Ajay Shetty


What’s going on in the gin world that excites you right now?

Ajay Shetty: Currently, the Gin trend or the Ginnaissance as they call it, has created a massive impact in India – making us the fifth largest gin consumers in the world. Brands have very impressively participated in this trend, by stepping into the game of making spirits and tonic. While looking at global brands, we have seen that the market is ripe with innovation, in terms of flavours, quality of ingredients and also finding ways to make it more accessible, price-wise. It was exciting for us to be a gamechanger in the game-changing ready-to-drink space, and carve out a new market niche as India’s first gin and tonic in a bottle.

You have been a part of the F&B industry for quite a while now. What are the significant changes that have happened in the industry in the last decade?

Ajay Shetty: The world has witnessed impactful shifts in taste, work culture and even recreational activities over the last decade. For obvious reasons, that shift has been even more pronounced over the last year. The alcobev landscape has been adapting to these changes globally, by coming up with new brands, better styles and greater absorption of RTDs. With a more informed audience to cater to, being innovative and having a distinctive brand voice is becoming increasingly vital.

How different do you think would things become in the industry post this pandemic?

Ajay Shetty: There has been a lot to learn as the world has changed during the pandemic. The culture of socialisation is changing, with more people appreciating true and meaningful connections over large scale partying. However, there are also those who are frustrated with having been stuck at home, and can’t wait for the partying to begin again! Brands will need to tread the line, and find their space within these landscapes. While the pandemic has caused a setback, I feel it has also opened up more opportunities and audiences by creating a more dynamic drinking culture. In that way, the post-pandemic impact could well be a positive one.

Share more about the recently launched RTD G&T in a bottle and G&T 2.0.

Ajay Shetty: Salud G&T 2.0 is India’s very first pour-and-enjoy gin and tonic in a bottle. It is crafted using the finest English Juniper, Indian quinines, and botanicals from Europe. It comes in 3 flavours – Original, Cucumber and Lavender. The flavour profile is fresh and modern. The Salud vibe is easygoing and natural.

The consumers today are a whole bunch of enthusiasts who don’t shy away from experiments, so how do you work on innovations? What’s your mantra to lead the race?

Ajay Shetty: That is very true! Since consumers have been confined to their homes for the longest time, they have been getting extremely creative especially with their food and beverages during the pandemic. We cater to that love of experimentation by being easy to drink and very versatile. Salud G&T 2.0 lends itself to endless food and garnish pairings. We currently have the advantage of being an early entrant, and we are doing all we can to push this advantage by creating unique and surprising variants, like our Lavender flavour, for example. We plan to continue to stay ahead of the trends and create more unique flavours and experiences. All wrapped up in the distinctive Salud ethos of being fresh, modern and inclusive.

How do you see the future of Gin products in the country?

Ajay Shetty: Gin is here to stay, and its popularity is likely to keep growing. It is a very versatile drink, and gin cocktails like G&T also have a reputation of being more healthy than other alcobev drinks. With health and convenience being the topmost concerns in today’s world, this spells a bright future for gin. Which also means brands will have to keep innovating and creating more exciting variants to keep consumers’ interest and stay ahead of the game

What trends will further boost gin products’ demand among the consumers?

Ajay Shetty: Drinking at home is here to stay. Health consciousness is here to stay. Hot summers are here to stay! These factors have all combined to create a gin culture that is, I feel, more than a trend at this point. So, a drink like G&T, which is cool, refreshing, easy to drink and healthy is a no-brainer. People are looking for new ways in which to unwind and bond with friends and family. Consumers are also looking for brands that promote responsibility, social awareness and inclusivity. All the things that Salud, as a brand, stands for as well.

Share the idea behind setting up Salud?

Ajay Shetty: It all started when we noticed a significant gap in the alcobev industry. People were looking for something fresh, convenient, easy to drink. This gave birth to Salud G&T 2.0 – which is India’s very first gin and tonic in a bottle. That’s where it started, but Salud today is much more than G&T. It is an urban lifestyle brand that aims to give people new, exciting ways to bond with their tribe, connect with themselves, and celebrate life in a whole new way. We call it Life 2.0! We also have an exclusive fashion and merchandise line, as well as Salud Sessions, our very own music label. Salud is all about being modern, socially responsible and totally inclusive.

What factors are driving the demand and how are new-age entrepreneurs such as you, tapping into the potential market that is expected to grow bigger?

Ajay Shetty: Factors that drive up demand include culture, trends, refreshment requirements and more. People are increasingly looking for brands they can connect with. A great product alone is no longer enough to drive demand. To succeed, you must stand for something. The successful entrepreneurs of today are the ones that create not just consumers, but fans. By tapping into the social landscape, as much as the market landscape.

Who in the industry do you most admire? What is your inspiration?

Ajay Shetty: I currently admire how Diageo and Brewdog are playing in the market. They have set new benchmarks and continually motivate me to pave a completely new path that Salud can tread, so as to create an aspirational global lifestyle brand.