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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Pune Inc: Startup serving ancient alcoholic beverage looks to raise $5 million funding

Moonshine Meadery makes mead and started with an initial investment of Rs 55 lakh. Over the years, it has raised a little less than $2 million.

Written by Dipanita Nath | Pune |
Updated: January 18, 2022 1:46:32 pm
A Pune-based company that is disrupting the market for alcohol by making mead, one of the world’s oldest alcoholic drinks, that was considered by the ancient Greeks to be the drink of the gods. (Express photo)

Mumbai-based artist Anand Radhakrishnan, who won the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award, considered the Oscars of the comic world, in 2021, has a penchant for sketching in public places and carries several sketchbooks with himself.

One day, in early 2019, he sat in a cafe and sketched a group of customers — who turned out to be a team from Moonshine Meadery, a Pune-based company that is disrupting the market for alcohol by making mead, one of the world’s oldest alcoholic drinks, that was considered by the ancient Greeks to be the drink of the gods. The chance meeting between Radhakrishnan and Moonshine Meadery would result in a collaboration involving bottles of mead.

Moonshine Meadery had found out during the lockdown that a lot of their clients were people in their late twenties. Accordingly, the company now wanted a younger, funkier and stylised identity. Radhakrishnan joined the community of artists who would push the rebranding of the company by designing attractive and thought-provoking labels for its mead bottles.

While Radhakrishnan’s artwork can be seen on Apple Cyder Mead, another artist Sachin Bhatt, who creates “strange images that can cause one to be weirdly amused or slightly uncomfortable” is on the bottle of Bourbon Oaked Apple Mead, and the Clockwork Orange-inspired art on the bottle of Chocolate Orange Mead is by Nikhil More.

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“Previously, our branding was solid colours and fonts and nothing else but we realised that today’s young generation cares about ingredients and is willing to pay the price. There had been a huge culture shift from the time we were 27. The more we spoke to these people, the more we realised that there was a need for rebranding ourselves and how we communicate online also needs to change. They want to see how we make the product and the people behind the brand. Now, with every SKU, we ensure that there is storytelling that goes back to how we procure the ingredient,” says Nitin Vishwas, founder of Moonshine Meadery with Rohan Rehani.

Now, Moonshine Meadery sells around 5,000 cases a month and expects the number to go up three times this calendar year. In the last three months, they have opened four markets — Assam, Silvassa, Rajasthan and Karnataka. Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are planned in the first months of 2022. “We increased our capacity in November 2019 and were planning to open new markets when in April 2020 everything closed due to the pandemic. We made sanitisers and focused on our existing market. From October 2021, we started to open new markets. Geographically de-risking ourselves in the wake of the pandemic was critical,” adds Vishwas.

Assam was chosen for its huge potential that is largely untapped by Indian brands. “Logistically, it is a nightmare but if you can navigate that, you will find a deep market. In UP, there is a possibility of a change in wine policy that is going to become more favourable and with that, we started to notice a shifting trend with distributors looking for newer brands,” says Vishwas. The brand’s presence in Noida would also give it access to Delhi. Rajasthan was selected because mead would appeal to the state’s large tourist population while Himachal Pradesh is where people from Delhi and its surroundings travel on short vacations.

The range of meads is aligned with the Indian palate, especially Guava Chilli, made of multifloral honey, pink and white guava and Naga ghost chilli, that calls on the nostalgia of Indian eating guava with sprinkled chilli powder, and Mango Chilli whose ingredients are Kesar mango, Guntur chilli and multifloral honey.

“We will try to learn from whatever is already there and give it a new twist,” says Rehani. Honey is the core ingredient and Moonshine also runs the Honey Project, with honey sourced from the hills of Uttarakhand to the forests of Nilgiri. “We look for beekeepers who source responsibly and don’t compromise on quality,” says Rehani, a beekeeper himself.

Moonshine started with an initial investment of Rs 55 lakh and, over the years, has raised a little less than $2 million from known sources. At present, in the middle of its first institutional round of funding and are trying to raise $5 million. “The fact that we have received a lot of traction especially in the last six months should bring us some dividends in the first half of the year,” he adds.

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