SPAIN-BASED Aje Group, one of the largest multinational beverage companies, has made Thailand its regional centre for Asia, with the role of facilitating its foray into individual markets within the region.
The group is now present in more than 23 countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa, with 13,000 direct and indirect employees. In addition to its flagship brand, Big Cola, Aje’s product portfolio includes such brands as Cielo, Cifrut, Pulp, Big Fresh, Sporade and Volt in the water and juices categories, as well as electrolyte and energy drinks.
Soren Lauridsen, Aje Group regional director for Asia and managing director of Aje Thailand, said his mission was to increase the footprint of Big Cola and the other beverage brands across Asia, which is recognised by Aje as an important market with great business potential.
Lauridsen, who has been in the top position in the Thai operation for six months, said Latin America was now the group’s biggest market, particularly Mexico, which is recognised as the second-largest soft-drink market in the world.
Before joining Aje, Lauridsen worked as chief executive at Carlsberg in charge of India and other parts of Asia.
He said Aje’s beverage products were now available in many markets in Asia, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, India and Bhutan.
“In addition to our bottling facilities in Thailand at Amata Nakorn Industrial Estate in Chon Buri, which employ about 1,250 people altogether, the group has three bottling factories in Indonesia and one in Vietnam.
“As a centre for the Asia region, Thailand will support Aje’s operations in other countries in the region in the area of human-resource development, product innovations and marketing initiatives.
“As part of our strategy to expand [our footprint] in Asia, we will use Thailand as a springboard to penetrate other potential neighbouring markets, such as Myanmar and Laos. We have quite an ambitious growth target [as well] for Indonesia and Vietnam,” he said.
Aje Thailand yesterday announced the largest revamp of its Big Cola carbonated soft drink in the 12 years of its business history in Thailand.
The revamp, which required a sizeable budget, has been made in many areas, including product recipe, labelling, packaging and its marketing campaign.
“With [this] major revamp, we aim to increase our sales for Big Cola in Thailand by 15 per cent this year, as well as to increase its market share from 7.6 per cent to 10 per cent.
“We will raise our ratio of coverage of overall retail outlets in the Kingdom from currently 50 per cent to 75 per cent by the end of this year.”
Lauridsen said the company would also segment the market very carefully, based on the company’s ability to penetrate particular market segments as well as its business partners and distributors in those geographic locations.
“What we aim for Big Cola in Thailand is to become a strong No 3 in the market with market share of more than 10 per cent,” he said.
Lauridsen said the overall carbonated-soft-drink market in Thailand increased in value by 6-7 per cent to Bt40 billion last year, according to AC Nielsen. Meanwhile, the market increased by 8 per cent in volume last year, from 1.54 billion litres posted in 2014 to 1.66 billion litres.