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Serm Suk seeks No 1 spot for est cola in 3 years

Serm Suk, which yesterday launched its own cola beverage, est, has set an ambitious target of making the brand the leader of Thailand's Bt30-billion cola segment within three years.

The company, whose bottling and distribution contract with Pepsi-Cola expired on Thursday, expects est to achieve Bt8 billion in sales in the first 12 months.

"We aim to have our own est brand achieve a 25-per-cent market share and to take the No 2 spot in the local cola drink market in the first year. We want to be the market leader in three years," said Dhitivute Bulsook, president of Serm Suk. Cola drinks account for about 80 per cent of the overall carbonated drink market, which is worth about Bt38 billion a year.

"We will invest Bt300 million in the last two months of this year to boost awareness of est. We will invest another Bt900 million in proactive marketing activities next year," Dhitivute said.

The company is looking to make est Thais' preferred alternative cola drink as rapidly as possible.

He added that while 40 per cent of Thai consumers are loyal to either Pepsi-Cola or Coca-Cola, about 60 per cent of them are brand switchers willing to try new cola beverages when they appear on the market. About 77 per cent of consumers tested said they were satisfied with the flavour of est and would buy it, Dhitivute said.

He described Thailand as a unique beverage market where returnable glass bottles still play a major packaging role, representing between 60 and 70 per cent of the market, with PET bottles and cans making up the remainder.

"Our capacity for handling returnable glass bottles, which are owned assets, is our unbeatable advantage. [The volume of] returnable glass bottles is still growing at an average of 5 to 6 per cent per annum," he said.

Serm Suk chief executive Somchai Bulsook said yesterday's launch marked the start of a new chapter in the firm's history as it moves into its sixth decade, as well as a new chapter in the history of Thailand's beverage industry. In just eight months, the staff at Serm Suk succeeded in their first-ever attempt at creating this "new baby" brand from scratch, and getting it to market, he said.

"The launch of the est brand of carbonated soft drink fulfils our business plan of being a producer and distributor of our own line of carbonated beverages," Somchai said.

"Our strong point is our distribution system," said Parinya Permpanich, marketing/sales operation director, adding that Serm Suk has five bottling plants and 48 branch offices throughout the Kingdom. The company has 1,200 sales trucks, 150,000 coolers and more than 200,000 retail outlets and eateries that are ready to support the est product line, Parinya said.

The new drink will be available in seven different package sizes. Two new packaging formats will be launched - a 330-millilitre (12-ounce) returnable glass bottle and a one-litre PET bottle - costing Bt8 and Bt20 respectively. Other packaging sizes include a 250ml "cool-hand" bottle for Bt10; a 455ml PET for Bt12; a 480ml PET bottle for Bt15 exclusively available at 7-Eleven stores; and a 325ml can for Bt14.


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