Unilever to pour in Bt2.8 bn
New plant for liquid products, distribution hub to meet demand
Unilever yesterday announced that it would invest Bt2.8 billion in Thailand this year in a new factory for liquid home-care products as well as a distribution centre.
The move is to serve the growth of both the domestic market and export to markets within Asean.
Bauke Rouwers, chairman of the Unilever Thai Group of Companies, said the new manufacturing facility for home-care products would be set up at its existing complex in Lat Krabang Industrial Estate with an investment of Bt800 million. Another Bt2 billion would be allocated to a new distribution centre in Bang Nam Prieo district of Chachoengsao province.
The investments are aimed at improving logistics and growing the company's sales of fast-moving consumer goods.
He said the company had recognised the positive trends brought about by the improved minimum wage, which resulted in higher purchasing power of individual consumers, as well as the expansion of the middle class. The company plans to launch innovative products that will appeal to middle-class consumers.
The Unilever Thai Group of Companies announced record sales last year of more than Bt40 billion, up 13 per cent over 2011.
Rouwers said he was pleased that Unilever had been able to respond so effectively to the needs and aspirations of upwardly mobile Thai consumers during the year in which the company celebrated the 80th anniversary of its operations in Thailand.
"In line with Unilever's global vision of doubling the size of our business, while reducing our environmental footprint and increasing our positive social impact, our operations in Thailand in 2012 grew market share by utilising our category-market-development model combined with bigger and faster innovations, many of which are producing tangible sustainability benefits."
While reporting strong growth in the personal-care, home-care, food and ice-cream categories, Rouwers noted that Unilever also reaffirmed its long-term commitment to Thailand by opening a Bt600-million regional research and development centre. It also commissioned a Bt2.6-billion headquarters building that, when it opens next year, will set new standards for Bangkok with its "agile workplace and green building" concept, he said.
Wannipa Bhakdibutra, vice president for health and beauty aids, noted the success last year of Sunsilk Post Wash, whose sales increased by 25 per cent.
Wannipa also reported on Unilever's success in the male-grooming category with the Clear Men and Vaseline Men brands. Clear Men's market penetration grew from 7 per cent in 2011 to 9.9 per cent in 2012, while Vaseline Men's increased from 3.3 per cent to 3.8 per cent, resulting in combined overall sales increasing by 25 per cent.
Supattra Paopiamsup, vice president for home care, food and ice cream, said analysis of users, usage and new-product benefits in this category, combined with deep consumer insights, enabled Unilever to respond to Thai consumers in meaningful ways. Knorr Jok, for example, saw its market penetration increase from 30 per cent in 2010 to 35 per cent last year, increasing 2012 sales by 49 per cent in two years. Knorr's vision is that 60 per cent of Thai children should be eating a healthy breakfast by 2014, up from only 40 per cent in 2012.
In the ice-cream category, Supattra highlighted the success of Wall's Magnum. Using Belgian chocolate and taking into account the low consumption of ice cream among adults, the Magnum launch targeted adult consumers and saw a 400-per-cent increase in sales, with peak-month sales equalling those of all of 2011.
In the home-care category, product innovation and a strategy to persuade consumers to switch from regular detergent to concentrate saw Breeze sales increase by 25 per cent last year.