Thailand: Danone spies opportunity in local beverage market

Danone SA, one of the world’s biggest food and drink companies, is expanding into Thailand’s 200-billion-baht beverage industry to capitalise on the growing trend towards healthier products. 
Floris Wesseling, regional vice-president for Danone Waters in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, said during a visit to Thailand yesterday that the French company is paying more attention to expanding the beverage business in the large Thai market. 
“Thailand is one of Asia’s largest non-alcoholic beverage markets except for China and Japan,” Mr Wesseling said. “But it remains a very fragmented market with about 50% of the market share held by many smaller and innovative local players. With these [factors], we see a promising business opportunity.” 
The company yesterday officially launched the B’lue brand of fruity, vitamin-enhanced water in the Thai market as an alternative for people who want to reduce their sugar intake. 
Thailand is the third Asean country for B’lue after the Philippines and Indonesia. 
Danone has had a presence in Thailand for several decades with Evian mineral water and Dumex dairy products. It forged a joint venture with Berli Jucker Plc to market Danone yoghurt in Thailand a few years ago, but that operation has ceased. 
Last year, Danone’s wholly owned Myen Pte Ltd formed a joint venture with Sappe Holding Thailand Co to establish Danone Sappe Beverages Co Ltd, mainly to distribute Danone products in Thailand and co-develop new beverages. 
Piyajit Ruckariyapong, chief executive of Sappe, said B’lue is the first product under the joint venture with Danone, aiming to cater to Thai consumers who like exploring innovation and trying new products and brands. 
“The Thai beverage landscape is changing as a result of this healthier trend, and our joint venture with Danone aims to support this change by offering healthier beverages as a new alternative,” Ms Piyajit said. 
B’lue has met with success in China and the Philippines. Sales of B’lue in the Pacific market reached 35 billion baht in 2018. 
“Thailand will be one of the countries that contribute huge sales to the B’lue portfolio in the Asia-Pacific region,” Mr Wesseling said, adding that the company expects up to 3.5 billion baht in sales of B’lue products in Thailand within 3-5 years.