CHIANGRAI TIMES – Coca-Cola the producer of Coke, Fanta and Sprite soft drinks, plans to commit 14 billion baht to Thailand over the next three years to expand its beverage production and to invest in related facilities and activities.
“We will continue to invest more here,” chief executive Muhtar Kent said in Bangkok yesterday.
The US beverage company will invest in five major areas _ new production lines, distribution, cold drink equipment, outlet management and branding.
Mr Kent said Thailand is an essential part of Asean, which is a priority market for Coca-Cola.
The grouping will contribute 15-20% of the company’s annual global sales in another five years, up from 10% at present.
Over the past three years, Coca-Cola invested more than 14 billion baht in its Thai beverage operation.
Mr Kent said the Thai market has much growth potential, as per-capita consumption for carbonated beverages in the country remains very low at only 76 bottles a year compared with 514 bottles consumed per person annually in Mexico.
Per-capita consumption of non-alcoholic beverages here is 93 bottles per year compared with 728 bottles in Mexico.
Mr Kent made his visit to Thailand to check on business progress and evaluate the future prospects for Coca-Cola in the country.
He also came to throw his support behind two local bottlers _ ThaiNamthip and Haad Thip.
During last year’s floods, Coca-Cola’s concentrate plant in Ayutthaya province was inundated and damaged.
It remains out of commission, and Mr Kent would not discuss details about restoration progress.
He said that Coca-Cola has the highest market share among all soft drink brands in Thailand including Pepsi.
Soft drinks are a 35-billion-baht business here.
Mr Kent said when the Asean Economic Community kicks off in 2015, the single market will mean both challenges and opportunities for many businesses including Coca-Cola.
“The market will become bigger, and there will be more middle-class people creating more demand. And we will invest more in this region to take advantage of rising demand,” he said.
Asean has a population of 601 million.
When asked whether the company was worried about the entry of new soft drink and beverage players in Thailand including Big Cola, Mr Kent said he welcomed the competition.
Coca-Cola has operated in competitive markets around the world and successfully confronted rivals before, he said.
By Pitsinee Jitpleecheep & Krissana Parnsoonthorn