Despite the challenging times facing most businesses, Carlsberg Group remains upbeat about its prospects in Asia. It is noteworthy that Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Bhd (Carlsberg Malaysia) is the first brewery built outside of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with StarBizWeek, Carlsberg Group chief executive officer Cees ‘t Hart enthuses the fact that Asia remains a key focus. Hart’s visit to Malaysia coincided with Carlsberg Group’s 175th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of the first Carlsberg Danish Pilsner manufactured locally in the Shah Alam brewery.
He says Asia will continue to provide growth opportunities for the Carlsberg Group especially its premium beer segment and alcohol free brews plans that fall within the group's five-year corporate SAIL’27 strategy.
"It's very important for us that we grow further in Asia, which is our growth region. And we have been pretty successful over the last couple of years and we want to continue that. In Malaysia, we've gained market share. We grew significantly in India and in China. We are going to invest in Vietnam. We have a stable but very healthy business in Laos. We will focus further on Cambodia. So we have significant investment plans in Asia," he says.
The group's five-year corporate SAIL’27 strategy, announced in February this year, targets an organic revenue growth rate of 3% to 5%, and an organic operating profit growth above revenue growth.
Hart points out that SAIL’27 has clear choices for brands, categories, markets and capabilities, and steps up the group's ambitions for top and bottom-line growth.
Carlsberg Group CEO Cees ‘t Hart - GLENN GUAN/The Star
He noted that in Vietnam, while the group has a relatively small business, it sees opportunities to gain market share via an organic growth plan.
"In the second half of the year, we will introduce our 1664 Blanc beer brand with support for our Carlsberg and Tuborg brands - so we will have a broader portfolio in Vietnam. In Cambodia, we have had some difficulties the last couple of years, and I think we have stabilised the business and will grow our business further," says Hart.
The Carlsberg Group’s portfolio of brands features Carlsberg, Tuborg, France’s premium wheat beer 1664 Blanc, Grimbergen Belgian abbey beers, European cider Somersby, United States award-winning craft beer Brooklyn Brewery as well as local brands in Asia like Wusu and Chongqing in China, Huda in Vietnam and Beerlao in Laos.
Regarding the growth potential of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, Hart points out that the trio of countries have young populations and beer markets that are not very well-developed.
"We have opportunities to grow further in the premium segment," he says.