The growing Thai middle class and AEC attract heavy Unilever investment
The Thai division of the Anglo-Dutch consumer products giant Unilever recently announced plans to invest around eight billion baht to take advantage of the growing Thai middle class and the opportunities it expects will accrue once the Asean Economic Community (AEC) becomes a reality at the end of 2015.
Ms Supattra Paopiamsap, the chairwoman of Unilever Thailand, announced the planned investment and stated this was the biggest the company had undertaken in the country in the past two decades.
As she noted, Unilever Thailand is well-placed geographically and the Thai middle-class is expected to number around 50 million people by the end of the current decade.
Unilever Thailand will be allocating 2.6 billion baht for the construction of a new headquarters, which will be opened by mid-December this year. Another two billion baht will be allocated to building a new warehouse, 1.5 billion baht for a new cold room for ice cream, 1.2 billion baht to expand its personal care product manufacturing plant, and 700 million baht for a food processing plant.
The construction of the cold room and the warehouse are under way and expected to be completed by next year while the other buildings should be completed by 2016.
Ms Supattra said she expected the company would be able to double its current level of annual sales by 2020. In 2013, Unilever Thailand sold 40 billion baht worth of product of which 40 percent came from personal care products, 36 percent from home care and 24 percent from the food and ice cream divisions.
The company is currently the market leader in eight of the 12 product categories it sells in Thailand. The company ranks nineteenth for sales among Unilever’s 190 countries and territories, making it a major player within the entire group.
Ms Supattra, who was appointed chairwoman at the beginning of October, stated that she wants to see Unilever Thailand grow at twice the level of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
She noted that her strategies for enhancing the company’s growth within Thailand and the region included building brand loyalty via constant product innovation, creating and building capabilities in the digital marketing sphere to strengthen relationships with consumers and expanding into new market segments in line with Thai consumers needs.
Ms Supattra has a long record of successful service with Unilever in Thailand, as well as in Malaysia and China, running the marketing of well-known products such as Sunsilk shampoo, Lipton tea, and Magnum ice cream.
The parent company plans to continue to invest in Thailand, which is presently the third-largest of Unilever’s manufacturing sites in Asia.