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Asahi's Cambodia sales drop after bid to reposition brand

091216_08
Ken Horigome, Asahi’s regional sales and marketing director, displays cans of the company’s Japanese-produced beer Tuesday at Phnom Penh’s Mondiale Centre.

Japanese brewer says it is considering the launch of a lower-end product

SALES of Asahi Super Dry beer have dropped in Cambodia in the wake of Asahi Breweries Ltd’s decision to raise prices from early December, according to the Japanese brewer’s regional sales and marketing director.

However, Ken Horigome said Tuesday the lost sales were anticipated by the company as it repositioned its flagship brand as a premium beverage after ending a trial in which Cambodia was used as a test market to explore the possibility of selling Asahi Super Dry at lower costs in certain countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam.

“It’s obviously not easy to increase prices and keep sales, but it’s part of our plan for sales growth,” he said, declining to give sales figures.

Though the discounted domestic retail costs drove a profitable venture in Cambodia, he said, the company has dropped the plan and decided to price the beer at similar levels in all its global markets to shore up its branding strategy.

“People in Cambodia were enjoying the product, and we looked to decrease the price … [but now] the international policy of Asahi is to position Asahi Super Dry as a premium beer,” Horigome told the Post at the fourth Cambodia Import-Export Exhibition in Phnom Penh.

Because the repositioning effort created an opportunity for another cheaper beverage to fill the void, Horigome said Asahi was considering expanding its product range. Although there are no concrete plans yet, “introducing a new lower-end beer to Cambodia is a possibility” in the near future, he said.

Brewing sales
Horigome said the firm has already profited by using multiple brands to target different niches in regional markets.

“In Taiwan, for example, we have success with two main product lines, premium Asahi Super Dry and a more economical local beer,” he said.

As part of its rebranding strategy, the brewery has moved production of its canned beer sold on the Cambodian market from Thailand to Japan, and the bottled version of the beverage likely will follow suit soon, he said.

The brewery’s relationship with its local distributor, Asia Sunrise Company, is to continue as before.

Asahi Super Dry will retail domestically in the same price range as Heineken International’s internationally recognised flagship beer, Horigome said, but was quick to differentiate the two products.

“We represent a more cosmopolitan, more technical beer to consumers,” he said.

At the end of November the brewery introduced its “Asahi Black” brand to the Kingdom. Sales of the product, described by the company as “halfway between a stout and an ale”, were picking up, Horigome said.

Horigome was visiting the Kingdom as part of a 50-strong delegation led by the Japan External Trade Organisation aimed at boosting business ties between the two countries.

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