Cambodia Beer is now exporting to Malaysia, Japan and France, according to Khmer Brewery Senior Executive Vice President Peter Leang.
Malaysia receives between one and two containers of canned Cambodia Beer per month. Japan imports a container full every few months and the first shipments to France have just begun.
Leang said Khmer Brewery executives are carefully reviewing potential partners for the American market which has a large Cambodian population.
“We still focus on the domestic market because the name is Cambodia Beer and we wanted it to be presented to Cambodia first because the name represents the country and the people,” Leang said.
“The next country is going to be the United States. There have been a lot of companies contacting us to export, including in Australia and other European countries as well.”
The Khmer Brewery and its flagship brand Cambodia Beer were launched in November, 2011, a risky move in a marketplace with a number of existing beer brands. But it’s a decision Leang is happy they made.
“I would say it was a very risky decision. We had no experience in the brewing industry and we had no brand. But it turned out that it was a very good decision. We wanted to show the world that Cambodia also has a very good entrepreneurial investment company.”
Leang became a certified Brewmaster in July 2010 after seven months of training at the research and teaching institute VLB Berlin. He’s going to send two senior Khmer Brewery staff members, Production Manager Chey Keo Vanny and Senior Quality Assurance Manager Chea San, next year on the same course.
When preparing to export Cambodia Beer to Japan, Leang was asked why he didn’t label the beer with packaging that marked it as “Export Quality”.
“We gave high quality to our own people first and then we gave it to the rest of the world,” he said.
He said rigorous attention to quality had been the most important key to success.
“Our president and whole management team says we can negotiate the price, but we cannot negotiate the quality. The brewery is not just clean one day. We keep it very clean every day. That is how we maintain it.”
Leang said that after returning from his brewing studies in Berlin, it had been a big challenge to get the brewery up and running and to get the Cambodia Beer brand penetrated into the marketplace.
“This was a very big challenge for me, and I had no idea about brewing. With business skill you have flexibility but technical skill is absolute. In my personal view, if you want to do something, do it right, do it seriously - don’t play around.”
Leang has an optimistic view about the future of Cambodia, because of the country’s ASEAN chairmanship last year and other factors.
“People from all over the world saw Cambodia very clearly. I believe we have a very good future with investments coming in and I believe more Cambodians living overseas will come home. “
Leang said Cambodia had been transformed from the old days when mediocrity was simply accepted.
“Cambodia now is not like Cambodia before. Cambodian people want quality. I am also a Cambodian, and I have the same concept, and when I ask a lot of people I know, they all say we want quality.”
Even with the challenges of a new brewery and a new beer brand, he said sales had so far met expectations.
“It was not that easy for the first year because the brand and the brewery were both new, but what surprised me in the market was that Cambodians really supported it.”
Khmer Brewery brings out teams of highly qualified brewing experts from VBL Berlin to conduct courses for the beer production team.
“Even myself, I also joined this training for four weeks,” Leang said. “It was a very good investment because building [up] people is a part of our philosophy. We believe that people are the big asset of the brewery.”
This year, four more German brewing experts will once again conduct training at Khmer Brewery.
Khmer Brewery has 150 employees and one advisor stationed in Switzerland.
“Most of our customers come to find us. They always come and knock on our door. “
Leang said the neighboring countries of Thailand and Vietnam were not important targets in the Cambodia Beer strategy because both countries already had strong brewing traditions and brands.
Japanese businessmen became interested in Cambodia Beer during an exhibition last year and now Cambodia Beer is sold in Japanese supermarkets and pubs.
Leang said the American market looked very interesting.“The US is a big market with a lot of Cambodians there and we want to do it right.”