I recently took two weeks of leave in Thailand. While on vacation I decided to spend a little time to see what my retirement plan is up to. It's very interesting to observe the strategies my favorite dividend growth companies use internationally. Even though the packaging is often in a different language, it is quite easy to spot familiar products. Brands are powerful in the US and everywhere else around the world too.
Is anyone really surprised that Coca-Cola penetrated the Thai market? Coke is the dominant soda brand in Thailand, no doubt. Go to any restaurant, bar, or convenience store and you'll find a cold Coke waiting to be consumed. What I love is that they sell KO products in glass bottles. Man I try not to drink too much soda, but I absolutely had to take advantage of this while I could. Beyond soda, KO sells other products such as Minute Maid orange juice (made from different oranges, its sweeter) and bottled water under the NAMTHIP label. An 8oz bottle of Coke was 10 Baht or about USD $.35.
Pepsi is a mixed bag in Thailand. On one hand the snacks business is thriving, on the other they COMPLETELY dropped the ball in sodas. It is very, very difficult to find Pepsi other than in a 7/11 or similar convenience store. If you are interested in PEP, please click the link to read about management's failure in Thailand. I tried EST, and yes it does taste like Pepsi. Fail.
The snacks business is doing quite well. Note the interesting flavors customized to suit the taste of Thai people. I was not bold enough to try the "Lobster Hot Plate" or "Nori Seaweed" flavors (I don't like seafood or fish), but I did try the Sweet Basil and it was fantastic! You can see Stax has different packaging.
Philip Morris brands dominate the Thai cigarette market from what I saw. Go to any convenience store and the two biggest brands are Marlboro and L&M, both PM products. You can see that the warning labels are very graphic with the intent to deter smoking. This strategy does not concern me as a PM shareholder, pictures won't stop me or anyone else from lighting up. Sorry we all know smoking isn't healthy. Captain Obvious. What does concern me is plain packaging since brands are of utmost importance to cigarette companies. A pack of smokes costs about $2.90 for Marlboro and about $2.25 for L&M.
I saw a number of McDonald's restaurants during my stay. They are very similar to back home. The food tastes the same, the stores are clean with updated decor, and the menu isn't much different either. Everything you would expect from a McDonald's except the prices were very high. Thai people eat Thai food, not hamburger and fries, these McDonald's stores are probably targeted towards tourists. That could explain the high prices. Thai people are generally very poor and do not have the means to pay $2.50 for a cheeseburger. Unfortunately no dollar menu either. I thought it was interesting that they call ketchup "tomato sauce."
YUM also has significant operations in Thailand. I saw and ate at KFC & Pizza Hut. I didn't see any Taco Bells.
Procter & Gamble
PG products are easy enough to find. Familiar brands such as Head & Shoulders, Mach 3, and Pantene. I didn't see any Crest products, it appears there is still room to grow. Colgate and a brand I've never heard of seemed to be the leaders in oral care. Perhaps P&G can utilize the distribution channel already in place to push other popular products?
Johnson & Johnson
I mostly saw J&J consumer products, I wasn't looking for pharmaceuticals or medical devices. The same products are sold in Thailand as in the U.S. I was going to buy some Acuvue contacts, but the store didn't have the right prescription. An exam isn't necessary at all, you can just buy them. Genius!
I'm not sure exactly sure what General Mills is doing in Thailand. It looks like they are simply exporting American products and placing them on store shelves. The packaging is in English and Spanish (WTF!) and doesn't appear to have any Thai at all. Strange. I can tell you this: Thai people do not eat Betty Crocker cakes or Progresso soups. I think these products are targeted towards ex-pats and tourists. 191 Baht for a can of soup is approximately $6.50. Clearly very expensive. At a military commissary, I can usually buy a can of Progresso for $.99. No way in hell would I pay 6 bucks for soup!
All the cereals are Kellog.
I'm just not sure what GIS can do in Thailand, the diet is very different. Maybe push ice cream? Most Thais don't have a fridge/freezer/microwave. I don't know.
This was taken in China not Thailand. I was walking through the Beijing airport and noticed an EMR ad. Who would have thought? My China experience is limited to the airport, but I will report it was strange seeing a bunch a Chinese kids running around wearing Lakers and Yankees hats. The world is becoming very Americanized. Same story in S. Korea.
Do they even know who the Atlanta Braves are? Seriously...