Standing Out Amongst Competitors
Tuesday, September 12th, 2017
Competition can be fierce in the business sector, especially for coffee companies from countries whose neighbours are among the largest coffee producers in the world. How exactly can one stand out amongst larger competitors? Vijayandran Joseph, general manager, Food Ingredients Division, Super Group, shares more with APFI on this. By Michelle Cheong
As far as beverages are concerned, coffee is one of the most commonly consumed worldwide. To support the large global demand for the commodity, many countries all over the world grow coffee, including those of Asia. In fact, according to the International Coffee Organisation, three of the world’s top 10 coffee producing countries lie in Asia– Vietnam (2nd place), Indonesia (4th place) and India (6th place), with the rankings as of 2014’s production statistics.
With such abundance in supply for coffee, it is thus not surprising that many coffee producing businesses have sprouted to leech on the commodity’s success. Though this may mean more options for consumers and retailers, this spells more competition for the businesses upstream. Standing out among the crowd is therefore important for success.
One way to do this, is through offering what others do not have. For example, the Super Group has an integrated product portfolio that expands to more than just coffee and coffee ingredients.
According to Vijayandran Joseph, general manager, Food Ingredients Division, Super Group, Super is the only integrated manufacturer of beverage ingredients as they are the only company that offers instant coffee, instant tea products, creamers, as well as a whole range of liquids of the same products. “If you look at other companies, they may have instant coffee, but they will not have creamer. If they have instant coffee and creamer, they surely won’t have tea. I think that is really what sets us apart in being one of the big ingredient providers for beverage ingredients in Asia.”
Having up-to-date technology would also add to a company’s strengths. The company has spray dryers to ensure an ample supply of spray-dried coffee powders, the driver of the bulk of markets they cater to, shared Mr Joseph. However, they also have freeze-dry technology for other companies who might require it, as it produces stable and superior products to that which was spray-dried.
On top of those two, the company also has a new technology which they use to produce micro-ground coffee. “This gives a similar taste and profile as freshly brewed coffee,” said Mr Joseph.
In business, there is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ solution as customers have different needs. Understanding what these differences are, and tailor-making products to suit these different needs would therefore be an advantage in the face of competition.
Super tailor-makes products, and these are all consumer-driven, said Mr Joseph. “If you look at Southeast Asia, we service different markets like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. For the Philippines, they like their coffee with a stronger flavour and a sweeter profile. The Thais too prefer a sweeter product, but the Indonesians like a more ground and stronger profile for coffee.”
There is also a difference between the regional markets. For Asia, predominantly it is still an instant coffee market. Europe in contrast, has consumers who are more into machinery and capsules, he said. These differences should be considered when catering to different markets so as to know which products to offer.
Keeping up with trends and/or keeping in line with the requirements of consumers in a certain region also helps them stand out. One example is their product offering of pure vegetarian non-dairy creamers. Typical non-dairy creamers in the market cannot be classified as 100 percent non-dairy because there will be a little milk protein in it, he said, but to cater to specific customer needs, they have since developed vegan creamers.
Where companies have the opportunity to, they should invest in creating a global brand image so as to expand their target markets and customer bases. Doing so would differentiate them from those that cater to regional markets alone.
Super has taken several steps for this, the first of these being an exhibitor at major trade shows around the world. For example, the Anuga, which is an annual trade show that is one of the largest in the world. For many years, we have participated in Anuga under the Singapore pavilion, said Mr Joseph. “This year, when we booked our booth, we came out from the Singapore pavilion because we wanted to establish our identity as a big company in Singapore, and as a global brand that can cater to various markets.”
The advantage of participating in large exhibitions, he said, is not just to appeal to the European markets, but to appeal to the entire profile of visitors who come from the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Americas. “I think [Anuga] is a very good area to expose ourselves, and to let people know about the company, its products, technologies and capabilities.”
Despite these qualities, Mr Joseph remains humble on the company’s success. “We have been exporting our products to different countries over the years, so we do know the ins and outs of most of the markets, but having said that of course, we’re not masters of the game. We do face challenges all the time. It’s just how we overcome them, and how we’re successful in that.”
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