On 31 October, the long-standing 59-year partnership between Pepsi Co and Thailand’s leading bottling company Serm Suk came to a close. As a result, Serm Suk launched a surprise cola blitz on the competition with a 300 million baht (US$9.8M) campaign for their own “est Cola”.
Since 2 November est Cola has set up strongholds in most major supermarkets and convenience stores across the nation. Also, in the short span of a month they were able to breach into what is considered by cola military analysts as the key position for victory – fast food soda fountain machines.
Serm Suk’s minister of propaganda declared: “This is a historic change for us. We already have a circulation of more than 200,000 dealers throughout the country already. Survey results have revealed 77% of consumers like est Cola.”
The product’s name is pronounced “S-Cola” and was chosen because it was easy to remember. The name is also shared with the superlative suffix “est”, and is said to invoke images of superiority over their enemies.
The cola is also available in a wide range of packaging, including 5 types of 355mL cans, two types of glass bottles and three types of plastic bottles. Strangely, there is a 455mL (15oz) plastic bottle version sold for 12bahts (US$0.39), yet there is a 480mL (16oz) bottle exclusive to 7-11 for 15bahts (US$0.49).
By my math, that seems to be an odd marketing tactic. Then again, I’m not a major bottler in Thailand. Perhaps this is a gambit to confuse their enemies.
Meanwhile, Pepsi has signed with another Thai bottler, International Refreshments, and are preparing a counterattack. Other market leaders, Coca-Cola and Kola Real (aka Big Cola in Thailand) have stayed low.
Big Cola is expected to suffer heavy losses in this initial campaign. Serm Suk is adamant on claiming a quarter of the nation’s cola market next year. Although they would prefer to carve that market share from Coke and Pepsi, the two soda giants have seen battle before.
The likely scenario – without the interference of other snack related businesses – is the near annihilation of Big Cola. Thailand’s hip carbonated tea brand, Chakuza, is claiming neutrality.
However if fate plays its hand, 2013 will undoubtedly be a violent year of turmoil for the carbonated beverage industry in Thailand. The Red Cross is setting up refugee camps in neighboring countries equipped to help those afflicted with stomachaches and type 2 diabetes.
▼ Serm Suk have enlisted and formed a pop super-group of Pakin ‘‘Tono’’ Kumwilaisuk, Sukrit ‘‘Bee’’ Wisetkaew, and Pirat ‘‘Mike’’ Nitipaisalkul to aid in their propaghanda campaign.