New product could wake up soporific canned coffee market

By Minh Son   October 24, 2018 | 07:58 pm PT
One of the largest beverage makers in the world is hoping to ‘capture’ Vietnamese taste with its new canned coffee product.

Coca-Cola, one of the two biggest players in the Vietnamese carbonated beverages market, has entered the canned coffee market with Georgia Coffee Max.

Though Vietnam is the second largest exporter of coffee in the world, its ready-to-drink coffee market has not attracted much attention from major players.

Coca-Cola’s move could breathe life into it, but the challenge is not a small one, industry insiders said.

For instance, at a supermarket on Quan Hoa Street in Hanoi’s Cau Giay District, canned coffee products do not have their own section, but are placed among other carbonated and energy drinks.

Four brands of this rarely-seen product -- Birdy, Nescafe, Highlands Coffee, and My Café -- sit inconspicuously among dozens of other beverages.

According to the shop assistants, canned coffee is hardly purchased, and sometimes is not bought for weeks at a time.

The market for canned coffee came to existence 10 years ago with the entry of Birdy Coffee from Japan’s Ajinomoto.

A year later Nestlé, which wanted a piece of the action, established a canned coffee production line at its plant in the southern Dong Nai Province.

Other early birds included local dairy giant Vinamilk, which started putting up ready-to-drink coffee production facilities, followed by two then-emerging brands, Tan Hiep Phat and Highlands.

Though initially many of the brands ran aggressive marketing campaigns, the market gradually fizzled out. Many products disappeared completely within a short time.

In 2013 local coffee giant Trung Nguyen launched a range of fresh coffee products in bottles and cartons in sizes ranging from 500 ml to a liter. Within two years these too disappeared from grocery store and supermarket shelves.

Today only a few names are left in the market, like PepsiCo, Highlands Coffee, Nestlé, Ajinomoto, and the new entrant, Coca-Cola.

The real challenge for producers is no longer getting market share but changing consumer habits.

Industry insiders quoted customer feedback as saying canned coffee is like fast food, sweet and lacking the authentic coffee taste.

Speaking at the launch of the new product, a Coca-cola executive said though there are other brands in the market, their research showed the pie is large enough for new players to enter.

Le Trung Tin, director of the Georgia Coffee Max line, said the secret to success is capturing the Vietnamese taste in the canned coffee.

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