Recession forces Coke to target Thais at home

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BANGKOK -- Despite the economic slowdown in Thailand, the bottlers of Fanta soft drinks boosted the advertising budget for the line by 30% in 1998 over 1997, citing plenty of room for growth in consumption. "Currently, soft drink per capita consumption in Thailand is only 60 bottles while in the U.S. it's 400 bottles a year," says Jim Jardina, president of the Thai Pure Drink Co, which bottles and distributes Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite. McCann-Erickson handles the brands in Thailand.

Of the $8.3 million to be spent on promoting Fanta this year, $2.2 million will be spent on the "Fanta Card." Every purchase of a 10-oz serving of Fanta brings with it a paper card that can be used for discounts or add-on free offers at nine participating partners, including McDonald's and 7-Eleven outlets.

Coca-Cola (Thailand) says it will spend $1.8 million on consumer research this year. "Our consumers' lifestyles have changed, from dining out to having dinner at home," says Kirk Wheeler, regional manager of Coca-Cola (Thailand). "The company has to conduct promotions to attract them to buy more of our product."

Thailand is one of the few markets in the world where Pepsi outsells Coke in the cola market. But Coca-Cola's strength in the noncola soft drinks market makes it the larger player in the total market.

According to Mr. Jardina, Fanta has been Thailand's fastest-growing soft drink over the past few years and could soon become the product's third largest market. Only consumers in Germany, Brazil and Mexico currently buy more Fanta than the Thais.

Copyright April 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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