“PROBABLY a big day in Myanmar,” read the hop-shaped banners strung from telegraph poles along the road through Nyaung Inn Village Industrial Zone in Bago Region.
Alongside construction sites for new factories – Perfect Companion Group, Karisma Apparel – is the dark green Carlsberg factory, the slogan “probably the best beer in the world” emblasoned on it in white letters. Around the factory is scrubland; beyond that, farms.
“Our region’s economy is reliant on agriculture. I wish to transform it to an industrial region,” said the chief minister of Bago Region, U Nyan Win, at the launch of Carlsberg Group’s Bago brewery.
Carlsberg signed a partnership with Myanmar Golden Star (MGS) Breweries in 2013, for a 51 percent stake in joint venture Myanmar Carlsberg Co Ltd. On May 7, the company officially launched three brands into Myanmar – house brews Carlsberg and Tuborg, and a new beer unique to Myanmar called Yoma.
While MGS vice chair U Thant Zin Tun noted the brands have a long way to go before they present a serious challenge to the incumbent Myanmar Beer, owned by the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings, the marketing team at the launch showed no shortage of enthusiasm.
In a vast hall lined with empty cans of Yoma waiting to be filled, each brand was launched in turn. First up was Carlsberg, represented by a 12-strong cheerleading troupe of girls and boys dressed in black and white, brandishing sparkly green pompoms. Following this, a chinlone performance was given to show the local nature of Yoma beer.
Yoma is made with rice from the Bago region – the word means “mountain range” in Myanmar language. It will be Myanmar Carlsberg’s cheapest brand, comparable in price to Myanmar Beer.
Yoma has 5.4 percent alcohol by volume, because five and four add up to make nine, a lucky number in Myanmar, said Mr Søren Ravn, regional CEO for development markets at Carlsberg Group, on the sidelines of the event.
The third beer launched was Tuborg, with a performance from Myanmar’s DJ Valerie, Idiots Band and rapper Hlwan Paing. Tuborg will be priced at a similar point to Tiger Beer, said Mr Ravn.
“We will test the brands in Yangon first, rather than spreading ourselves too thinly,” he said. “Then we will distribute them across the other major cities.”
Statistics show that as a beer- drinking society, Myanmar has some catching up to do with its Asian neighbours, meaning plenty of room for new competition, said Birgitte Weeke, marketing director for Myanmar Carlsberg.
Myanmar drinks an average of 6 litres of beer per capita each year, compared to 36 to 40 litres per capita in China and Thailand, she said.
The US$50 million Bago factory can produce up to 600,000 hectolitres (15.9 million gallons) of beer per year, but Mr Ravn declined to give a forecast for annual production.
Myanmar Carlsberg will at least have a head start over the competition. Dutch firm Heineken, through a joint venture with Myanmar’s Alliance Brewery Company (ABC) called APB Alliance Brewery Company, was initially due to open its own brewery by the end of 2014, but the factory has not yet opened.
These are the only two foreign licences likely to be granted for the time being, said Mr Ravn.
MGS and Carlsberg have a relationship that dates back two decades. The two companies began working together in 1993 but Carlsberg was forced to leave the country three years later under mounting pressure from human rights activists and threats of a boycott of the brand.
U Thein Tun, chair of MGS, also heads Myanmar Consolidated Media, which publishes The Myanmar Times.
Source: Myanmar Times