Coke picks Thailand for herbal drink launch

Diggy Dey, second left, business development director at Coca-Cola Thailand, and Charnvit Charindhorn, second right, senior vice president for marketing at ThaiNamthip, announce the launch of Coke

THAILAND - Coca-Cola has announced the launch of its first herbal drink, Habu, for the Thai market. Thailand is the first country to unveil this new beverage.

Diggy Dey, business development director at Coca-Cola Thailand, said herbal beverages had always been an integral part of Thai culture, so the company saw an opportunity to develop one here, specifically made for Thai consumers.

"The heritage of herbal drinks is the key inspiration behind the product and brand design - the brand name Habu is easy to pronounce and identifiably Asian with similarities to the English word 'herbal'. Habu's label and packaging are our modern interpretation of beautiful clay pots traditionally used to brew healing herbal drinks," Dey said.

The new ready-to-drink herbal-blended beverage is a combination of four cooling ingredients: rosella, liquorice, luo han guo, and cogon grass.

He added that there was great potential for Habu in the market. It is a great-tasting, cooling beverage designed to be an everyday, on-the-go-drink for Thailand's hot, tropical climate. Herbal beverages, including herbal-fused and tea-based drinks, are among the three most popular drinks in Thailand, alongside bottled water and sparkling beverages, and this is also one of the fastest-growing categories.

"Habu is the newest brand conceptualised by Coca-Cola Thailand specifically for Thai consumers. We are very proud that Thailand is the first to launch Habu," Dey said.

"As a multinational company, Coca-Cola shares its successes and best practices globally all the time. If Habu is a success here in Thailand - and we are confident it will be - other markets within the system can certainly consider replicating Habu for their local market."

Bt21-bn (S$851 million) market

He said the company estimated the value of Thailand's market for ready-to-drink herbal beverages including tea-based drinks at more than Bt21 billion, and that it has been growing by an annual average of 25 per cent for the past three years. Coca-Cola expects Habu to fill a gap in the herbal-drink market with its taste and unique blend of four cooling herbal ingredients.

"We are confident Habu will perform in line with market growth and expectations and will see solid outcomes," he said.

The Habu launch is backed by a Bt160-million (S$6.5million) one-year campaign titled "Habu Cooling", which engages online and offline activities as well as introducing brand ambassadors Pope and Ko Tee to build awareness and recognition. There will also be a massive nationwide sampling programme, with a target of 1 million sample bottles this year. Charnvit Charindhorn, senior vice president for marketing at ThaiNamthip, said: "Habu will be produced by our system's industry-leading, high-tech production capacity. As announced earlier this year, we have invested Bt4 billion in our nationwide production facilities for all of our beverage categories including the production of our new brand Habu.

"The Coca-Cola system in Thailand's strong portfolio of still beverages, such as Minute Maid Splash, Minute Maid Pulpy, Minute Maid Nutriboost and Namthip, contribute more than 20 per cent of the volume of Coca-Cola's total portfolio and has been growing year on year for the past three years," Charnvit said.

"We hope our first herbal-drink brand, Habu, will provide more choice to our customers and consumers as well as strengthen our still-beverage portfolio. As Thailand's leading beverage company, we don't take lightly the responsibility we have in bringing our customers the best, great-tasting drinks.

"When we develop an entirely new beverage, we take all the steps necessary to ensure it will be a market leader, a category winner, and that it will add something unique to our world-class beverage portfolio.