In March Filipino firm Universal Robina Corp. brought a new and exciting look to C2 Cool and Clean. On this occasion, Laurent Levan, president and general director of URC Vietnam told VIR’s Phuong Thu about its ambitions in Vietnam as well as their plans in the year ahead.
|Laurent Levan, president and general director of URC Vietnam |
Universal Robina Corp. reported weak sales in 2016 and 2017 partly due to bad performance on the Vietnamese market. What will you do to start down the road to recovery?
We believe that growth is best fuelled by innovation and is achieved through the continuous enhancement of our operations and internal capabilities. Just like with our brands C2 and Dynamite Big Bang, we are focused on offering unique new products to respond to changing consumer habits and aspirations.
As we know, URC has just launched the new look for C2. What message does URC want to send with this new look to customers?
The C2 bottles currently available on the market remain the same. However, we have specially labelled bottles to announce that we are celebrating our 12th anniversary. On this special occasion, we want to thank our consumers by giving away many exciting prizes that they can win just by buying and enjoying their favourite C2 beverage.
Vietnamese customers have become increasingly aware of health and wellness products. How has your company committed to the protection of the human health after URC Vietnam was involved in a series of scandals which put a dent in your reputation and sales?
The health and safety of our consumers are of paramount importance to us, which is why we have always made quality a hallmark of our products. Our commitment to quality and safety can never be compromised and this is reflected in every aspect of our operations, from selecting materials and ingredients to actual production and distribution.
We have many internal systems in place to check quality and safety, and we have gained international-standard certifications, such as the Quality Management System ISO 9001:2008 and FSSC 22000 Food Safety Certification, which further underscore this commitment.
Recently, Starbucks had to warn customers in California about a potentially carcinogenic chemical in coffee, following a ruling by a Los Angeles judge. This spread health concerns among customers worldwide, including Vietnam. Do you think these unexpected concerns will drive customers to soft drinks?
We cannot speculate on the implications of developments in other markets. We do, however, see that consumers around the globe want more information about the products available on the market and are more interested in healthier options. We at URC Vietnam want to make sure that we provide our consumers with products that will continue to appeal to them even as consumption patterns and consumer preferences change.
What opportunities and challenges do you see for soft drinks, particularly for ready-to-drink tea in the Vietnamese market? What competition do you foresee?
We do recognise that the local beverage industry continues to be increasingly competitive, and we see that the biggest issue and opportunity is to be the one to offer the ‘next big thing.’ Our ready to drink products continues to enjoy considerable market leadership despite intense competition versus other drinks. The key is to intimately understand our consumers’ needs and preferences. We have already established the quality and safety standards for our products and are now moving towards building a more robust consumer engagement programme. This will enable us to constantly reach out to our consumers and expand our understanding of the market through formal research and social media interaction.
What are your short term goals for the next three years in Vietnam?
We are keen on expanding our market coverage, especially in suburban and rural areas, to enhance our current standing as one of the leading ready-to-drink beverage manufacturers in Vietnam. We continue to pursue stronger partnerships with retailers to ensure the availability of our products in the market.
Our main imperative is to continue delighting our consumers with innovative products of the highest standards of quality and safety. In the next three years, we have seen the company constantly improving our internal processes—an important strategy for us to strengthen our local presence. We will continue to adhere to international standards for quality and safety, seeking recertification for our various plants. Specifically, we are aiming to acquire the FSSC 22000 Food Safety Certification for our VSIP 2 Coffee Plant this year, which we already have for our VSIP 1 Beverage & Food Plant 1/2 and Hanoi Beverage Plant.
We also want to become a valued partner to our key stakeholders—from tea farmers through the communities where we operate to government and non-government agencies—with whom we want to closely cooperate to embark on high-impact corporate social responsibility and sustainability programmes.