Burma now awash with Sprite as well as Coca-Cola Light

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Aung San Suu Kyi: iconic Burmese opposition leader and chair of Burma's National League for Democracy
Aung San Suu Kyi: iconic Burmese opposition leader and chair of Burma's National League for Democracy

Related tags Coca-cola

The Coca-Cola Company has relaunched Coca-Cola onto the Burmese market, while Coca-Cola Light and Sprite are also now available, as it works to found a bottling venture with a local soft drinks firm.

Coca-Cola Company media relations director, Petro Kacur, told BeverageDaily.com that the firm’s products were now available throughout Burma.

Soft drinks giant Coke aims to commence local production as soon as possible, building on an initial distribution agreement established with Pinya Manufacturing Co. to make products available throughout the country immediately.

“We are continuing to work towards establishing a bottling entity with [local firm] Pinya, but do not have further details to share at this time,” ​Kacur said.

“Our portfolio in Myanmar includes Coca-Cola Light and Sprite. We will evaluate the portfolio based on market conditions as we move forward,” ​he added.

‘Good growth potential’

Relaunching Coca-Cola in Burma after a 60+ year absence will pit the brand against local favorite Star Cola owned by Rangoon-based MGS Beverages.

Kacur said the NARTD market in Myanmar was “not as developed as one would expect for a market of its size and per capita GDP, but we believe there is good growth potential”.

Coke’s moved follows the suspension of US sanctions against Burma and the issuing of a general investment license in early July 2012, although some limitations remain in place. According to the US Treasury Department on July 11:

“The United States supports the Burmese government’s ongoing reform efforts, and believes the participation of US businesses in the Burmese economy will set a model for responsible investment and business operations…”

Muhtar Kent, Coca-Cola chairman and CEO, visited Rangoon last weekend as part of a US-ASEAN Eminent Persons Group that provides independent advice to local leaders on how to “significantly enhance”​ US-ASEAN ties.

He said:"The Coca-Cola Company has been a part of the community fabric in countries around the world for decades.”

"In every nation and city where we do business, our employees strive to create economic value and build sustainable communities. We are privileged to once again have the opportunity to play a role in building a better future with the people of Myanmar [Burma],”​ Kent added.

Empowering women

Coke said this move reflected its general practice of operating as a local business in every market it serves, including selling, distributing, manufacturing and hiring locally.

Kent also reviewed Coke’s plans (announced in June) to spend $3m on supporting women’s economic empowerment and job creation initiatives in the country, via a grant given to non-governmental organization PACT.

PACT is administering a project called WORTH, and Coca-Cola said this project would initially fund women interested in supporting a variety of businesses.

However, Coca-Cola said it expects the program to eventually identify women entrepreneurs interested in becoming independent shopkeepers and distributors of Coca-Cola products.

Coke’s return to Burma marks the US State Department’s move earlier this year to encourage companies to explore opportunities in the country.

PepsiCo announced in August that it had signed an agreement with local distributor Diamond Star to distribute its beverage brands in Burma, with that firm lent exclusive rights to sell and distribute Pepsi Cola, 7-Up and Miranda.

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