Suntory’s regional general manager said the company had found an issue in its bottling process during a “routine quality check in our factory” that led to the product being exposed to air.
"This appears to cause the product in random bottles to potentially deteriorate in quality earlier than the expiry date," said Lee Hon Tong, who is in charge of operations in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.
The company said it had voluntarily withdrawn some batches of Ribena concentrates with expiry dates of up to Aug 2018.
These include Regular, Glucose, Strawberry, Blueberry and Apple variants in a range of sizes.
"Although not every bottle is affected, consumers are advised not to drink the product if it appears unusual, tastes or smells sourish, or if they are in doubt of the quality of the product," Suntory said.
Ready-to-drink products such as Sparkling Ribena, pouch pack, packet drinks and PET bottles and pastilles are not affected.
Suntory also said it has also temporarily halted deliveries of all Ribena cordial drinks from its Shah Alam factory in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur to distributors and trading partners.
The company added that it "constantly monitors and checks all information related to its product in a safe and effective way".
"We guarantee that we will try our very best to resolve this issue and will announce as soon as we can when we are able to continue our manufacturing process and product deliveries," Lee said.
Further investigations are ongoing, and manufacturing will not recommence until at least next week, once investigations are completed.
More from Southeast Asia…
Foreign firms winning in battle for Vietnam’s soft drinks territory
Foreign soft drink manufacturers have taken control of more than half of Vietnam’s US$4bn non-alcoholic drink market for the first time, as local players work out how best to compete.
According to a report released by the Vietnam Beverage Association, the foreign sector has gradually been edging out domestic competitors.
The association’s chairman, Nguyen Van Viet, said indigenous Vietnamese companies have been struggling from a lack of finance and human capital.
Foreign manufacturers, including PepsiCo’s dominant Aquafina and Nestlé’s La Vie, now dominate the bottled water market, with an 80% share.
Also 80% foreign controlled by foreign companies, the ready-to-drink tea market is led aggressively by Suntory, with its a 30% market share—driven largely by the company’s ability to demonstrate strict Japanese quality standards.
Last year, Suntory announced it would invest US$87.5m in Vietnamese operations over four years. New factory lines were planned to boost capacity by 60% to roughly 200m cases of tea per year.
The Japanese drinks company cannot boast a long history in Vietnam: it only entered the market in 2013 through a joint-venture with PepsiCo, and continues to manufacture the American drink and snack major’s products under licence. It now has five factories in the country.
Vietnamese consumers are increasingly aware of health issues, leading to a perceivable shift in preference towards more nutritious drinks, such as 100% juice, beverages with less or no sugar, and reduced-caffeine beverages, Viet said.
And with improving average disposable incomes, many consumers have become more willing to pay extra for healthier products.
The VBA predicted that the non-alcoholic segment would continue recording positive retail growth, albeit at a slower rate than it has increased over the last five years as the market is reaching maturity.
Moreover, food-safety and health issues are expected to have an ongoing negative impact on forecast growth performance.
Food software solutions firm opens Singapore outpost
SpecPage, a provider of integrated software solutions for recipe-based manufacturers, has opened a new subsidiary in Singapore, which the company says will significantly accelerate its growth strategy.
“The Singapore office is an important strategic initiative for SpecPage. It brings our sales and support organisation closer to our customers in the region and, at the same time, helps global customers to unlock local markets,” said Severin Weiss, SpecPage’s chief executive.
“This subsidiary will pave way for large-scale projects over the years. I am very pleased to witness our goal of setting up a global sales and service organisation come true.”
According to Amin Khatir, who will head the office, the offshoot will help Switzerland-based SpecPage address increasing demand for food-related software in the region.
The company provides solutions catering to product lifecycle management, data management, compliance guides and lab information and management. It also offers customisable online catalogs, including suppliers’ and buyers’ guides.
“We offer industry-leading products and our new subsidiary in Singapore allows us to further enhance our personalised services for existing and potential customers in this market,” added Weiss.