Breaking into beer: Carabao seeks to take on Thailand’s dominant players with varied portfolio

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Carabao is looking to move beyond its comfort zone and stake claim on a piece of the local beer market. ©Carabao
Carabao is looking to move beyond its comfort zone and stake claim on a piece of the local beer market. ©Carabao

Related tags Carabao Beer Thailand

Thai energy drink heavyweight Carabao is looking to move beyond its comfort zone and stake claim on a piece of the local beer market, banking on a bold multi-variant launch strategy to draw in consumers.

Carabao is one of the most dominant energy drink players in Thailand alongside main competitor Red Bull, but is relatively new to the alcohol space with its Tawandang German Brewery focusing on beers, and Tawandang distillery​ focusing on liquors from rum to whiskey which was launched only in 2023.

This year, the firm is looking to invest more effort into the growth of its beer category, an ambitious feat given that the local beer market has long been dominated by the Singha and Chang brands, and it will require no small effort to stake a claim of this pie.

“Our beer competitors have been in the market for many years and are basically everywhere – and at the time they went to market, it was legal to advertise alcohol so marketing and expansion was direct, now this is no longer the case,” ​Carabao group Deputy Managing Director and Chief Productions Officer Kamoldist Smuthkochorn told FoodNavigator-Asia​ at the recent Thaifex-Anuga Asia 2024 trade show.

“So now to push our beer products, we are adopting a strategy that is coming from the other way around, which is to first push the Carabao name to the world stage such as sponsoring the EFL Cup which is now known as the Carabao Cup – it is challenging to go this way, but so far we are seeing some good results.

“We are also well aware that the on-trade market for beer is quite saturated and dominated by other brands as it is, so we have chosen to go the retailers route as our main strategy for beers, and will focus more of our marketing here.”

Carabao has also opted for a very bold product launch strategy which has seen a simultaneous launch of five different beer variants to the market, a move which it hopes will bring in a wider consumer base at an accelerated rate.

“When entering a brand new category, usually the common route is to be cautious and launch one or two items to test the market first - but we believe that launching all five products – lager, Dunkel dark beer, Weizen wheat beer, rosee beer and IPA – at once means that we are giving consumers a lot of variety, and that there is always a beer product in our portfolio that will appeal to them,”​ he said.

“Many consumers are familiar with lager, but there are some beer aficionados who will prefer dark beer, and some who prefer the craft beer scene that will go for the rosee – and as for the IPA, we are the first in the market to produce this on a mass scale, so it will be a good option for those who prefer this variant.”

Although the near-term focus will be on beer, the long-term goal is to tap on success in this category to also propel its Tawandang distillery products such as Tendo whiskey and Bangkok Rum to greater recognition.

Export also key

In addition to focusing on beer expansion in the local Thai market, Carabao also plans to export the beers beyond Thailand, and tap on the Carabao name to do this.

“In Thailand, the local packaging for the witbier, rosee and IPA uses the Tawandang brand, but for all export products the packaging uses the Carabao branding,” ​Smuthkochorn added.

“This is because the Carabao brand is much more well known in international markets, and we are already exporting to some 40 markets such as our neighbouring Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar as well as the Middle East, Pakistan and more.”

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