Nov 26, 2013

Unilever Food Solutions looks to double B2B in Myanmar every two years

Unilever Food Solutions aims to double its business-to-business deals every two years in Myanmar, said Prasith Preechachalieo, managing director for Thailand, Indochina and Vietnam.

He said the company, which is a unit of Unilever Thai Trading Ltd, began doing business in Myanmar in 2010, focusing on the restaurant market. Serving 200 restaurants in 2011, that number has grown to 1,000 this year. It targets doubling its operations every two years after joining with the Myanmar Restaurant Association (MRA) to promote its products.

"We joined with the MRA to train chefs in Myanmar about how to cook and how to use the products and also be concerned about cost management, food quality, convenience, and nutrition for customers. This will support our business growth in this country," he said.

After forming a strong relationship with the MRA, the company has succeeded in becoming a major sponsor of the upcoming SEA Games. It is cooperating with the association to train up to 400 people to cook for up to 4,000 athletes and staff at the Games, which will be held in Nay Pyi Taw from December 11-22.

"We are supporting the system by sending a chef to train the cooking staff, set up menus, and set up the cooking system for 400,000 dishes. He will set up the central kitchen, provide consultation on food safety and hygiene, and provide recipes with balanced nutrition for athletes, while also ensuring good-tasting food," he said.

Myanmar's restaurant market shows signs of growing every year, Prasith said. This is a result of the country's economic growth and the expanding number of investors and tourists.

Plant in Myanmar

Unilever has a plant in Myanmar to produce Knorr Rostip seasoning powder, primarily for households. The main products for restaurants are still imported from Thailand.

"Thailand is still our production base for Indochina including Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia in the business-to-business market, but when the market grows the company may set up a new plant in Myanmar in the future," he said.

Currently, Indonesia is the largest market in Asean for the food business and accounts for about 30 per cent of Unilever Food Solutions' regional market value. Thailand ranks second at about 25 per cent, followed by the Philippines and Malaysia.

In Southeast Asia, the food-service industry is valued at Bt865 billion, covering 500 million people who eat out at least once a year. A total of 1.3 million food-service businesses exist throughout the region, the majority of which are roadside food stalls and food carts.

The Thai food-service industry is valued about Bt200 billion. Thailand is one of the four fastest-growing markets in Southeast Asia, Prasith said.

MRA secretary-general Kyaw Myat Moe said Myanmar now had more than 5,000 restaurants, but only 1,400 were members of his organisation. However, the MRA believes that its collaboration with Unilever Food Solutions will help it increase the number of members and also raise the standards of the country's restaurants.

Meanwhile, the 27th SEA Games will stimulate development of the country's food-supply chain and cost management.

Most of the raw materials Myanmar restaurants use are acquired locally, but some ingredients are imported.

Source: The Nation