Heineken’s newest push in Southeast Asia has nothing to do with beer

March 11, 2014
March 11, 2014

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Multi Bintang Indonesia, the Indonesian brewer 76% owned by Dutch brewing giant Heineken International, has a new plan that doesn’t involve riding the craft beer craze or cashing in on the popularity of low-brow culture to sell a cheap brew.

Instead, Multi Bintang is planning to take on a crowded, competitive market—soda. The company “needs to look beyond beer to expand earnings,” as Nikkei’s Asian Review explains, because Indonesia is increasingly restricting alcohol sales under political pressure from Islamists, including a strict proposed bill that would ban alcohol entirely. Even if the bill does not pass (and it needs to clear numerous hurdles before it does), beer sales in Indonesia are expected to grow just 2% a year, according to a Multi Bintang presentation.

So earlier this year, the brewer broke ground on a new $18 million plant that will produce soft drinks in East Java, which is expected to produce its own “Green Sands” sodas, and non-alcoholic beer. Expect Multi Bintang to run up against global giants like Coca Cola, though, which said last year it plans to spend $700 million on expansion in Indonesia.

There may be room for both. Compared to nearby countries, Indonesia’s soft drink consumption is tiny:

Annual-soda-consumption-in-Southeast-Asia-Liters-per-person_chartbuilder

Multi Bintang describes its flagship product, Bintang beer, as a “high quality, value-for-money beer, for Indonesian males, who value friendship and togetherness with friends.” Soft drinks, meanwhile, can presumably be enjoyed by males and females of all ages, whether they value friends or not.

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