Thai Union Group’s sale of shares in a former joint venture with Century Pacific Food (CNPF) in China will be followed by a launch of King Oscar branded products in January 2017.

The Bangkok, Thailand-based company has established Thai Union China, a 100% owned subsidiary, the company’s Faisal Sheikh, managing director of emerging markets, told Undercurrent News.

“We have established partnerships with logistics companies for order fulfillment and a select range of King Oscar products will be available through online channels in January 2017, and a full range will be available at premium retail stores by Q2 2017,” he said.

On Dec. 23, CNPF, the Philippines’ largest canned food company, announced it is buying Thai Union’s shares in joint venture companies used to distribute canned tuna in China.

CNPF will sign an equity purchase agreement for a 100% interest in the group of entities that currently distribute Century Tuna, the company’s brand, in the country, according to a stock exchange release.

“The sale will allow Thai Union to focus on new opportunities in the China market, including the launch of the King Oscar brand in the frozen and chilled salmon and shrimp segments,” said Sheikh.

“Thai Union believes that the King Oscar brand offers a premium and unique positioning that fits better with Chinese consumer demands, particularly for a wide range of seafood categories,” Sheikh toldUndercurrent.

“We have extensive supply relationships in China to procure products sold to other markets. We have also sold OEM products directly in China, for example lobster from Canada and shrimp from Thailand,” he said.

Undercurrent reported the plan to launch King Oscar-branded products in China in November.

Thai Union snapped up the King Oscar assets and brand near the end of 2014.

It has identified the emerging markets of China, the Middle East and Southeast Asia as being key to reaching its target of $8 billion revenue by 2020, and as a result, has said it will “bring the full breadth of Thai Union’s branded products into these emerging markets” over the next few years.

According to analysts quoted by Nikkei, the Century investment was an “experiment” that allowed Thai Union to test the waters in China.

Entering the premium product segment could lead to higher revenue and better profit margins, helping the company reach the global revenue goal of $8bn by 2020.

“Chinese consumers like the luxurious lifestyle and Thai Union’s globally recognized brands, such as King Oscar and John West, might be stronger brands and fit in better with the market,” said Sureeporn Teewasuwet, an analyst at Finansia Syrus Securities.

She added that Thai Union could also explore the market for lobster in China. The company this year bought stakes in Canadian lobster processor Les Pecheries de Chez Nous and US restaurant chain Red Lobster.

To compete in China, an analyst at Bualuang Securities suggested Thai Union will have to complete at least one or two big acquisitions on the scale of $1bn, or quite a few midsize deals of around $500m, according to Nikkei.

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