SINGAPORE – Traditionally, multinational companies (MNCs) have dominated many markets in Southeast Asia but today, the competitive landscape is shifting. Empowered by low running costs, well-established networks, an intimate understanding of local needs and tastes, and the ability to move swiftly, local players have become a force to be reckoned with, and have irreversibly re-shaped Asia’s FMCG sector, according to a new report released today by global measurement company, Nielsen.
“The entry of multinational companies (MNCs) into new markets—while presenting advantages for local consumers who gain access to a greater range of products—can be a big challenge for local companies, which are suddenly faced with daunting foreign rivals that have an array of advantages, including vast financial resources, diverse talent pools, sophisticated technology infrastructures and well-established delivery and operating practices,” says Laura McCullough, managing director, client service leader of Nielsen’s growth and emerging markets. “However, in recent years many local companies have not only survived the competition from multinationals, but have outperformed them in Southeast Asia.”
The Nielsen report, Go Glocal identifies the top four factors that have tipped the balance to local companies’ favor:
Value for money, national pride, and familiarity engender loyalty for local brands: Consumer sentiment is a contributing factor to this rebalancing toward Asian players. The Nielsen Global Brand-Origin Survey, which examined whether consumers prefer goods produced by global/multinational brands (defined as those that operate in many markets) or by local players (those operating only in a single market—the respondent’s home country), found country of origin preferences differ by category, but consumer preference has started to favor regional and local brands over global brands.
Even in categories where global brands have historically dominated — such as shampoo, carbonated softdrinks, facial care, facial moisturizer, and infant formula —local brands are growing more rapidly, echoed by positive consumer sentiment.
The key factors contributing to consumers’ choice of local versus global brands include value for money, a desire to support home-grown brands, and having had a positive experience previously.
Regional and local brands are growing faster than global players in both modern and traditional trade: For local players their success has been a slow evolution as their knowledge of the modern trade environment grew particularly in areas such as category management.
Local companies understand nuances of local consumers: Almost three in five consumers in Southeast Asia believe local brands are most attuned to their personal needs and tastes. Traditionally, local players ruled categories that resonated closely with local nuances such as food and beverages. These categories still drive the greatest growth for local companies today at 17% for beverages and 10% for food.
Local and regional companies offer price spectrum to match consumer needs: The emergence of a growing middle class has fanned aspirations for consumers to trade up and enjoy the perceived additional quality and functional benefits of more premium priced products.
It used to be that global players’ portfolio had a stronger skew to premium lines and local players had a stronger presence in the value segment. That focus is changing with local and regional offering a more balanced portfolio of brands across all price tiers while global brands are shifting their focus to the higher margin premium end.
Regional players are bucking the premium trend, with an increased focus on the value tier, which is growing at close to 50% compared to 22% growth for mainstream segments.
“Consumers have never before been as informed, empowered and ready to embrace brands that understand their lifestyle requirements and needs. Companies – be they global, regional or local – must ensure their brands deliver on their value proposition and fulfil a critical role in lives of consumers if they are to win the battle of choices,” concludes McCullough.
CHART 1. Growth of regional and local companies vs. multinational companies