BANGKOK/HANOI: Unilever and Nestlé are to expand their operations in Thailand and Vietnam respectively, the two European FMCG giants have announced in separate statements.

Unilever plans to increase its investment in Thailand by 8bn baht ($246.6m) to take advantage of the country's growing middle-class and its access to the Asean free-trade zone.

Speaking to just-food, the company said its planned expansion will be underpinned by five sustainable business growth strategies.

It aims to build brand loyalty through "constant product innovation" and to use digital marketing to strengthen its relationship with its customers.

Third, it will continue to invest in its production base in Thailand while also seeking to enhance its relationship with retailers. And, finally, it will work on developing the skills of its local staff.

Unilever Thailand will open a new head office in Bangkok in December that will cost 2.6bn baht. It is also investing in a new warehouse (2bn baht), a new ice cream cold room (1.5bn baht), while expanding its personal care plant (1.2bn baht) and its food processing plant (700m baht).

"This is the biggest investment for Unilever Thailand in the past 20 years," said Supattra Paopiamsap, chairwoman of Unilever Thailand, in comments reported by the Bangkok Post.

"Thailand is a strategic country for Unilever globally due [to] its good geographical location, which can serve as a hub for the upcoming Asean Economic Community, while the number of middle-class consumers here can reach 50m by 2020," she said.

It comes as Nestlé, Unilever's Swiss competitor, announced that it will spend 35m Swiss francs (about $36.5m) to expand its Milo chocolate malt beverage factory in southern Vietnam.

That would double the company's production capacity at its Binh An plant in Bien Hoa City and strengthen its presence in the country's growing nutritional beverage sector.

Wayne England, chairman and CEO of Nestlé Indochina told Tuoi Tre News that the company has "a long-term vision and a firm belief in the potential of the country" because of its "young and dynamic population, expanding consumer market, and favourable business environment".

Data sourced from just-food, Bangkok Post, Tuoi Tre News; additional content by Warc staff