DANANG: Staying close to the consumer, both literally and metaphorically, is crucial to the growth plans of Tan Hiep Phat Beverage Group, the Vietnamese soft drinks business that is aiming to increase revenues sixfold over the next decade.

"We are positioning ourselves as a good-for-health brand in a way that connects with our consumers' lifestyle choices," explained Tran Uyen Phuong, deputy CEO.

She told Asia Times that Vietnam's young population is becoming increasingly health conscious as their incomes rise. "They care about their health. How can I live better? perform better? They want to consume less sugar."

THP is second only to Coca-Cola in terms of drinks sold in Vietnam, with its main products including a lemon-flavored green tea, a combination herbal tea and a vitamin-based energy drink.

The business sells one billion litres of beverages a year and has invested in new manufacturing capacity around the country, in part to meet consumer requirements, in part to make distribution easier.

The use of aseptic technology sterilizes the plastic bottles made on site and so removes eliminates the need for preservatives. "With 21st century technology, you can have all-natural ingredients and nutrients," noted Phuong.

An added bonus is reduced transport costs for a business with the ambitious aim of making its drinks "available within 50 meters of consumers nationwide".

The company is aiming at 30% growth in 2017 alone, and longer term aims to expand from a $500m business to a $3bn one by 2027.

"If we know who we are and who our consumers are, we'll keep gaining ground and remain competitive," stated Phuong, who is also publishing a book based on THP's experiences titled Competing With Giants in a Local Market.

"That is the main issue facing a lot of Vietnamese companies," she said. "We are competing in terms of capital and resources with global companies. A lot of companies here are young and they face a lot of obstacles."

Data sourced from Asia Times; additional content by WARC staff