By Pitsinee Jitpleecheep, Bangkok Post, Thailand
Nov. 21–The local operator of the Swensen’s ice-cream chain plans to open nearly 100 restaurants in 16 countries in an effort to broaden its horizons from the saturated Thai market.
Swensen’s (Thai) Limited holds a licence to operate the American ice cream chain in 16 Asian countries, and will make the investments either with its own funds or through joint ventures, said general manager Choompot Tantisoonthorn.
“We will aggressively expand our ice-cream outlets in overseas as market demand in Thailand is nearly saturated,” he said yesterday.
New Swensen’s outlets will be opened to cover 16 countries by 2010. As of now, the company operates restaurants in Kuwait, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Thailand.
The business plan for Swensen’s Thai calls for 250 restaurants across Asia by 2010, up from 156 this year, Mr Choompot said. Most of the additional outlets will be operated under franchise format.
The company has hired a consulting firm to study the premium ice cream market in India, where Mr Choompot sees strong potential thanks to a booming economy. In addition, the company plans to add six more Middle East outlets next year, mostly in Qatar, Oman and Bahrain, bringing its total in the region to 14.
Despite a saturated market in Thailand, Mr Choompot said the company could expand sales through opening new outlets and offering new healthy menu items. To keep its number one market position, the company plans to design each new branch differently to meet consumer needs, he added.
The ice cream market in Thailand this year is estimated to be worth nine billion baht, a 5 percent increase over the year before, Mr Choompot said. Of the total, about two billion baht is premium ice cream.
According to the company, annual per capita ice cream consumption in Thailand is about 1.5 litres, compared to 20 litres in the United States, 10 in Japan and seven in Malaysia.
Sales of Swensen’s ice cream this year are expected to reach 1.8 billion baht, up 30 percent from 2005. The company has forecast minimum sales growth of 20 percent next year.
The Thai company is a unit of Minor Food Group, which operates nearly 600 restaurant outlets in Thailand under five brands — The Pizza Company, Swensen’s, Sizzler, Dairy Queen, and Burger King. It celebrated its 20th anniversary in Thailand this month.
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