We have a saying in our country, “Đáng đồng tiền, bát gạo.” In English, this literally translates as, “It’s worth spending money and it’s worth trading the rice for.” What it means is that you may have to spend more money, but you will get good value, or get your money’s worth.
This principle is just as applicable to spending money – or investing – on/in our businesses as it is to the products we choose to buy. This was certainly the case when we first introduced Zero Degree Green Tea and the technology it required to offer it in the best way possible.
To give some background, when THP started developing a bottled cold tea, many industry observers thought we were onto a loser. PepsiCo and Lipton had already collaborated on bottled green tea products in 2000 and again in 2002. But neither had worked and in 2005, they withdrew from the market.
At the time it was assumed that consumers were simply not willing to pay for something they were accustomed to getting for free from any street stall (quán cóc), or high-class restaurant across the country. Iced tea is particularly popular in the South where the weather is much hotter. Northerners tend to prefer hot tea: sometimes so strong they joke that you can almost stand a toothpick in it.
And yet, many of the world’s biggest beverage companies had already persuaded millions of consumers to buy bottles of a commodity they could easily get from simply turning on a tap. If consumers were willing to buy bottled water, why not bottled tea as well? PepsiCo and Lipton failed because they did not show the Vietnamese people why it was more beneficial to drink bottled tea instead. They just presented it as a new form of tea.
Through a keen understanding of our culture and a belief that offering tea in a more convenient way would work, we invested in what was necessary to make that a reality.
We invested in PET bottles made of polyethylene terephthalate and aseptic technology, which keeps the whole process sterile and eliminates the need for preservatives. THP became the first company in Southeast Asia to invest in this kind of technology, purchasing a production line capable of producing twelve thousand bottles per hour.
When we launched Zero Degree Green Tea, its success was immediate. Many competitors jumped into the market after us. We exceeded our twelve-month sales target within two months. In 2006, we started off selling 10,000 cases per day. Today we sell over 100,000.
Shortly after, PepsiCo was back with Lipton Pure, and later Tea+, while the Philippines Universal Robina Corp launched C2 and Coca-Cola introduced Tea Leaf. But THP had the first-mover advantage. Today, Zero Degree Green Tea still enjoys the largest market share in the ready-to-drink green tea market category.
It’s important that we continually invest in our businesses through new ideas, new technology, and new expectations. When we do, we can enjoy greater success and profitability. Afterall, as the old Vietnamese saying, “Đáng đồng tiền, bát gạo” suggests, when you invest into your future more, you will get your money’s worth.