Coronavirus conversations: Maud Meijboom-van Wel, Tiger Beer

The pandemic situation has been fluctuating in a few Southeast Asian countries. In order to support local F&B outlets in overcoming the tough period, Singaporean brand Tiger Beer has launched an initiative calling for local diners’ support by purchasing pre-paid cash funds and vouchers that are redeemable once distancing measures are removed. Maud Meijboom-van Wel, brand director of Tiger Beer, tells db Asia more about the idea, and also the current situation in the Southeast Asian market.

1. How has Covid-19 impacted Tiger Beer? 

Where countries must close F&B outlets and implement some form of lockdown as part of safe distancing measures, we see an impact on the sale of our beers.

The impact differs by brand, for example, whether they have a significant footprint in the F&B outlets. For newer products, it also depends on what channels we are looking at. For example, new products we have launched in retail are performing in line with the trend in that channel.

2. How would you describe the effect of Covid-19 on the industry? 

Most countries in Asia have reacted to the pandemic by taking far-reaching containment measures such as movement restriction and F&B outlet closures, which has led to a significant decline in volume in these channels in beer and alcohol across Asia. Combined with the mandatory lockdown of production facilities in some countries, this has had an impact on beer sales in the region.

Our main concern, however, is the severe business impact on our local pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, and food courts caused by tighter movement restriction orders or lockdown measures in the region. In Singapore alone, according to a survey by restaurant online reservations platform Chope, 93% of restaurants have seen a dip in revenue, and 78% are not equipped to last longer than six months if things do not get better.

This situation inspired our latest #SupportOurStreets initiative that seeks to support local pubs, restaurants, hawkers, coffee shops and food courts around the region tide over these difficult times. It is also a call to people to rally behind their favourite local food outlets as a show of support and to motivate people to go out to these outlets with family and friends once movement restrictions and safe distancing measures are eased.

To date, more than €950,000 has been pledged from Tiger in Malaysia (MYR1.5 million) and Singapore (SGD1 million) and product donation of 1.5 million beer bottles in Vietnam. We are seeing great support of this initiative by both the F&B community and the public. In Vietnam, consumer engagement hit tens of millions.

3. In this period of time, have you observed any changes in sales channels and consumer behaviour?

Like others in our industry, our on-premise and draft business is seeing an impact as people are no longer going out with movement restriction orders in place almost everywhere. But instead, we have seen online sales go up during this period. And this is for two reasons: firstly, with safe distancing measures in place, several countries have implemented closures of F&B businesses and confined people at home, which in some markets resulted in an increase in retail or supermarket sales.

Secondly, the lack of options is a boost for online sales, where available. Because of this, some outlets have moved to selling their products online. Next to that, there is an increase in demand via e-retailers, who also include our products.

There may also be some changes in consumer drinking habits, at least at the beginning. This will largely depend on different markets and people’s attitude towards social gatherings. In Vietnam where F&B outlets reopened almost a month ago as the country counted zero Covid-19 infections for a couple of weeks, these businesses are doing well as people are taking to the streets to reunite with their families and friends.

4. What should businesses do to adapt in this period? Has the coronavirus inspired the brand with any new business ideas?

While no one can be sure what the ‘new normal’ will look like and how swiftly it will establish market by market, it will happen gradually, and consumers will adapt to that. This means that businesses will need to listen to the consumer, adjust, be agile and flexible. At Tiger, we will continue to support F&B outlets and listen closely to our consumers and adapt our business to serve them the best we can.

More specifically, the path forward will require both an optimised off-premise strategy and support of a responsible return to on-premise alcohol consumption. We will continue to push forth online sales. But we also believe that this is the time to support on-premise. On-premise retailers and operators will need more support than ever before from their manufacturer and retail partners. These local pubs, restaurants, coffee shops and food courts are the backbones of economies across Southeast Asia and make our streets special and unique.

5. Are there other promotions or events in the pipeline?

While some forward-thinking, new strategies and re-planning were required, across the region we have exciting things lined-up for the rest of the year. For now, we are thrilled to move into the next phase of our #SupportOurStreets initiative with the campaign’s expansion to markets such as Cambodia in the coming weeks, as well as the launch our digital hawker masterclass content series and StreetLife Live online concerts.

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