In many ways Thailand is a country of entrepreneurs, and maybe a good example of this is the gutsy move by Pepsi’s local distribution company to give the multi-national brand the flick last year. Although there was no doubt a lot of advance planning behind the scenes, seemingly overnight Pepsi disappeared from Bangkok’s streets and was replaced by something called “Est” – strangely (or not) a very similar black-coloured, fizzy sugar water. Sermsuk, the local distributor, even saved money on marketing by adopting Pepsi’s red, white and blue colour scheme.
For most of the months since, Pepsi was only occasionally seen around Bangkok. And mostly in larger establishments, as you can imagine the difficulty in setting up distribution arrangements from scratch with the countless family stalls all over the city and across the country.
Lately though, the battle has been heating up – the soi up from our apartment recently shifted – again overnight – from being an “Est” soi to a “Pepsi” one with all of the tablecloths and umbrellas magically changing brand. Clearly the local Pepsi representative turned up and did a sweep. And it looks like money is being thrown around (at least on a micro scale), as the lady with the beaten-up Est chilli bin at the neighbourhood night market now has a shiny new Pepsi fridge.
Around the time Est appeared there was a lot of talk in the news about whether Pepsi would be able to catch up especially as they made the decision to go plastic instead of glass bottles. It was thought that Thai people would go for whatever came in a glass bottle because they think the glass retains more fizz for longer when you put the drink into a bag fill of ice.
I wonder whether stall owners really have a preference or just appreciate the bright new shiny accessories? It’s interesting to watch how things develop, but at the end of the day, we’re probably just going to drink whatever whatever’s being sold, wherever we are.
P.S. Coke’s still here – but that’s not a very interesting story!