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USA - Everlast Worldwide Inc announced that it has entered into a Master License agreement for mainland China with Brand Management Holdings PTY Ltd (BMH) of Hong Kong.

BMH is a subsidiary of UCCAL PTE Ltd, a leading distributor and retailer of international apparel brands in China that currently manages over 600 points of sale in support of international brands like Nike Sport Culture, Nike Golf, Jockey, St. John, M. Missoni, Fox, and Kuhle.

The license covers The People’s Republic of China and will include the following categories: boxing and fitness equipment, men’s and women’s apparel, men’s and women’s footwear and accessories. In the second quarter of 2008, Everlast licensed products are scheduled to ship to a planned 20 Everlast retail locations in The People’s Republic of China, expanding upon UCCAL’s 165 brand specific retail outlets.

Seth Horowitz, Chairman, President and CEO of Everlast Worldwide, stated, “This achieves one of our stated strategic initiatives in utilizing a well established network to build retail distribution and gain new market penetration. {quotes}Based on our success in the Pacific Rim, specifically in South Korea and Australia, we are excited to offer our premier active lifestyle brand to The People’s Republic of China{/quotes}”

James Chen, Chairman of UCCAL, stated, "We are extremely pleased to have this opportunity to bring a truly unique, global sports brand with authenticity to our market. We believe that the potential for the growth of the Everlast brand in this territory is assured and we are certain that the Chinese consumer will not only welcome but embrace the brand.”

Mr. Horowitz continued, “We are enthusiastic about adding this important license with Brand Management Holdings. We have chosen this partner based on their success in building iconic brands in China. They will utilize our global marketing and product development strategies to discover the revenue and profit opportunity in this expanding market.”

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THAILAND - UK supermarket chain Tesco is working hard to cater for Thai consumers’ increasingly busy lifestyles. Trina Tan reports on its latest collaboration to produce Thai ready meals.

Tesco customers buying ready-to-eat Thai meals will be {mosgoogle}getting a taste of the real thing following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the store’s local company, Tesco Lotus, and Kasetsart University’s Institute of Food Research and Product Development.

Under the MoU, the Bangkok University and Tesco will “collaborate to develop a research and development programme for food products, by combining both domestic and foreign expertise to produce and develop food products with a specific Thai flavour,” according to Dr Warunee Varanyanond, director of the institute.

Tesco entered the Thai market following the Asian financial crisis when it bought into the local Lotus supermarket chain in 1998, and acquired the remaining local equity in 2004.

Operating under the Tesco Lotus flag, it now has more than 280 outlets countrywide, in both hypermarket and Express mini-mart format.

Tesco Lotus now carries more than 2,500 house brand products under brand names such as Tesco and Skin Wisdom but also uses the local Thai Khumkha brand for product lines.

Last year, the Thai operation exported an average of US$60 million worth of Thai products for sale in its UK stores.

R&D priority
According to Dr Varanyanond, the IFRPD began life as a Ministry of Defense division based at the university, developing rations for the military, but was integrated into the university in 1968.

“The institute provides thermal process determination and processing service at pilot scale level for feasibility and/or marketing studies,” he says. “We have a fully equipped laboratory and kitchens with special pilot-plant equipment to mirror full production.”

Approximately 10 per cent of the IFRPD’s commission comes from foreign firms based in Thailand, in particular Japanese companies such as Ajinomoto and Kirin.

“When complications are encountered at their Thai production bases, or new products are to be developed, the foreign companies prefer to work with the institute’s facilities rather than pour money into setting up new labs in Thailand.”

“This MoU develops our co-operation with the university to a new level,” says Tesco Lotus’s signatory to the MoU, director and chief marketing officer Gwyn Sundhagul. “We started by using the institute’s test kitchens to develop our ready meals - restaurant quality food for the home that is not frozen but chilled.

“Looking to the future, the new MoU paves the way for advanced research and development between Tesco Lotus and Kasetsart. We are very excited about the potential joint development of products and personnel.”

Lifestyles in major Thai cities such as Bangkok are changing to resemble those in Western cities; dual-income families are now the trend, while mothers no longer stay at home to do the household chores or watch the kids. Couples don’t have the time or energy to cook their meals in the evenings after work which means convenient ready-to-serve meals are becoming the popular alternative.

Dr Varanyanond explains: “Nobody stays home, and it is hard to get a helper. So we just buy ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook and go back and put it in the refrigerator and then in the microwave. This is increasingly becoming our lifestyle.”

Although instant noodles have been around for many years, they can have low nutritional value and are often of questionable quality.

All of the products being developed by the IFRPD for clients, such as Tesco, are preservative-free and contain no monosodium glutimate (MSG) the staple additive in most Asian instant meals. “We have been researching specific products which can be free of additives, yet have a shelf life of up to two years,” he says.

“We have been developing recipes which have an authentic Thai flavour but can be dehydrated. In the cooking process they absorb moisture through the retortable bag, ensuring that there is no contamination in the process.” This is an important factor in a developing country where instructions to ‘just add water’ might actually be contaminating the food.

Early in the food development stage, the IFRPD decides the packaging format for the product. According to Dr. Varanyanond, the characteristics of the food and quality play an important part in deciding what packaging material is used.

For example, a Ready-to-Cook Thai Green Curry in paste form with a shorter shelf-life would be tested and packaged in a PE or PP laminated bag while the Ready-to-Eat spicy noodle dish in dried form would be packaged in a PE/PP microwaveable container, sourced locally.

The availability of packaging materials in the country is an issue in the R&D process. Clients may indicate a preference for a particular form of packaging, but a format proposed by the IFRPD must guarantee that food product quality and safety is not compromised. This is an argument that usually wins over the client.

Store-bought meals are slightly more expensive than a freshly cooked meal at Bangkok’s many street stalls; a pack of ready-to-cook food consisting of rice with side dishes costs 40 Baht ($1.23) compared to 30 Baht ($0.92) for a full meal at a street stall (including a bottle of mineral water).

However, the higher cost of convenience seems to be a price modern couples, now empowered with more disposable income, are willing to pay.

“Even Saturdays, Sundays, we do not want to cook. Cooking is very tiring and we want to take a rest,” says Dr Varanyanond. “Yes, that’s the way life is in Bangkok and the other cities. But in the countryside lifestyles will take longer to change.”

Tesco Lotus’ ready meals were not the only convenience food IFRPD has developed. The institute has also produced ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat noodles and rice dishes, and Thai curries in either powder or a dried form, requiring only the addition of hot water and some sterilising minutes in a microwave oven.

Dr Varanyanond says that these have been the result of technology research collaborations with overseas institutes, especially those in Japan.

The IFRPD, as part of its R&D programme, works closely with the university’s department of packaging technology. Kasetsart is the only university in South East Asia which offers packaging-specific full-time degree and postgraduate courses.

The Lotus position
Ever keen to promote its presence in Thailand, Tesco Lotus’ Gwyn Sundhagul says that the country will benefit because Tesco Lotus can apply Kasetsart's abstract technical knowledge in commercial and concrete ways.

“Importantly, this involves raising vendor standards enabling them to compete internationally. The Thai people will benefit as more employment is generated among our vendors. On a more immediate level, our customers will benefit from safer food and interesting new products.

“This creates confidence among customers that every product on Tesco Lotus shelves is both as free from contamination as possible, and contains nutritional value, which is important to customers.”

UK consumers will also benefit from Tesco’s overseas ventures in countries such as Thailand, and eventually China, with the introduction of genuine ethnic ready meals produced and packaged in their country of origin which meet the food safety requirements of Western countries.

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Farcoasta
CANADA -
The Coca Cola company has launched a new range of products aimed at the up-market discerning consumer and with it Coke is launching a new business model which it hopes will lure consumers away from the ‘specialty’ outlets, like Statrbucks.

In September Coke launched its premium brewed beverages in Toronto, Canada, to be known as Far Coast which, according to Coke, will feature a range of “coffees, teas and other exotic brews and infusions that are inspired by different cultural “adventures’ in music, art, and legends from around the world”.

However, Coke’s strategy for these brews involves a totally new retail and distribution structure and supplier relationships to “empower its retail customers - premium restaurants, entertainment venues and other high-end outlets - to offer a variety of freshly brewed espressos, chai teas, cappuccinos and lattes with a high degree of operational ease.” Clearly targeting the Starbucks-crowd.

According to Udaiyan Jatar, head of Coca-Cola’s Global Premium Brewed Beverage business, “Consumers are looking for quality and variety and are increasingly curious about the world around them. Far Coast was created to provide them with a window into different cultures through our range of delicious brews and infusions.”

Concept Store
To help build awareness and trial of the Far Coast brand, the company gone so far as to open its own Far Coast Concept Store in Toronto.Farcoastb

The Concept Store is intended to  “provide a venue for consumers to taste and explore the wide range of premium Far Coast blends and experience the magic of the brand”.

In addition Coke will be able use the outlet as a test market platform to learn about this new market and gather consumer feedback quickly on new products to provide proven products to its restaurant trade customers.

“The Concept Store is a powerful and innovative marketing device to build an authentic relationship between the Far Coast brand and consumers, and ultimately, help drive consumers to our retail customers,” said Jatar.

Following the opening of the Toronto Concept Store on Bloor Street,  Coca-Cola will rollout Far Coast only through its retail customers will be closely followed by Oslo and Singapore,

Techno cuppa
According to the Coca-Cola Company it has developed a proprietary pod-based brewing technology, which provides customers with an operationally easy system to offer barista quality brewed beverages while ensuring each beverage is consistently of superior quality and freshly made for each individual consumer.

This innovation is designed to help the Company’s retail customers overcome operational complexities such as complex, unreliable machines and high labor turnoverm considered a barrier when opening a new franchise to compete with brash young upstarts in the beverage game, like Starbucks..

Through this technology, retail customers can quickly and conveniently tap into the fast growing specialty coffee and tea market while receiving marketing and technical support from The Coca-Cola Company.

PACKAGING BUSINESS INSIGHT ASIA

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