Serving Asia a sweet taste of Tru Blu Beverages

14 December 2021

Some of Australia’s best-known juices, soft drinks, fruit drinks and cordials have enjoyed sweet success as Tru Blu Beverages broadens its reach in retailers, supermarkets and convenience stores across Asia.

Tru Blu Beverages is one of Australia’s leading beverage manufacturers. The company has converted major new customers and distribution channels to Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Korea and Vietnam after enlisting Austrade’s assistance. The company has also converted additional supply chains in Hong Kong, Papau New Guinea and Bangladesh to further expand its existing export footprint.

This means more revenue for the business and, importantly, more jobs for local communities.

Tru Blu’s Executive Director – International Sales, Pat Pavlis, says the company is proud of its export achievements over the past few years and credits Austrade with this success.

‘Austrade has been integral in helping Tru Blu Beverages broaden its reach and footprint in Asia. It’s the perfect platform to achieve this,’ he says.

‘Austrade is our eyes and ears in the market. It has business development managers around the world who understand their markets, keep up with the latest trends, and know all the right people. I know I can pick up the phone and ask Austrade anything at any time.’

Be quick to adapt

The pandemic had minimal impact on Tru Blu Beverages’ overall exports. However, circumstances can change without notice, so Pavlis has this timely advice.

‘Keep up to date on emerging and economic trends in your export markets,’ he says. ‘Being vigilant and having a back-up plan means you can anticipate and act on any challenges, trade distruptions or opportunities. Be willing to change your plans or adjust your strategy in response. If you don’t adapt and adapt quickly, it would be very difficult to succeed.’

In 2020–21, Tru Blu Beverages stepped up its diversification strategy to counter any possible trade disruptions. The company decided to focus on export markets where it has regular ongoing supply and brand loyalty. These include Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China and New Zealand where it has been supplying directly to larger retail chains since 2017.

‘We took those learnings and applied the same principles to new opportunities,’ Pavlis says.

Look for new customers in existing markets

Vietnam is one of Tru Blu Beverages’ most consistent markets in terms of supply continuity. The company was keen to bring more of its broad and diverse product portfolio to the country. ‘If we had another five customers, we would be in a very good position,” Pavlis says.

Austrade provided Pavlis with a list of 10 potential customers. The team also prepared a detailed report on each customer (including identifying products in Tru Blu Beverages’ portfolio that the companies might be interested in) and provided email introductions.

‘Austrade is very good at identifying market gaps,’ Pavlis says. ‘You think you know all the key importers or retailers in the market. Austrade will come back with 5 you’ve never heard of.

“They are very good at identifying the type of customers we want to engage with because they know our business and we are clearly aligned in our diversification strategy.

‘We started looking for new incremental customers in January 2021. We have since converted several new import supply chains and have 15 new items in the market. This represents significant incremental and ongoing business for us.’

Re-engage with past markets

Korea’s multiple retail points and large urban population with disposable incomes make it an attractive market for beverages. Tru Blu Beverages had done business in Korea in the past and was keen to restart exports.

‘Austrade helped us identify and connect with key importers that were unknown to us,’ Pavlis says. ‘The team was integral in helping us secure a new importer. The importer now has our Riviera premium sparkling fruit drink in one of the major quick service restaurant chains in Korea.’

Call on Austrade when tackling new markets

Tru Blu Beverages has identified the Middle East, EU, UK and US as new incremental export targets that will complement and broaden its diversification strategy. It asked Austrade to assess these markets.

‘Austrade was fantastic,’ says Pavlis. ‘The team provided a comprehensive briefing given they were new territories for us. We had virtual meetings to help them understand our needs, long-term strategy and success criteria.’

Based on these briefings, Austrade provided market insights on what works well and what doesn’t. Examples include the market’s preference for smaller, premium, immediate consumption packs.

‘With restricted travel in the short term, we had to look at new ways of connecting with potential new markets and customers,’ says Pavlis. ‘Austrade helped us stay connected to new opportunities by enlisting us on key online platforms in these markets. 

‘Austrade also facilitated virtual Meet the Buyer programs,’ he adds. ‘These have allowed us to engage with key retailers and importers in these markets. We are confident of incremental conversion within the first quarter of 2022.’

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Have the courage to say ‘not yet’

Asked to nominate a dream market, Pavlis says Japan. The population is large and densely urbanised, and there are multiple retail points for beverages, from vending machines to convenience store chains.

‘If you can land the right product that provides a point of difference from local manufacturers in that market, you will be very successful,’ he says.

Tru Blu Beverages had the opportunity to enter the market about 2 years ago. The company decided to hold off in the short term.

‘We have a strong desire to position our products in Japan but we’re also very cautious of the market,’ Pavlis says. ‘Japanese buyers are very conservative. Having such a broad range, it is critical that we target the market with the right product and gain the market’s confidence in our brand(s).’

Austrade’s thorough market research, which included assessing retailers and vending machine operators, reassured Pavlis he was better off nurturing opportunities and biding his time.

‘It was a good thing I waited as we have a potential route to Japan now.’

Taking an Aussie icon to the world

Tru Blu Beverages has a strong desire to be Australia’s leading beverage exporter.

‘We want to take our iconic and well-loved Australian brands and make them available in the 80 markets where Austrade has presence and representation,’ Pavlis says.

‘We have 3 state-of-the-art manufacturing plants in Australia. We have invested significantly to ensure we continue to develop healthy beverage alternatives. We strive for environmentally sustainable manufacturing and packaging solutions, and adapt efficiently, with speed to market globally. That’s our strengths, that’s our vision.

‘The most rewarding thing about exporting is not so much the incremental growth it generates, It’s when you walk into a store overseas and you see your products on the shelves. It’s a very satisfying feeling of accomplishment.’

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