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Hand in hand with its Bio brand, the AJE group will bring drinks based on Peruvian inputs to other countries in the region. Augusto Bauer, vice president of administration and strategy of the company, tells Día1 how this process will be, his expectations of the sector and the launches with Pulp and Volt. He also says that he always listens to proposals from global brands of beverages and beers that are interested in having them as partners.
What are the projections for this summer campaign?
We expect to grow in the double digits. In all categories we are working on innovations beyond the campaign. In water we have alkaline waters, in energizers we are going to innovate with different formats (before the middle of the year) and in Pulp we are strengthening its formula with iron.
Will we see a revival in demand then?
We all hope that there will be a reactivation of consumption and we believe that it will be so, not now but in three months. We expect to grow in the double digits.
Bio, the group’s natural drink brand, is the newest in the portfolio. Will the innovations of the summer campaign come with this brand?
As part of our strategic plan, we want to be one of the reference companies in healthy products and beverages. And in that line goes Bio, with which we have just launched the aguaje flavor. We already have camu camu, blueberries, aloe vera and we are going to explore more superfruits.
Last year you mentioned some limitations to expand Bio, have you optimized the production chain to expand its presence?
We have learned along the way, we have improved harvesting techniques with the communities and thus obtain more inputs in less time. Since its launch last year, it has tripled its sales. Now we can take the Bio line to other countries.
What countries will the brand reach?
In all the countries where AJE is present, the idea is to take the resource to those other markets and produce it there. We are going to start in Latin America in the next few months, for example, first in Ecuador.
Will innovations with natural products be concentrated under the Bio umbrella?
No. At Volt, for example, we always use natural energizers, we’ve launched the grape-based Volt Pink and we’ll continue to look for natural ingredients. The same goes for Pulp.
How much do you plan to invest in the group’s research and development area, with a view to future reformulations and innovations?
The investment goes hand in hand with the speed of the business and in the company we have a great rhythm of launches. While other companies may take 2 years to launch a product, we do it in three months because we invest heavily in this area.
How much of the annual budget do you allocate to this area?
It varies, it can be 3%.
Will the reformulations of the products be accentuated this year?
Absolutely. We will continue to look for formulas to have healthier products, with higher properties and less sugars. Products like Pulp have a world to go, now it is second – with a 40% market share in fruit drinks – but soon it will be leading.
Will the company achieve this in 2020?
I believe that with innovations we are going to achieve that position. We are already leaders in water (Cielo), energizers (Volt), drinkable tea (Free Tea), hydrating/sports drinks (Sporade), natural drinks (Cifrut) and natural drinks (Bio). We want this leadership in 5 or 6 categories to also be present in other countries.
Are the main brands of the portfolio already in the other markets where AJE has presence?
For the last 3 years, yes. We have yet to launch Pulp in Mexico, Bio in other countries in the region. And, thus, there are countries where we still need to launch products.
Last year you launched Big Cola in Peru, now with five brands of soft drinks (Kola Real, Peru Cola, Isaac Kola, Oro).
Each one has its own market. Peru Cola and Isaac Kola are well positioned in certain regions, Kola Real and Oro have their market outside of Lima and Big Cola has entered the capital with force and disruptive formats. We don’t see a cannibalization, but we will continue to observe how the market behaves. Now, among all the brands we have between 18% and 20% of the category.
Half a year after the octagons, do you think the consumer has adapted to the seals?
I believe so, there has been an important change. There are categories where the consumer stops buying because of octagons. Today the industry is looking to reduce the presence of seals.
Two years ago they re-invigorated their Tres Cruces beer brand, will we see innovations in this portfolio or has the rise of ISC slowed down the plans?
We are very critical of the rise of ISC, but in the end we have to live with what we have. Despite the increase, the can has done very well.
What is the current market share of Tres Cruces?
It is very little, between 3% and 4%.
It emerged that they were interested and that there would already be an agreement to bring in a global brand of beer: Heineken
Yes, it is rumored, even I have heard the rumors.
Are you interested in bringing in a global brand like Heineken to strengthen your beer portfolio?
We always have conversations with beer and beverage companies; it is a sector in which we all know each other. We receive proposals from companies, for example, from Chile, Colombia, Central America, in case we are interested (in acquiring or distributing) their brands. We always receive proposals and talk. That does not mean that there is something decided.
In other words, has there been an approach with the global beer brand? I can’t answer that yet. There has been talk (in the sector) and we have seen that (the competition) has brought out its new brand, just in case, to protect itself in case something arrives here.