Thailand the immediate focus of Unifine in Asian expansion

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Increasing demand for western style pastries in Thailand is behind ingredients supplier Unifine’s goal to expand its presence in that market this year.

Speaking to this morning, Gino Vantieghem, general manager for Unifine Food and Bake Ingredients France Belgium and Overseas Exports, said that Thailand, along with Indonesia and Vietnam are now beginning to follow the path carved out by Japan with consumers in those countries starting to embrace high end pastries as “affordable luxuries.”

And, according to the Unifine representative, while the category in Japan is now relatively mature after scaling the heights over the past ten years, consumer sentiment for pastries remained strong there compared to other food and drink categories throughout the economic crisis.

Vantieghem said that the Dutch group already has exposure in the Thai market in terms of supplying the food service sector but it is teaming up with long-time distributor DKSH to increase its market penetration in that country.

Aiming to target the large traditional, craft sector as well as ice-cream specialists and the more industrial/semi-industrial pastry manufacturing base, he said that Unifine will employ its pastry making knowledge in education initiatives and will introduce its complete product portfolio into the Thai market at the end of the first quarter of 2011.

And Vantieghem added that Unifine has set a target of a three-to-five year timeframe by which it expects to be the leading supplier of added value pastry ingredients such as fillings, chocolate, glazes, and pastry mixes in the fast developing Asian markets.

“This objective is predicated on the fact that we can provide semi-finished ingredients to facilitate speedier product manufacture for pastry chefs that lack the complete set of patisserie skills, in addition to the fact that we can improve their level of expertise through our training programmes,”​ he continued.

Separately, Unifine’s parent company Royal Cosun announced in December last year that it was investigating the potential sale of the pastry ingredients business.

"Based on the strong growth over the past 10 years and attractive growth prospects, Cosun is confident that Unifine F&Bi is now ready to take the next step in its evolution. Cosun will take into account the interest of all stakeholders and, on that basis, will look for the best options to facilitate the growth strategy of Unifine F&Bi,"​ said the firm at the time.

However, Vantieghem said he was not in a position to comment any further on that particular strategy, when asked if there was any update in relation to bids for the division.

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