Analysis: If we are what we drink, Indonesia is getting wiser

Debnath Guharoy, Consultant | Tue, 07/13/2010

“We are what we eat”, the saying goes. As food habits change gradually, over time and with age, an
entire nation can become more healthy. Or not.

In Indonesia, all the evidence shows that a more health-conscious people are gradually making more intelligent choices. What they decide what to put in their mouths is an issue they are thinking about, more and more, as the years go by. This week I will focus on drinks the country is consuming, on food the week after. Against the backdrop of these reassuring trends, the country’s addiction to cigarettes is indeed bewildering. Considering that the smoking habit is overwhelmingly a male affliction, it would be logical to conclude that the women in this country are not just the fairer sex, they are the more intelligent gender as well. This view is reconfirmed again, in the patterns of food and beverage consumption.

The alcohol market is very small, in the country with the world’s biggest population of Muslims. Less than 1 percent of the population has had any alcohol in the last seven days. But it could easily be argued that 1 percent of 235 million is still a lot of people. With the latest round of crushing taxes imposed on alcoholic beverages, this coalition government’s motive is raising eyebrows. In Turkey, another beacon of moderate Islam, the actions of the pro-Islamic ruling party are obvious. Careful not to tamper with its secular constitution, conscious of the military quiet in the barracks, Turkey’s party in power is using an administrative tool like taxes on alcohol to impose their moral values on society. The price of alcohol has rocketed up by as much as 800 percent in three years, making their popular raki unaffordable to many middle-class homes. Casual conversations in Istanbul last week reflect the concern that “purified families” will subsequently become more Islamic in their social conduct, over time. A worrying piece of social engineering, at a time when ideas are traveling across borders more quickly than ever before.

Moving away from the small alcohol market to the enormous non-alcoholic beverages business, the picture is literally getting healthier by the year. If we exclude water consumed by all everyday, and try to determine the “share-of-throat” that all the other types of drinks have captured in a seven-day period, a fascinating picture emerges. While the usual 74 percent of the entire population 14 years and older continues to drink hot tea, it rules the non-alcoholic beverage market with a 22 percent ‘share-of-throat’, in the last 7 days. Hot tea has become even more popular, up 2 percentage share points in just three years. The share of iced tea consumption also grew by 1 percent during that time, with 12 percent of all beverage drinkers consuming it at least once a week. While hot coffee consumption is growing across the country, its “share-of-throat” has also grown by 1 percent to a 15 share of the beverage market. To underline the obvious, many who drink tea also drink coffee, as well as many of the other choices available.

Similarly, the consumption of milk is also on an even course. But within the 11 percent share of grown-ups drinking nature’s most bountiful gift, the good news is that fresh milk is steadily growing.

Then, hot chocolate has another 1 percent share, equally steady like the yogurt drinks at 0.3 percent.

The news gets better, as the juice market continues to grow. Consumers of fruit juice have grown from 4 percent share in 2007 to 6 percent today. That makes the category the fastest growing in the non-alcoholic beverages market. The growing number of fruit-juice drinkers and the declining number of fruit-drink consumers is yet any other indication of a more mature, a more discerning marketplace.

Fruit-drinks are down from 4 percent share in March 2007 to 3 percent in March 2010. Not surprisingly, syrups are also down 2 percentage points during the same period, to just 7 percent today.

An interesting switch of fortunes is also taking place in the sports and energy drinks fields. Three years ago, energy drinks were popular with an 8 percent share, and sports drinks at 5. Today, energy drinks are down to 7 while sports drinks have climbed up to 6 percent “share-of-throat”. Carbonated drinks are down too, from 9 percent to 8 percent. Colas are flat, Coke Zero is so small it couldn’t be measured as a percentage of this large country. Flavored waters are down from 3 percent to 1 percent, with sparkling waters on a holding pattern of 1 percent share. Though everybody drinks still water, the picture would not be complete without a mention of the obvious. Everybody is on Aqua everyday, but the Aqua brand dominates with a 63 percent share of all bottled water consumers, even today.

When you look at the non-alcoholic beverages market from a marketing perspective, an interesting but not so obvious reality emerges. It is the locals, not the multinationals, who built the biggest brands in almost every category. It is the sign of our times that the multinationals acquired many of these market leaders from the locals, over the years. Sariwangi, Aqua and Buavita spring to mind. Says very little about the marketing prowess of the big globals and a lot about world domination, doesn’t it?

The opinions are based on Roy Morgan Single Source, the country’s largest syndicated consumer survey with over 25,000 respondents annually. Interviews are conducted face-to-face each week, continuously, with results released every quarter. The findings are projected to reflect over 85 percent of the population, 14 years of age and older. 

 This article was taken from The Jakarta Post. Read the original article