Business Opportunities for Norwegian Companies in Thailand
The Thai Consumer Market
With its close to 70 million inhabitants plus the growing consumer markets in Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos, Thailand has cemented its strategic position in the regional consumer market. The consumer industry is growing at a rate of 5% per year from 2016 to 20121 with expenditure per capita in Bangkok reaching USD 334, some 60% higher than the national average. Products on offer in Bangkok are on par with cities in the developed world, e.g. Singapore, Tokyo, London and New York.
Seafood Export from Norway
The modern urban generation has embraced salmon, much thanks to the popularity of Japanese cuisine in Thailand. Japanese cuisine is the most popular foreign cuisine in Thailand and there are close to 2,500 Japanese restaurants in Thailand corresponding to almost 10% of restaurants in Bangkok. Thai consumers are also becoming more health conscious leading to an increase in seafood consumption.
The export of seafood from Norway reached an all time high in 2017 with the export value close to 1.2 billion NOK. That was 17% above 2016 which was another record year. In 2016 the export value to Thailand increased a whopping 60%. Of 2017’s total, 89% were salmon and trout and of this 66% was fresh airflown products. 2018 has started well for fresh salmonids, as of May 2018 the export is up 20% in volume and 17% in value. There are some challenges in the frozen salmonids segment, but we are expecting a rebound in the coming months.
Norwegian Seafood Council continues to market fresh airflown salmon and trout in Thailand and to spread the message that these products come almost exclusively from Norway.
Other Consumer products
According to Euromonitor International, consumer expenditure is expected to expand by more than 5% each year from 2016-2021 with growth in education, communication, and food. Thai people seek convenience coupled with a high level of service and a stylish lifestyle.
The education sector is expected to grow fast. Like in other emerging economies in Asia, Thai parents put emphasis on their children’s development. Language training, tutorial courses and other extra activities such as dancing, music and sport classes are booming in Thailand.
According to the Nielsen research group, 21 million of Thailand’s close to 70 million inhabitants are internet users. Of these 18 million users connect to the web through their mobiles. About one third of Thailand’s 94 million mobile phone subscribers use smartphones.
Thailand remains in the top ten worldwide in social media usage in 2017. Social media has increasingly become an important tool for business marketing and for business success. Banks, telecoms, consumer goods makers and electronics firms, as well as the government, are active social media users.
The modern urban generation have moved into condominiums close to business areas and are looking for convenience in their daily lives . Visiting convenience stores and supermarkets for daily necessities and meals have become a must. Focus is on quality and value for money and people are willing to pay more for imported products. In general, Thai people are avid restaurant goers, and this can especially be seen in urban areas where the food and restaurant market is growing faster than the rest of the economy. Competition is stiff and many chain restaurants focus on a niche products likely to be embraced by the young urban population, e.g. yoghurts, desserts, coffee, bread or noodles.
There are major opportunities in the online retail industry in Thailand as purchasing patterns are shifting towards digital in the fast moving consumer goods sector. At present, online shopping accounts for only 0.6% of total retail sales, but the value of purchases via this channel almost tripled in 2015 and doubled in 2016.
See further in this report by HKTDC.