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How can local Davids win over global Goliaths

From the August 2013 issue.

There is a paradox that exists in the coffee industry, that leading global brands typically don’t come from countries where coffee is grown. These ‘Goliath’ brands and products are so powerful, they even dominate markets in origin counties.

There is a paradox that exists in the coffee industry, that leading global brands typically don’t come from countries where coffee is grown. These ‘Goliath’ brands and products are so powerful, they even dominate markets in origin counties. Coffee is grown and sold cheaply, shipped overseas where it undergoes its most value-added process in roasting, and then sold back to the poor countries that grew them. One could make the old joke: it’s a bit like selling ice to Eskimos.

How to overcome this paradox? These brands are so powerful, how can local entrepreneurs thrive? How can these ‘Davids’ – small, but strong and smart – match up to their giant competitors?

This was the situation we faced nine years ago when we introduced a domestic instant coffee brand in Vietnam: G7. With instant coffee around the world largely supplied by a single European-based brand, we could only compare ourselves to David, up against this powerful Goliath. Almost a decade later, we are now the leading instant coffee brand in a country of 87 million people, with Neilson data confirming our 38 per cent market share of the Vietnamese market.

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