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Tuncay Tekdemir


The Social Tipple

CEO, Carlsberg Kazakhstan


Tuncay Tekdemir holds an MBA from Istanbul University, and began his career in 1986 in Turkey, where he held various manager positions in marketing and sales in local divisions of companies such as Bridgestone, Adidas, and Frito Lay. From 1997 until 2000 he worked for Nestlé in Turkey, first as Sales Development Manager and then as Sales Director. Over the next 11 years, Tuncay’s career successfully developed at Danone, where he has held various senior positions in sales and general management in Turkey and CIS region. He joined Carlsberg Kazakhstan in September 2011.

"The consumer is now able to experience different tastes, and this is feeding Carlsberg’s growth."

How has Carlsberg’s business evolved in Kazakhstan?

Our company entered the Kazakhstani market in 1998 under the Ak-Nar label. The same year the new brand, Irbis, was introduced to the market. In 1999 the DERBES brand was developed. Baltic Beverages Holding (BBH), an international brewery owned by Carlsberg and the British brewer Scottish & Newcastle, acquired a stake in Ak-Nar Brewery, and merged the two businesses, including Irbis and Ak-Nar in 2003. Ak-Nar was renamed DERBES in December 2006. Carlsberg Group later acquired Scottish & Newcastle shares and became the beneficial owner of BBH assets in Russia, the CIS, and the Baltic states. As a result, DERBES joined the Carlsberg Group in April 2008. DERBES was officially renamed to Carlsberg Kazakhstan in December 2010. Under Carlsberg, DERBES has enjoyed many of the opportunities offered by the Group—we have had the chance to apply the best practices employed by Carlsberg globally, and significant investments were made to modernize our site and develop our personnel. We conducted research that demonstrated that renaming would be able to offer additional, mostly intangible, benefits. We are now associated with the fourth largest brewer in the world, which is well known for its high-quality brands and great achievements. Needless to say, our image as an employer has improved significantly and we are planning to further utilize our potential as part of a large international group. In general Carlsberg Group operations are based on a “glocal” approach by finding the right balance between working closely together on a global level and actively developing local brands and initiatives. Carlsberg Kazakhstan operations cover the Kazakhstani market only and is a part of Carlsberg Group’s Eastern Europe region that also includes brewing companies in Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan.

How does beer fit in to Kazakhstani society?

Unfortunately, there is no legal differentiation between alcoholic beverages in Kazakhstan. The legislation puts vodka and beer in the same category. Beer is a naturally fermented low-alcohol-content drink , whereas vodka is a much stronger distilled beverage. The main problem with the government’s strict approach is that it limits our advertising and distribution. We are subject to the same regulations as vodka, whiskey, or tequila, and this has to change. You can’t put wine and whiskey in the same category. Consumers have different needs, habits, and usage for these products. In Kazakhstan beer is three times more expensive than vodka, in pure spirit terms, because of excessive regulation that significantly increases the cost of beer production and distribution. For example, the sale of alcohol in PET bottles has been banned in Kazakhstan for many years, and we cannot use this affordable and completely safe type of packaging in beer production. Because of such regulation and low beer affordability consumers tend to choose cheaper, stronger spirits over expensive beer; as a result, overall alcohol consumption increases.

“The consumer is now able to experience different tastes, and this is feeding Carlsberg’s growth.”

Which segments of the market do your products address?

In different countries there are different trends. In Kazakhstan, people tend to buy lager—light, easy-drinkable beer. Consumers also like the flavor of non-filtered beer. There is a comparatively new segment in Kazakhstan market that has recently gained immense popularity; the sale of draught beer in off-trade outlets. There are two kinds of consumers who prefer this segment: those who believe that such beer is fresher and has a different taste, and those who seek an affordable option. One of the problems in the country is that there aren’t many glass bottle producers. We have just one glass bottle producer, but its supply is limited and the price is high. Therefore, we purchase glass bottles from Russia to mitigate our costs. The same can be said about aluminum cans—there is no single producer in Kazakhstan. As a result, cans and bottles have to be imported, and transport costs are quite high, which makes beer even less affordable. This is another reason for the growth of such segments as draught in off-trade.

What are Carlsberg Kazakhstan’s main marketing tools?

Alcohol advertising is not allowed in Kazakhstan; however, we are allowed to advertise non-alcoholic beer. For that we use traditional channels—mostly TV and outdoor advertising. At the same time more focus is placed on point-of-sale advertising in both on-trade and the hotel/restaurant/café (Horeca) channel, which is becoming more popular as well. We want to illustrate the uniqueness of our product, and try to introduce something new to the market. Local consumers are perceptive mostly to product appearance. Innovation and regular changes in positioning are also important, and so first we have to attract the consumer. Another important aspect is the taste. As everyone has different tastes, we have to have enough variety to provide exactly what the consumer needs. Kazakhstani consumers prefer classic lager, while dark beer such as porter or ale is not popular here. This is different from Europe where different sorts of beer are consumed with various foods; we haven’t arrived at that point in the Kazakhstani market. Here, the beer-food association is not that obvious, but hopefully we can expand such marketing tools in the future.

How would you assess Carlsberg’s position vis-í -vis other brands in the market?

The consumer is now able to experience different tastes, and this is feeding Carlsberg’s growth. Customers want to try new things. We are not at Europe’s level, but we do have a wide base of customers. There are local and international varieties available. Beer is a social drink, and it can be a part of a good meal and friendly atmosphere.

© The Business Year – March 2012



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