The drink is sold in over 20 markets across Latin America, Asia and Africa, and AJE Group, headquartered in Lima, Peru, sells 3bn+ liters of beverages annually worldwide.
Speaking with Ben Bouckley at Zenith International’s InnoBev Global Soft Drinks conference in Lisbon, Lopez Doriga said that in less than four years on the Indonesian market BIG Cola has grown from sales from zero to 400m+ liters.
“The carbonated soft drinks segment continues to grow significantly in many of our key markets, in particular the Southeast Asian countries, which have large, young and fast-growing populations with lower per capita consumption of CSDs than other regions such as Latin America,” he said.
“We are not currently focused on more mature and saturated markets such as Europe and the US, which is why consumers in those markets would not necessarily be familiar with our brands, although we do export some products to the US,” Lopez Dorigo added, explaining why brands like BIG Cola have flown under the western radar.
AJE Group ambitious to be Top 20 multinational
AJE hopes that continued strong growth – 22% CAGR from 2000 to 2013 – will help it achieve its ambition of becoming one of the Top 20 multinational companies (based on brand value and strength) by 2020.
“We want to relate to the ‘Generation C’ consumers who set today’s trends and care about creation, curation, connection and community,” Lopez Dorigo insists.
“And if we can achieve this, provide this generation with brands that are original, creative and align with their interests, I am sure we will be among the leading global brands in 2020,” he adds.
'Democratizing consumption' in emerging markets
AJE is committed to ‘democratizing consumption’ in emerging markets, Lopez Dorigo says, which means reaching new consumer groups with high quality products at fair prices.
“We focus mainly on young consumers from medium to lower socio-economic groups in Latin America, Asia or Africa,” he says.
“As 70% of the population in emerging countries are young (25 or younger), this offers us significant opportunities for growth,” Lopez Dorigo adds.
Pressed on how AJE can compete with Pepsi and Coke in these attractive, high growth markets, Lopez Dorigo insists the focus is “not so much on competing…but rather expanding the market as a whole”.
BIG Cola, sans caffeine, a hit in Asia!
BIG Cola is sold without caffeine on the Asian market, with caffeine in Latin America, and Lopez Dorigo says the no-caffeine product is welcomed by Asian consumers as a healthier alternative.
“We have research data that indicates consumers choose a BIG Cola product more frequently due to its attractive price and its lack of caffeine,” he adds.
Finally, since Lopez Dorigo is a Zen Buddhist master, we ask him how he squares this with working with a large capitalist company?
Zen is a practice that focuses on “inner search and outer manifestation”, he replies, adding that “you don’t need to retire to the mountains or a monastery” to have a serious spiritual search.
“I don’t consider AJE a typical ‘capitalist’ company. AJE is a family owned company born in a developing country with an original capital of $10,000. Also its aim and focus is ‘to do business good’,” Lopez Dorigo adds.