Cargill Meats (Thailand), the subsidiary of the US agricultural and food ingredient producer Cargill Group, is ramping up its ready-to-cook products and using Thailand as a production hub to export to the Asean market.
Thiti Tuangsithtanon, the company's managing director, said the firm set up its export-targeted cooked chicken production facility in Thailand five decades ago. Now the pandemic situation has improved, the company is ready to actively expand its production of ready-to-cook chicken in the country this month, mainly via the business-to-customer (B2C) channel.
It introduced the Sun Valley ready-to-cook chicken brand in 2019 and launched PlantEver, a plant-based brand, to the market in 2021 to test demand.
"The market response is very impressive because both brands can serve the needs of modern consumers looking for good taste, quality and healthy food products. Such positive feedback gives us high confidence and leads us to ramp up the ready-to-cook products," Mr Thiti said.
He said the value of chicken consumption in Thailand is estimated at 233 billion baht per year. Of the total, 59% is raw chicken, while ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook products represent 26% and 15%, respectively. Although the consumption of ready-to-cook chicken remains relatively low, the growth rate stands at about 7.8% per year.
In addition, per capita chicken consumption in Thailand increased to an average of 25 kilogrammes per year in 2021, up from 12 kg per year in 2010. Some 73% of Thais eat chicken 3-4 times per week. Meanwhile, the consumption of plant-based products in the country is expected to rise to 45 billion baht in 2024, from 28 billion baht in 2019, according to Mr Thiti.
Nevertheless, consumers are now more conscious of their dietary choices, pay more attention to what they eat, and carefully select food in the wake of the pandemic, while alternative protein is a trend that is on the rise in the global food market. Therefore, Cargill Meats has the potential to enter both the chicken and plant-based protein markets in Thailand, Mr Thiti said.
Sun Valley products offer fresh and cooked chicken products like chicken nuggets, chunky bites and chicken sticks, while PlantEver offers an alternative for health-conscious consumers. Both brands are available via online and offline channels.
Cargill Meats exports cooked chicken to 17 countries in Europe, Asia and North America. It is among the world's four leading exporters of cooked chicken products. The company has two factories in Saraburi and Nakhon Ratchasima.
Mr Thiti said Cargill Meats aims to become one of the country's three largest exporters of cooked chicken within the next five years, with Thailand acting as its hub for expanding B2C business in Asean.