Convenience & Impulse Retailing magazine caught up with Asahi Lifestyle Beverages’ recently appointed CEO Nigel Parsons as part of the 2021 Industry Leaders Forum.
Parsons tells C&I that the most important thing for Asahi Lifestyle Beverages is ensuring that consumers and customers are at the heart of everything they do. Through this, Asahi Beverages will drive category growth with its convenience partners into the future.
C&I: Highlight one achievement at Asahi Lifestyle Beverages that you’re particularly proud of from over the past 12 months.
Parsons: From a business perspective, the way we navigated the challenges of 2020 with the pandemic was really pleasing. We looked after our people, we became even more customer focused and we have come out the other side a much stronger business. I must add from a convenience perspective, while the measured market experienced a beverage decline, we grew, which was very pleasing.
C&I: What do you enjoy most about convenience and what is one challenge you’d like to see addressed in the industry?
Parsons: When you meet a convenience retailer, you are invariably meeting someone who is incredibly passionate about the industry. And that’s true whether it’s an owner/operator or someone working for one of the national groups. Not only is everyone looking to grow their respective business, but there is also a genuine passion about the convenience sector and the sector’s total growth. That is quite unique and a very enjoyable element of the sector.
In terms of challenges, we know conversion of fuel sales to retail sales remains well below 50 per cent for most P&C retailers. When you consider most retailers will make $2.00+ cash margin on a beverage sale coupled with the many thousands of fuel-only shoppers a year, that feels like money is being left on the table. That might not be the most visible challenge to address, but it feels like a worthwhile challenge that can be overcome.
C&I: What is the primary focus for Asahi Lifestyle Beverages in 2021?
Parsons: Our primary focus is always our people. Creating a safe and great place to work is paramount. Of course, ensuring consumers and customers are at the heart of everything we do is also critical. With the volatility in the market, changing shopper and consumer habits – some forced, some chosen – we need to fully understand where consumers are moving to and ensure we are there to meet them with a cracking offer. Our ability to meet those consumer needs and drive category growth with our convenience partners will be critical to our future success.
C&I: How do you envision the next six months for convenience retail?
Parsons: In a word, volatile. It will likely be a while before things settle. Overall, day to day traffic to stores is likely to take a while to recover. Positively, we are seeing across the broader total on-the-go (OTG) market a willingness for consumers to spend more per visit. Getting the forecourt and in-store execution right to drive those impulsive categories will be key to making the most of it.
C&I: Are there any new or emerging trends you have noticed over the past 12 months?
Parsons: From a beverage perspective, we have certainly seen a swing back into much-loved carbonated soft drinks from lifestyle categories. Zero sugar offers in the soft drink category is a huge driver of growth. The need for energy and functional benefits continues to grow unabated. Finally, from a sustainability perspective soda stream and cordials are demonstrating strong demand. I’m not sure they are new trends but overall, zero sugar, functional benefits and sustainable solutions seem to be critical platforms for growth.
C&I: Is there anything else happening with Asahi Lifestyle Beverages that you’d like to highlight?
Parsons: There is always plenty going on at Asahi Lifestyle Beverages. When all is said and done, our success resides in our ability to work with our great partners to deliver great products and experiences for consumers. We highly value our convenience partners, and we look forward to working together to drive category growth into the future.