Indonesia's popular brands make it big overseas

Nabila (right), a PhD student at the University of Porto, Portugal, uses instant noodles to introduce Indonesian culture to her non-Indonesian classmates. - JP

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network): As an exchange student in Hungary last year, Ardy found the culinary change hard to digest. Like other Indonesians abroad, the Gadjah Mada University undergraduate felt European cuisine was bland.

He missed the diversity of flavors he had grown up with, the amalgamation of spices characterizing dishes from the archipelago – until he discovered a taste of home sold in local supermarkets: Indomie instant noodles.

The iconic Indonesian brand from PT Indofood CBP Sukses Makmur (ICBP), a subsidiary of food manufacturing giant PT Indofood Sukses Makmur (INDF), has gone far beyond Indonesian shores.

ICBP spokesman Stefanus Indrayana told The Jakarta Post on Thursday (Aug 11) that the company's instant noodles were sold in some hundred countries and produced in 31 factories across the world.

An astonishing 30 billion packs of Indomie noodles roll off the conveyor belt every year.

“I feel proud to be eating food that’s Indonesian in origin while also tasting good [...]. My fellow exchange students overwhelmingly favour Indomie,” Ardy told the Post.

When Ardy offered Indomie to his friend Assad during their exchange year, the Pakistani also fell in love with the quick-to-prepare dishes.

The Indonesian brand has captured hearts and minds in export markets around the globe, where it is no less popular among locals than it is among Indonesian expats.

It has achieved such success in Nigeria that many take it for a domestic product, says local student George.

“I eat indomie, and my friends over here eat it. Sometimes in school, I eat Indomie three times in a week, because it is easily prepared and saves time and energy,” the 22-year-old told the Post on Friday.

In a publication titled Brand Footprint Indonesia 2022 by market research firm Kantar, INDF marketing director Axton Salim vowed to continue to push into overseas markets with Indomie, which he called “the pride of Indonesia.”

“Something we focus on is product customization, ensuring the products land well in different countries but still retain the essence of Indomie,” Axton said.

Another Indonesian consumer brand making a splash overseas is Kopiko by food giant PT Mayora Indah.

Riding the wave of Korean pop culture, the coffee candy has been featured in three K-dramas: Vincenzo, Mine and Hometown Cha Cha Cha.

On a visit by Indonesian officials to US-based Tesla, sharp eyes spotted the automotive and energy giant’s CEO Elon Musk enjoying the candy, and a photo from 2017 shows US astronauts keeping a supply of the candy in space.

Mayora Indah global marketing director Ricky Afriyanto says the firm continues its “brand building activities” to adapt to overseas demand.

“The most important thing is that we are proud as a part of Indonesia and proud of brands originating from Indonesia; this invigorates us to strive to be the best,” Ricky told the Post on Wednesday.

GoTo, Indonesia’s outsize tech firm focusing on ride-hailing and e-commerce services, is steadily gaining ground in South-East Asia, reporting 72 per cent annual growth in food delivery orders in the first half of 2022 in Vietnam.

GoTo corporate affairs chief Nila Marita told the Post on Wednesday that the company aimed to expand its international presence, adding: “We are proud to fly the flag high for Indonesia, representing our vibrant tech sector in some of the region’s leading economies.”

Yongky Susilo, a retail expert with the Indonesian Shopping Center Tenants Association (Hippindo), notes that both Kopiko and Indomie have adopted localised strategies to penetrate foreign markets, such as endorsement through film and TV productions.

In a time when technological supremacy demands customisation, brands should spend more resources on developing market intelligence and data sophistication as key factors to success in overseas markets, he said.

"Tokopedia’s e-commerce and Gojek’s ride-hailing services have high brand penetration overseas, so GoTo as an integrated platform stands a better chance [to grow in market share]," Yongky told the Post on Thursday.

The overseas success of Indonesian brands is also a matter of national interest. Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) deputy chairperson for international relations Shinta Widjaja Kamdani said the country’s brands represented a positive image of Indonesian culture and potential economic gains overseas.

"Indonesian brands are at the forefront of forming foreign market perceptions and acceptance of Indonesia as a developing and culturally rich economy. We must support that [to] represent Indonesia positively in the destination markets," Shinta told the Post.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said on Tuesday that her diplomats had widened their focus beyond political and security issues to economic ties, reporting to the foreign policy chief every two weeks on their progress in promoting Indonesian brands overseas.

“For example, [an ambassador would report:] ‘Today, I met with someone and [secured a] contract for a certain number of containers [...]. Our ambassadors must look for opportunities to obtain new contracts plus investments,” Retno told the Post.

Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan has noted the importance of brand promotion through ministerial exhibitions as a chance for Indonesian products to be recognised by foreign buyers.

"Now is the time for Indonesia to evolve from just being a market for foreign brands to expanding our brands to foreign markets," Zulkifli said during a keynote speech on Wednesday.

Trade Ministry Export Development Director General Didi Sumedi said Indonesian brands had “qualities to be proud of” as they were beginning to cater not just to niche markets but increasingly meeting the needs of the general public.

“In the past, only established brands like Indomie could penetrate the global market; now there are many [...]. This progress is very encouraging,” Didi told the Post.

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Indonesia , brands , Indomie , Kopiko , overseas , popularity


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