Astrapak is well ensconced in South Africa as one of the dominant manufacturers of a wide range of plastic products used daily by millions of consumers. While Astrapak remains relatively unknown to these consumers and are generally hidden behind multi national household brands, the containers used to preserve and present these products undoubtedly make the difference when it comes to consumer choice.
The exciting challenge of taking this unmistakably successful formula of world-class plastic packaging products into the rest of Africa is not something entirely new to Astrapak. The strategic decision must certainly be based on the macroeconomic changes on the continent and the undeniable growth of a very large middle class and swelling urban populations. This is made even more exciting by a growing youth market that is more regularly exposed to higher quality products.
Astrapak’s business development into Africa is twofold; with attention to their existing accounts in southern Africa remaining paramount but also seeking and maximising value driven opportunities to grow their footprint in Africa.
By only focusing on the SADC (South African Development Community) region due to its proximity to the rest of the countries, Astrapak’s strategy is to focus on key markets in terms of the size of those markets and those that are most logical to enter and with more potential to grow.
With their presence already set in some SADC countries, it is only natural that the company continues to build in those areas. To lead this process and drive implementation of this strategy is Thomas Gersbach, Astrapak’s Key Account Manager for Africa.
“The dairy market in Africa is one that we are concentrating on due to it being a necessity item,” explains Gersbach. “Products like thermoformed trays for meat products and dairy tubs for yoghurt are more viable at the moment.”
Gersbach adds that closures are also an area of focus; the low value, high volume products. This will add value to existing manufacturing businesses in southern Africa who fill final product but require closures for sealing.
While Astrapak has experienced some growth in certain markets, the key will be identifying markets with reasonably stable economies.
Competition from China in Africa has presented challenges with a large presence in many of Africa’s economies. In terms of speed and distance to market however, is where Gersbach believes South Africa has an advantage.
“China has scale working for them – they have a huge market and the ability to export massive quantities. But they have the issue of time on the water; time lost in the logistical process.
“In addition while we may not be as price competitive our advantages are definitely proximity and ability to deliver on time as well as our quality is better.”
Gersbach doesn't hesitate to point out some countries on the continent already have established suppliers of similar products and supply into SADC. “Kenya is a prominent manufacturer. South Africa and Kenya are currently the two biggest plastic packaging manufacturing countries in Africa at this point in time.”
Astrapak’s proven world class quality, innovation, speed to market and unrivalled customer care will be a force to be reckoned with and definitely provide a leading advantage.
Distribution will be managed from South Africa as manufacturing is all done within South Africa’s borders allowing products to be exported into Africa by land. The ultimate plan is to establish a distribution outlet at a strategic centralised point in southern Africa. This it is believed will form the foundation of their African network.
Astrapak’s vision remains to be the preferred supplier in Africa and their goal for the next five years is to ensure that their markets in the SADC region remain relevant and solid providing a platform from which the company can continue to grow organically.
The fluidity of socioeconomic trends and political events will certainly make this project one that requires precise planning and continuous awareness of macro and micro influences, but Astrapak believe this development is within their grasp of stepping further into the continent and cementing their brand.