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Acecook presses for tenfold surge in Myanmar noodle sales

Japanese company uses local flavors, local production to capture diners' hearts

YANGON -- Japan's Acecook aims to sell around 3 million servings of instant noodles monthly in Myanmar by March, hoping a new factory in the country will multiply previous figures by 10 or more.

The manufacturer began turning out instant noodles in April at a new plant in the Thilawa Special Economic Zone on the outskirts of Yangon. The roughly $20 million facility boasts production capacity of 300 million servings annually. A plant in Vietnam had supplied the Myanmar market, but now all production is in the country, except for soups whose ingredients have proven tough to source in this country.

Acecook intends to popularize "safe and tasty instant noodles based on the expertise we have honed in Japan," President Hiroshi Muraoka said at an opening ceremony for the plant Tuesday.

Producing food locally lets Acecook sidestep restrictions on involvement by foreign companies in Myanmar's trade sector. The manufacturer now can market offerings directly, rather than through local distributors, and is moving to expand sales channels nationwide. Sales totaled around 500,000 servings per month in May and June, topping Acecook's expectations, the manufacturer said. By March, the company hopes to move 3 million units monthly.

The cost savings from local production are being passed on to diners: Prices on the popular Myanmar-specific Yo Yar noodle line have been cut from 250 kyat (18 cents) per serving to 200 kyat. Two new products are slated for debut in July.

Tailoring offerings to incorporate flavors from Myanmar's cuisine has helped the Japanese manufacturer thrive in this country, where many other noodle makers tend to bring to the table foreign flavors such as instant versions of Thailand's hot-and-sour tom yum soup. Acecook hopes that strategy will lead to sales of 100 million servings in 2020.

Instant noodle demand in Myanmar totaled about 570 million servings in 2016, according to the World Instant Noodles Association. Though neighbors such as Indonesia and Vietnam dwarf that figure with demand of around 13 billion servings and 4.92 billion servings, respectively, Myanmar's market is growing briskly at roughly 20% annually.

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