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Ineffective pricing strategy of the prepared food category at the alpha jsc

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UNIVERSITY OF ECONOMICS HO CHI MINH CITY International School of Business HUYNH THI THUY DUNG INEFFECTIVE PRICING STRATEGY OF THE PREPARED FOOD CATEGORY AT THE ALPHA JSC MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION Ho Chi Minh City – Year 2021 UNIVERSITY OF ECONOMICS HO CHI MINH CITY International School of Business Huynh Thi Thuy Dung INEFFECTIVE PRICING STRATEGY OF THE PREPARED FOOD CATEGORY AT THE ALPHA JSC MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION SUPERVISOR: DR LE THI THANH XUAN Ho Chi Minh City – Year 2021 Contents LIST OF FIGURES EXECUTIVE SUMMARY I INTRODUCTION Introduction to business nature .8 1.1 Company Overview .9 1.2 Organization structure 10 II PROBLEM CONTEXT 12 2.1 Overview about The Alpha‟s businesses .12 2.2 Overview about Vietnam prepared food market 17 III PROBLEM IDENTIFICATION 19 3.1 Symptoms analysis 19 3.1.1 Low Revenues 19 3.1.2 Lost Orders 20 3.2 Problems Analysis .21 3.2.1 Problem Mess .22 3.2.1.1 Manpower Shortage 22 3.2.1.2 Low awareness of customer about the company's product portfolio in Prepared Food category 22 3.2.1.3 Limited customer network 24 3.2.1.4 High price 25 3.2.1.5 Wrong Competitor Analysis 27 3.2.1.6 Delivery Time too long 28 3.2.2 Problems Validation 29 3.2.2.1 – Poor Human Resource Planning 29 3.2.2.2- Poor Communication 29 3.2.2.3- Ineffective Pricing Strategy 30 3.2.2.4 – Poor Position Strategy 31 3.2.2.5 – Ineffective Supply Chain Arrangement 32 3.3 Main Problem Justification .33 3.4 Problem consequences 35 IV CAUSES ANALYSIS 39 4.1 Causes Validation 39 4.1.1 Potential Causes 39 4.1.1.1 – Just reacting to the price competition 40 4.1.1.2 - Failure in price positioning 41 4.1.1.3 – Ineffective price segmentation model 42 4.1.1.4 - Ununited Stakeholders On-board 43 4.1.1.5 – Lack of pricing capability 44 4.2 Validating Causes 46 V ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS .49 5.1 Solution – Mapping customers into segments, based on relationships and levels of customer values, so that company can target their price as the costs of customer to incur.53 5.2 Solution – Grouping and configuring product solutions into different levels of delivered values 57 5.3 Action Plan .60 VI CONCLUSION 64 VII SUPPORTIVE INFORMATION 65 VIII REFERENCES 87 LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1: General organizational structure of The Alpha JSC Figure 2: General organizational structure of The Alpha JSC in Vietnam Figure 3: Processing Unit organizational structure of The Alpha JSC in Vietnam Figure 4: Chart for sale result of the Alpha JSC from 2017 to 2019 Figure 5: Sales results of Processing categories from 2018 to 2020 Figure 6: The company’s processing sales department categories Figure 7: Retail market value of table sauces in Vietnam from 2013 to 2021 Figure 8: Market size of top ten Sub- segment of prepared food in Vietnam in 2019 and predict for the next years Figure 9: Retail market value of table sauces in Vietnam from 2013 to 2021 Figure 10: The Value – based pricing model: Price-to-benefits map Figure 11: The Value-based pricing framework LIST OF TABLES Table 1: Sale result of the Alpha JSC from 2017 to 2019 Table 2: Sales result of Processing department from 2018 to 2010 Table 3: Gap between sales target and Actual report from 2018 to 2020 Table 4: Total loss of the company for this category Table 5: Data of some loss projects for this category Table 6: Customer relationships and value levels Table 7: Products and value levels LIST OF DIAGRAMS Diagram 1: Diagram of Problem Mess Diagram 2: The Preliminary Cause – Effect Tree Diagram 3: The Updated Cause and Effect Tree Diagram 4: The Final Cause and Effect Tree ACKNOWLEDGEMENT First of all, I would like to express my deep gratitude and high appreciation to Doctor Thanh Xuan for her valuable guidances for me to complete this final thesis She has also motivated me to overcome crestfallen at the beginning to complete the essay within the allotted time Without her advices, my thesis would not be completed in time and with quality Secondly, I also want to express my respects and thanks to Mr Tony, Mr Vi Nguyen, Mr Tu Le, Mr Tuan Tran, and Ms Hoa Nguyen at The Alpha JSC, who have spent much of their precious time answering the interview questions, as well as supported to provide information needed for my thesis Without that precious help, I certainly would not be able to build up a strong and convincing thesis Also, I would like to thank ISB for giving me the opportunity to this thesis, as a great exercise of my education This thesis has helped me apply the knowledge learned during the program in solving a real business problem This experience, even within the framework of a education program, will be an important addition to my competent profile and will help me in my current and future work as well Finally, I give love and gratitude to my loved ones in my family who have always been by my side to encourage me, share household chores to give me more time and positive energy to complete this memorable thesis EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Nowadays, price is a key element for any business and can be critical to the business's survival If the price is not set in accordance with the target market, it could have a negative impact on the company's market share and profitability As such, pricing can be considered as an important aspect affecting the success of a business or an organization However, setting up a pricing strategy is becoming a difficult task for managers An effective pricing strategy will help the company increase its revenue and profitability Therefore, developing the right pricing strategy is both important and complex And, the price determination is likely to succeed if the business has good management of the factors of the pricing strategy Therefore, if the firms not fully understand the impact of their pricing decisions, that will often lead to missed opportunities and ultimately reduced profits and sales However, this happened with particular Prepared food category of The Alpha company, they have been experienced lost orders as well as low sales for several years due to ineffective pricing strategy By using different literature reviews and conducting in-depth interviews among employees in the Processing business unit of The Alpha, this research has defined what the main problem is, why it is the main problem, how important it is and how it affects to business performance in their Prepared food category Furthermore, the findings show that a company's pricing strategy includes plans for price positioning, price segmentation, competitive price reaction, and pricing capability It is necessary for the firms to define and develop an effective pricing strategy Nowadays, among the three models: valuebased, market-based and cost-plus pricing, the pricing experts is more preferring to execute value-based pricing, as it has been shown to gain the extra revenues from the „value‟ of products offered to customer In short, this research will help the managers to find the central problem occurring in the department, what main causes of the problems and how to make the good solutions to solve that problem, to enhance the competitive advantages, increase profits and decrease loss of orders to the competitors I INTRODUCTION Introduction to business nature The Alpha is the company about food industry However, not like the B2C businesses who sell food products to end consumers, this company is a B2B business Its customers are producers in food and beverage (F&B) industry For more details, this company does not produce and sell food products, but it provides machinery equipment and line solutions to produce food products The three main businesses of the company are packaging, processing, and services Processing is understood as the process to handle the food materials into end-use products The processing solutions are either standalone equipment, machinery or several equipment connected inline together to be provided for the customer to execute food processing And, The Prepared food is one of the six categories of processing business, referred to the solutions for producing food products such as table sauces, mayonnaise, instant soup, nutrition foods and more The basic operations of The Alpha in Vietnam, specifically mentioning for processing business, is more about trading operation type The sales and marketing teams are at center of the model, while other teams are supporting for operation Once the customer orders are received, it activates the internal procurement process to prepare or manufacture the equipment accordingly from the company‟s factories located in other countries This company is a typical B2B company, but it is also specially in selling machinery and engineering solutions The selling process is normally started from proactive approaching customers for potential sales opportunities; it is a long process required many efforts of marketing, sales, engineering to prepare the solution for offerings; the decision-making process of customers normally go through either appointing supplier or bidding To make a multi-million dollar deal, it usually takes a lot of negotiating efforts and is bound by a tight commercial contract 1.1 Company Overview The Alpha global company is one of the world leading companies in supplying food processing and packaging solutions They have been established for more than 70 years, presented in over 160 countries, and had more than 25,000 employees around the world By working as the partners, The Alpha targets to help its customers to provide safe, innovative, and environmentally food products that everyday meet the needs of hundreds of millions of people all around the world Their vision is to commit for ensuring foods are safe and available everywhere Considering in the network of food producers, The Alpha brands are well-known in providing the equipment and line solutions for food processing and packaging, also with the carton packages in food industries They can provide complete machinery and engineering solutions from processing to packaging and service afterwards of food productions Those solutions are uniquely designed and configured to be as resource economical as possible Milk, beverage drinks, ice-cream, cheese, and prepared foods are examples of end-used products that can be processed or packaged on The Alpha‟s processing and packaging lines Furthermore, The Alpha is also capable of providing solutions for food powdering, with its end-used products such as milk powder, coffee powder In Vietnam, The Alpha JSC was established in 2003, on the basis of transforming the operation of the representative office since 1994 The company has two offices in Ho Chi Minh city (main office) and Hanoi (representative office), and about 200 employees for both offices With the support of technology and expertise from the parent company, The Alpha Vietnam is currently considered as one of the most prestigious enterprises specializing in providing liquid food packaging solutions With a history of development for more than 25 years in Vietnam, The Alpha has affirmed the brand "developing in association with the community and environment" 100% of the wood fibers that make up the Alpha carton box are extracted from regenerated forests and managed responsibly and certified by FSC as the logo on the box Besides, The Alpha processing and packaging systems are also trusted and favored by manufacturers thanks to their simple operation, reduced equipment costs, and economic distribution As a result, The Alpha Vietnam's sales and business profits have been stable and growth over the years In 2019, The Alpha Vietnam is honored to receive two sustainable development awards from the European Chamber of Commerce (Euro Cham) and the Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD) 1.2 Organization structure About global company‟s organization, The Alpha structures their main operation units into Processing Solutions & Equipment, Packaging Solutions & Commercial Operations, Services, Development & Engineering, and Supply Chain Operation; other functioning departments are Finance & Business Transformation, Human Resources, Legal Affairs & General Counsel, and Communications; also, they build regional Clusters in according to four geography areas: Europe & Central Asia, Americas, Asia Pacific and Greater China, Middle East & Africa Figure 1: General organizational structure of The Alpha global company Source: Company Website For the Cluster Asia Pacific, it includes Market Companies: Greater China, Japan & Korea, Malaysia-Singapore-Philippines-Indonesia (MSPI), South Asia, Thailand, and Vietnam Under Vietnam market company, the market leader is Managing directors, and other several directors and executive assistant report to him Each of directors will lead a 10 price is lower than the company's price, can you explain more to me about this? V - Price…consist of two parts: equipment & service for installation, commission & performance tests High standard Materials Highly skilled labors Factories in Europe High cost - Delivery time is quite long Not reduce cost - Try to assess the competitor price Typically, quoted price of a prepared food project will consist of two parts: price of equipment, and price of service for installation, commissioning and performance tests Equipments are mainly fabricated in their high-standard factories around the world Using high grade materials, from qualified sources, and highly skilled labors, especially for factories in Europe, are the main reasons for the high cost of equipment Lost order was usually and mainly about price In addition, the company's equipment products are not prefabricated or pre-assembled, but only produced when ordered, according to the detailed design agreed with each customer Therefore, Its disadvantage is that the delivery time is quite long, and it is not applicable to mass production to reduce production costs But, we will try to assess the competitor, somehow, guess about price and solution of competitor And, I think the customer will also evaluate the proposal for quality, solution excellence, delivery, etc I Delivery Time Hi, Mrs Hoa- You are in charge of sales processing support, can you tell me about the delivery process? How is the delivery time? Do you agree with Mr Vi about the perception that the delivery time is too long? 76 H Because the Alpha's equipment solution is "tailor made", customized design on request, most of the equipment is designed, fabricated and assembled when ordered This can take up to 26-28 weeks Plus, the shipping time from Europe to Vietnam also takes 6-8 weeks more, so the delivery time for the equipment is usually not less than 34 weeks And yet, to complete installation for a complete processing line requires 4-6 weeks, commissioning takes 4-6 weeks, and then acceptance test and a -equipment solution is “tailor made” - Take up to 6-8 weeks Shipping 6-8 week from Europe Delivery time not less than 34 weeks Installation 4-6 weeks Commissioning 4-6 weeks Test 2-3 weeks Total time 45 – 52 weeks performance test take further 2-3 weeks The total time to complete the project is usually up to 45 weeks Particularly, there are projects up to 52 weeks, which means a year When receiving such information, many customers, especially the new customers who might execute their first PF project, were very surprised It was often longer than their expectation and could compromise a customer's commercial production plans and new product launches I Competitor analysis Well, it’s too long, thank your for your information Can you share a little more information about competitor analysis? How we the analysis? Do we use any tools for analysis? H - Competitor Watch program - Competitor‟s activities, strategy - Wrong several times about We have the quarterly review for Competitor Watch program, which is to get updates and assess about competitor‟s activities, strategy, their priorities, etc Before submitting quotation to customer, we often bring that competitor analysis 77 competitor‟s proposal for discussing and consider again our price and solution However, that has never been an easy task, and honestly we were wrong several times about competitor‟s proposal I Good morning, Mr Tony I am Dung- I’m an MBA student of International School of Business (ISB) I had a meeting with everyone, thank you for your support and enabling me to carry out this project I know you are very busy, so I would like to ask you quick question You know that the prepared food category has too low sales, how you think about this? What you think was the main reason for this? Tony The company is aware of the growth of the market in the industry in recent years In terms of its portfolio and solutions, the company met the requirements of its customers However, it is acknowledged that the available resources are still limited and have not yet won the proper attention from BOD to develop in this - Manpower shortage Not yet focus High-end segment industry In addition, at the present stage, in my opinion, the customers and also the manufacturer of prepared food products have not yet focused on investing in quality equipment, machinery and products to target the high-end segment This also increases the factors that make it difficult to compete with the company I Yes, and, does the company have a new orientation in the new year or for the 78 following years? Tony Recently the company has synthesized and analyzed some market data, from - Synthesized and analysed some market data The priority list quickly change and improve the expected situation in the next years, there are - The prioriy strategies some prominent subcategories that the company needs to focus such as: Table - Subcatogories: table sauce, mayonnaise, Baby soup, Fruit Jam - Tend market - Higher premium - Competitive advantage there, select the priority list Priority in subcategories, top producers Also based on - the strengths the company has to work out the priority strategies, Actions help to sauce, Mayonnaise, Baby soup, Fruit jam These product groups, the company has a clear technological strength At the same time, manufacturers in the market also tend to convert their product portfolio to a higher premium, which will be the point of the company's competitive advantage I Thank you very much for joining this interview Stage 2: Validating main problem Time: April 2021 Participant: Mr Tony (Tony) Mr Tuan Tran (T) Mr Vi (V) I Good morning Mr Tony, Mr Vi and Mr Tuan Glad to meet you again From 79 our previous interviews, I have done some assessments and concluded that there are possibly five problems that the company has faced, including: poor human resource, poor communication, in-effective pricing strategy, poor position strategy, and ineffective supply chain arrangement Mr Tony, I would ask you first that, you agree with those five problems? Can any of them be skipped or less important? Tony Thanks for questioning I appreciate and agree with those five potential central - Potential central problems - Manpower has been aware - Poor communication problem - Have plan to organize workshops problems I can say that, all of them are important and lead to the consequences themselves I will have some comments on man-power and communication I can say that, manpower issue has been aware and probably not be the problem, especially for this year when the company-wide business tends to show good results, it allow to predict that we will get headcount approval soon Then, the problem with lacking resource can be resolved For poor communication problem, because our business model is B2B, the company has also devoted most of marketing resources to B2B marketing activities We have annual plans to organize workshops with customers about product solutions that customers are interested in, or participate in new product developments with customers However, because BOD want to narrow down the list of efforts for only priorities, it can be seen that all the major marketing plans are more focusing on packaging solutions and less activities for processing solutions 80 I Mr Tuan, can you please share more your opinion on the mention that marketing plans are less focusing on processing and specially on Prepared food category? T It has been aligned during our top management reviews that, Marketing must prioritize all business objectives by expected sales, up-sell/cross-sell opportunities for existing customers and new customer acquisition potential However, it can be said that because the main business segment with the majority of sales belongs to - Marketing - Focus on packaging solutions - A long process Plan to improve in the coming year packaging, marketing activities also focus more on introducing packaging solutions Moreover, this is the cost allocation strategy based on sales revenue and it is requested by the parent company to agree that approach So, solving the problem by changes in communication strategy can't just be from the will of the local team and requires quite a long process However, the company is also having a research plan to improve this issue in the coming year I Thanks Mr Tuan for your answer I would ask you one more question in regarding to the assumption that poor positioning strategy can lead to fails in competition and result in loss of orders Do you think that is your company current issue? If answer is yes, you think it is serious problem? 81 T - Product positioning - Not priority - Long lead time From BOD & top management Well, product positioning in the market is also important, and successful positioning will make it easier to compete with competitors But I don't think that is the main problem in the overall analysis about the symptom of loss of orders In fact, as mentioned, spending more marketing efforts in the positioning of Prepared food products is not a priority for the company But, I will note and bring to discuss within the team in future plans I Mr Vi, I would like to ask for your option about the supply chain problem Do you agree with the conclusion that long time delivery is a problem of the company in Prepared food category and may leads to loss of order? V I have heard the complaints from customers about our long lead time Yes it seem to be a problem and customer can refuse to buy if lead time cannot be met This is a difficult factor, maybe the solution will lie in adjusting the business strategy from BOD and the top management of the corporation for such as making in stock machines, standardizing configurations for mass productions, etc However, I can say that, the company lost order mainly due to the gap in the price compared to the competitor That is the main issue in this situation I Thanks to Mr Vi’s opinion, Mr Tony, you agree that pricing strategy 82 should be the main one among five mentioned problems? Tony I can see that it is quite clear now to agree that pricing strategy should be the - Ineffective pricing strategy should be key one - Set prices Less effective Consequences Lost orders Low sales Low profit, key one Going further more on improving its effectiveness will result in improving sales, I believe so I One more question to Mr Vi, as we agreed that ineffective pricing is the main problem, are you aware about its consequences? And what consequences are they? V Well, the company has tried to set prices for many prepared food projects over the years, but it can be said that current applied pricing is less effective, and it has led to visible consequences, such as: loss of orders, low sales, also low profit, small market share, and cannot expand customer networks I Thank you very much for your joining! Stage 3: Interview for cause validation Time: May 2021 Participant: Mr Tony (Tony) Mr Linh (L) 83 Mr Vi (V) I According to my research, what you think is the significant that cause difficulties to the ineffective pricing strategy? V - Price position Less important cause - Ununited stakeholders on- board, Not Priorities - Price reaction from competitors little priority About the price position, during a decade introducing Prepared Food solutions of the company to the Vietnam market, the company approached and offered to use pricing penetration position for most of the prepared food projects at MS, NaD, Nest…, but not been successful during the years Positioning price can be considered as a less important cause Tony About the cause of unitedd stake holders On-board, In general, the BOD has been contributing in developing the firm's strategies But they are more focusing on the priorities, which are more in regards to packaging business, aftersales services, and few of processing categories including dairy and beverage Prepared foods have not been those priorities; it is more depending on care of only the processing sales department L In my point of view about the price reaction from competitors, the company was often in situations where it had to compete on prices with competitors and was asked by customers to reduce prices to compete, especially for prepared food projects In such price races, the company failed to gain a competitive advantage, 84 leading to failure Therefore, although no immediate positive results have been achieved, the cause 'Just reacting to the competition' can be considered as having been noticed and given little priority in solving the ineffective pricing strategy V I believed that I, as well as other sales managers of the company, has been well trained and experienced in using pricing tools The well-developed tools, including accurate and up-to-date cost management, including risk assessments, customer and competitor analysis, have helped facilitate more beneficial for the pricing works of sales managers I think the main cause is ineffective price segmentation model, basically, the selling price of the same product, or of similar solutions, across various customers is roughly the same, at different times only differing mainly in terms of the current exchange rates I Do you think that price segmentation on the basis of relevant market and customer data will help the company be more flexible and successful in winning deals, and build an effective pricing strategy?" Tony it would certainly be a positive and appropriate approach given the company's current business situation V I agree with that and hope to see the further clarification I Thank you very much for joining this interiview - Lack of pricing capability is not very appropriate Ineffective price segmentation model Stage : Interviews for solution suggestions Time: at the end of May 2021 Participants: Mr Tony 85 Mr Vi I Is there any case that The Alpha has performed segmenting products or solutions for different customer’s needs? V We often customize the solutions according to the requisition, that is called „tailor made‟ designs However, yet we have not framed our equipment or solutions with varied levels of prices and reflected the varied levels of customer values I Mr Tony, I am proposing two solutions: one called “Mapping customers into segments, based on relationships and levels of customer values”, the other one called “Grouping and configuring product solutions into different levels of delivered values” On your opinion, which one you think is the more effective and prioritized solution? Tony I will share with you that, our company is promoting an outside-in approach in strategic decision-making, across businesses So, for doing things right first time, the solution with its starting point at customer side will be right one to be selected I - Have not framed Level of prices Level of customer values - Outside-in approach Thank you! 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