CINCINNATI — The head of Asian operations for the world's largest consumer products maker says Procter & Gamble's growth in the region with half the world's population is picking up speed.
The kind of numbers in play — and the potential for building on them — are why the Cincinnati-based company has staked its future deeply in Asia.
"The Asia business in general is extremely healthy right now," Deb Henretta, Asia Group president for P&G, said in a recent interview. "We have accelerated our growth fairly significantly over the last couple years."
P&G's global targets of reaching 5 billion consumers by 2015, up from 4.2 billion, and more than doubling total annual sales to $175 billion over 15 years rely heavily on high growth rates in China, India and the rest of the region.
Henretta's group already serves 2 billion consumers. In fiscal 2010, Asia accounted for 15 percent of P&G's $79 billion in revenue, up from 13 percent in 2008.
P&G sees that as just a start. Henretta's mission: get Asian consumers buying P&G products at the same rate as people in Mexico. Asia's per capita spending on P&G products is $3.46, with China at $3 and India at about 70 cents. Getting her region to Mexico's $20 a person would raise P&G's $12 billion or so in annual Asia revenue by $50 billion.
"The fact that Mexico's done it makes it eminently achievable in my mind, and I tell our folks that all the time," Henretta said. "So we're definitely focused on getting there, and we'd like to get there as fast as possible."
P&G's Asia efforts generally play off the company strategy set by CEO Bob McDonald — reach more places with expanded distribution, attract more people at all income levels with products geared to their spending ability, and entice existing customers to trade up and try more kinds of P&G products.
Henretta said the world's largest consumer products company wants to use its size but tailors Asian plans for the region's diversity in cultures, stages of economic development, and incomes from billionaires to people living on less than a dollar a day.
To reach low-income Asians, P&G has rolled out a pennies-priced version of Gillette shavers, and low-priced Tide laundry detergent and single-rinse Downy fabric softener that saves water, a scarce resource in some areas.
Meanwhile, P&G also offers high-end SK-II and Olay cosmetics, and advanced shampoos geared to regional hair types and preferences, such as Pantene with coconut oil.
Scott Anthony, who works in Singapore as managing director of Innosight Ventures, sees P&G making sound moves.
"What they are really trying hard to avoid is the trend that has just hamstrung multinational companies over the years, which is stripping things down and just lowering prices and trying to reach consumers cheaply in the emerging markets," Anthony said.
The Japanese earthquake and tsunami added another unforeseen impact; P&G is still assessing effects on its second-largest Asian business behind China.