Ian Brenton - Head of Procurement at Asahi Europe Limited

What does the Asahi business look like today & can you tell us details about your growth plans ?

Asahi Group Holdings is a global beverage and food company listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Japan.  Our domestic Japanese business is more diverse than our international businesses. We span multiple alcohol groups from our flagship Asahi Super Dry beer through wine & Shochu to our Nikka whisky, Foods & Soft drinks such as Calpis & Wilkinson, Wonda & Mitsuya Cider.

Internationally our businesses are heavily focussed upon beer with brands such as Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Grolsch, Meantime, Pilsner Urquell, Cricketers Arms and Mountain Goat. Today, our largest business unit is our domestic Japanese division, but through a series of acquisitions over the last decade, Asahi Group Holdings has expanded its footprint into Oceania, Europe, South East Asia & North America.

In terms of our aspirations, we at Asahi aim to surpass customer expectations in the products and services that we provide through the ‘Kando’ (deliciousness, happiness & innovation) of food.

Like many Japanese businesses today, growth in our domestic business is challenged by the ageing population. As a result we are committed to positioning our international business as a growth engine. Although it would not be appropriate to discuss specific acquisitions I can share with you the details that our CEO Akiyoshi Koji shared in a Reuters interview late last year: Asahi investment across Europe.

Where does Asahi Europe operate today and can you tell us about your growth plans ?

Asahi Europe Ltd is part of Asahi Group Holdings and our portfolio includes iconic beers such as Asahi Super Dry, Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Grolsch, Meantime, and St Stefanus. We have key operations in The Netherlands, Italy, United Kingdom, France, Canada and Switzerland and our global partner network serves Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America. In terms of our aspirations, we aim to be a Global Premium Beer Powerhouse, using our Global Footprint to bring Premium beers to consumers.

With sales revenues close to two billion Euros, five world-class production facilities, customers in almost 80 markets and 1900 employees, we deliver value into the category and aim to change the way people think about beer. Thanks to our aspirational brands, engaging marketing activities, agile distribution and premium execution we are well positioned to continue our growth and become a global premium beer powerhouse.

What opportunities can Asahi offer new employees ?

In the past 2 years, Asahi has made 2 significant investments in Europe by acquiring businesses from the former SABMiller plc. These acquisitions have brought in some iconic Premium beers, world-class assets and with the smaller business, the opportunity for a more agile, entrepreneurial way of working. This means that we have many opportunities for talented, mobile individuals who can adopt our ‘Challenger Mindset’. Such people can carve out a role for themselves as opposed to ‘slotting-in’ to a large, complex, pre-defined operating model. And, with an ambition to grow our footprint, there will be even more career opportunities.

How attractive do you feel that Switzerland remains as a location for international businesses?

Switzerland remains very attractive to international businesses for a number of reasons. The long history of stability, a central, geographical location & the infrastructure investments that have been, and continue to be, made have led to many international businesses establishing themselves here. This provides a great foundation and access to a large talent pool for businesses considering locating themselves in Switzerland. Seeing the business landscape evolve from a Pharma focus, through Supply Chain, NGOs and more recently Tech Companies alongside the moniker ‘Crypto Valley’ shows that Switzerland is ensuring that it remains relevant & appeals to both traditional and modern businesses.

When looking beyond the business reasons, reports such as the Credit Suisse Location Quality Indicator, the excellent healthcare system and low crime levels make Switzerland a fantastic, safe, enjoyable country to live and work in.

When interviewing candidates at an earlier stage in their career, what common mistakes do you see and what advice would you give?

I often see a competitive streak in interviews and a desire to narrow down one’s career. My advice would be to let curiosity guide you, rather than seeing the interview as a competition that you have to win – it’s not great when you end up in an inappropriate role that doesn’t work out for either party, a sort of ‘Be careful what you wish for’ situation.

Similarly, few people know after university how and where they wish to spend their working life. For instance, how many of us know that we want to spend our lives peering into other people’s mouths as a fully qualified dentist? I’ve always respected people who can make this call, but for the majority, keeping an open mind and building experiences tends to give greater career flexibility and ultimately leads to a more satisfying career.

In what circumstances do you think an external recruiter can add value?

When seeking external candidates a recruitment partner, who closely liases with the business, can offer strong benefits. Firstly, when particularly unique skills or market knowledge is needed, e.g. the recruiter can pre-screen and select the good, from the average, applicant. Secondly, when there’s a need to act swiftly, e.g. a recruiter knows from its candidate base who’s immediately available and/or at short notice.

How important was it for you to develop relationships outside of your department for career development?

This is one of those areas that I regularly find myself revisiting.
As with many aspiring professionals, there’s a basic need to master a topic or skill that develops one’s self-confidence. From this foundation, moving onto a broader set of responsibilities means a significant shift in thinking and approach. There’s a temptation to stay close to the comfort zone, but to really become a change agent it’s the interactions & relationships beyond that are so important. Building a strong team that consistently delivers creates the space in order to develop relationships beyond Procurement. Sometimes there is something obvious that you can offer, but equally you can be pleasantly surprised by the demands and feedback from outside – such insights are invaluable in building one’s credibility within an organisation and securing one’s career ambitions.

What books / blogs are you currently reading?

I recently finished reading Sapiens & Homo Deus – two very thought-provoking books, but I wouldn’t recommend them for reading on the beach!

So, if dynamic, challenging roles within a supportive, fun network, working with employees who have an infectious passion for our beers appeals to you, then please feel free to drop me a line and enjoy a ‘karakuchi’ moment!

 

 

 
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