UNLIKE their iconic American counterpart, some Oreos sold in China are long, thin, four-layered and coated in chocolate. But the cookies have this in common: Both are now best sellers.
Kraft Reinvents Iconic Oreo To Win In China
The Oreo has long been the top-selling cookie in the U.S. market. But Kraft Foods Inc. had to reinvent the Oreo to make it sell well in the world's most populous nation. While Chinese Oreo sales represent a tiny fraction of Kraft's $37.2 billion annual revenue, the cookie's journey in China is an example of the kind of entrepreneurial transformation that Chief Executive Irene Rosenfeld is trying to spread throughout the food giant.
Kraft reported a 13% drop in first-quarter net income Wednesday due to high commodity costs and increased spending on product research and marketing. Kraft's international business, which now represents 40% of the company's revenue thanks to its recent acquisition of Groupe Danone's biscuits business, was a bright spot in the quarter, aided by the weaker dollar. Kraft's profit in the European Union rose 48%, excluding items, and its profit in developing markets rose 57%.
In an effort to boost growth at the company, Ms. Rosenfeld has been putting more power in the hands of Kraft's business units around the globe, telling employees that decisions about the company's products shouldn't all be made by people at the Northfield, Illinois, headquarters.
To take advantage of the European preference for dark chocolate, Kraft is introducing dark chocolate in Germany under its Milka brand. Research in Russia showed that consumers there like premium instant coffee, so Kraft is positioning its Carte Noire freeze-dried coffee as upscale by placing it at operas, film festivals and fashion shows. And in the Philippines, where iced tea is popular, Kraft last year launched iced-tea-flavored Tang. Ms. Rosenfeld also has been encouraging marketers to 'reframe' product categories -- in other words, not to think of an Oreo exclusively as a round sandwich cookie.
Oreos were launched in 1912 in the U.S., but it wasn't until 1996 that Kraft introduced Oreos to Chinese consumers. Nine years later, a makeover began. Shawn Warren, a 37-year-old Kraft veteran who had spent many years marketing the company's cookies and crackers around the world, arrived in Asia in 2005 and noticed that Oreo's China sales had been flat for the previous five years.
At that time, the world's second-largest food company by revenue was simply selling the U.S. version of Oreos in China. Albert Einstein's definition of insanity -- doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results -- 'characterized what we were doing in China,' says Mr. Warren, vice president of marketing for Kraft Foods International.
The Chinese weren't big cookie eaters; the market for biscuits in fiscal 2007 was just nine billion yuan, or $1.3 billion, versus $3.5 billion in the U.S. at food retailers excluding Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Mr. Warren also saw that Kraft wasn't fully exploiting China's growing thirst for milk. Increased demand for milk in China and other developing markets, coupled with tightened supplies from recent droughts in milk-producing countries and a reduction of subsidies for European dairy farmers, have pushed up milk prices around the world. While that has put pressure on food manufacturers like Kraft, whose biggest business is cheese, it also has created opportunity.
Mr. Warren assigned his team to a lengthy research project that yielded some interesting findings. For one thing, Kraft learned that traditional Oreos were too sweet for Chinese tastes. Also, the packages of 14 Oreos priced at five yuan were too expensive.
The company developed 20 prototypes of reduced-sugar Oreos and tested them with Chinese consumers before arriving at a formula that tasted right. Kraft also introduced packages containing fewer Oreos for just two yuan.
Some Chinese consumers still find the Oreos too sweet. Mr. Yan, a 30-year-old consumer who was shopping for groceries in the eastern part of Beijing recently, said he likes the Oreos but that 'many of my friends think I am a bit weird to stick to Oreo cookies, as most of them think it too sweet to be accepted.'
Kraft also began a grass-roots marketing campaign to educate Chinese consumers about the American tradition of pairing cookies with milk. The company created an Oreo apprentice program at 30 Chinese universities that drew 6,000 student applications. Kraft trained 300 to become Oreo brand ambassadors.
Students rode around Beijing on bicycles outfitted with wheel covers resembling Oreos and handed out cookies to more than 300,000 consumers. Others held Oreo-themed basketball games to reinforce the idea of dunking cookies in milk. Television commercials showed kids twisting apart Oreo cookies, licking the cream center and dipping the chocolate cookie halves into a glass of milk.
Ms. Rosenfeld called the bicycle campaign 'a stroke of genius that only could have come from local managers,' saying 'the more opportunity our local managers have to deal with local conditions will be a source of competitive advantage for us.'
Still, Kraft realized it needed to do more than just tweak the recipe of its traditional round cookies if it wanted to capture a bigger share of the Chinese biscuit market. China's cookie-wafer segment was growing faster than traditional biscuit-like cookies, and Kraft was trailing rival Nestle SA, the world's largest food company by revenue, which had introduced chocolate-covered wafers there in 1998.
So Kraft remade the Oreo itself. In China in 2006, the company introduced an Oreo that looked almost nothing like the original. The new Chinese Oreo was four layers of crispy wafer filled with vanilla and chocolate cream, coated in chocolate. Kraft developed a proprietary handling process to ensure the chocolate product could be shipped across the giant country and withstand the cold climate of the north and the hot, humid weather of the south, yet still be ready to melt in the mouth.
Tailoring Western brands to Eastern tastes isn't a brand-new concept, but it has proved more difficult for some companies than others. When Campbell Soup Co. tried to enter China in the early 1990s, it sold the same ready-to-eat soups found in American grocery stores -- and they flopped. Now, Campbell is trying to crack the Chinese soup market again with flavorful broths it hopes will fit with the Chinese tradition of making soup from scratch.
Yum Brands Inc. has had success in China with its KFC fried-chicken chain by offering menu items familiar to Chinese consumers, such as congee, or rice porridge, and the Dragon Twister, a sandwich wrap filled with chicken, Peking duck sauce, cucumbers and scallions. Some of Nestle's snack wafers in China come in such flavors as sesame and red bean.
Kraft's Oreo efforts have paid off. In 2006, Oreo wafer sticks became the best-selling biscuit in China, outpacing HaoChiDian, a biscuit brand made by Chinese company Dali. The new Oreos also are outselling traditional round Oreos in China, and Kraft has begun selling the wafers elsewhere in Asia, as well as in Australia and Canada. Kraft has since introduced in China wafer rolls, a tube-shaped wafer lined with cream. The hollow cookie can be used as a straw through which to drink milk.
Kraft has doubled its Oreo revenue in China over the past two years. With the help of those sales, Oreo last year brought in more than $1 billion for the first time.
奧 利奧在美國市場佔據銷售榜首的位置已經很長時間。但是卡夫食品(Kraft Foods Inc.)不得不對奧利奧進行改頭換面才能使它在全球人口最多的國家獲得青睞。儘管奧利奧在中國的銷售額僅佔其全球年銷售額372億美元的一小部分﹐但是 它在中國的發展過程卻是公司首席執行長艾琳•羅森費爾德(Irene Rosenfeld)在這家食品巨頭中盡力推廣的企業改革模式的一個典範。
卡 夫食品週三公佈﹐受大宗商品價格上漲以及產品研發和市場營銷支出增加的影響﹐第一財季淨利潤下降13%。得益於不斷走軟的美元﹐卡夫食品的國際業務成為上 個財季的亮點﹐在卡夫食品最近收購達能集團(Groupe Danone)的餅乾業務後﹐國際業務的收入佔公司總收入的比例達到了40%。卡夫食品歐盟區業務的利潤增長48%﹐發展中市場不包括特殊項目的利潤更是 增長了57%。
為 了充分利用歐洲人對黑巧克力的偏愛﹐卡夫食品的Milka品牌在德國推出了黑巧克力產品。在俄羅斯的調查顯示﹐那裡的消費者喜歡高級速溶咖啡﹐於是卡夫食 品就把其Carte Noire咖啡粉定位於高端品牌﹐在歌劇院、電影節以及時裝秀等場合進行推廣。另外﹐冰茶在菲律賓很受歡迎﹐卡夫食品去年在那裡推出了冰茶口味的果珍 (Tang)。此外﹐羅森費爾德還一直鼓勵市場推廣人員打破產品分類的約束－－換言之﹐就是不要認為奧利奧只能是圓圓的夾心餅乾。
奧利奧早在1912年就在美國問市﹐但是直到1996年它才被卡夫食品帶到中國消費者的視野中。九年之後﹐一場“改造運動”開始了。曾在卡夫食品全球各地 的餅乾業務打拼數年的肖恩•沃倫(Shawn Warren)於2005年來到亞洲﹐他注意到﹐之前五年奧利奧在中國的銷售額沒有太大的變化。
那 時﹐這家全球收入第二大的食品公司只是在中國出售美國版的奧利奧。擔任Kraft Foods International副總裁一職的沃倫說﹐愛因斯坦(Albert Einstein)對精神錯亂的定義－－一遍又一遍地重復同一件事情而期待不同的結果－－恰當地描述了當時我們在中國市場的做法。
中國人並不是餅乾的巨大消費者﹔在2007年﹐中國餅乾市場的規模大約為人民幣90億元（合13億美元）﹐而在美國﹐不包括沃爾瑪(Wal-Mart Stores Inc.)的食品零售商的餅乾銷售額為35億美元。
沃 倫還發現﹐卡夫食品當時沒有充分挖掘中國對牛奶日益增長的渴求。中國和其他發展中國家市場對牛奶的需求不斷增長﹐再加上產奶國因遭遇乾旱天氣而縮減供應﹐ 歐盟奶農補貼減少﹐這些因素都推高了全球牛奶的價格。儘管這為卡夫食品（奶酪是該公司的最大業務）等食品生產商帶來了壓力﹐同時也創造了商機。
這 些學生們騎著經過精心裝扮的自行車－－車輪裝上了奧利奧樣式的外罩－－穿梭在北京城﹐並向30多萬消費者派發了餅乾。他們還舉辦了以奧利奧為主題的籃球比 賽﹐以加強把餅乾在牛奶中泡一泡的吃法。電視中的廣告畫面則是：孩子們把奧利奧分開﹐舔舔中間的奶油夾心﹐然後把兩個巧克力餅乾在一杯牛奶中蘸一蘸再送入 嘴裡。
不 過﹐卡夫食品也意識到﹐要想在中國餅乾市場獲得更大的份額﹐除了改變配方外﹐它需要做更多的事情。中國威化餅乾市場的增長速度比傳統餅乾市場要快﹐因此卡 夫食品走上了其主要競爭對手雀巢(Nestle SA)的發展路線。雀巢是全球收入最高的食品公司﹐它在1998年就在中國市場推出了巧克力威化餅乾。
於 是﹐卡夫食品開始改造奧利奧。2006年﹐卡夫食品在中國市場推出了一種新的奧利奧產品﹐它看上去和原來的奧利奧完全不同。這種新產品由四片薄脆的威化餅 乾組成﹐中間配以香草和巧克力奶油夾心﹐最外層包裹著巧克力。為了確保這種巧克力產品能夠經受得住在中國廣袤的土地上長途運輸的考驗﹐卡夫食品還開發出一 種專利處理技術﹐使它在經歷了北方的嚴寒或者南方的炎熱潮濕後還能入口即化。
根據東方的口味對西方品牌進行調整並不是一個全新的概念﹐但 是對一些品牌來說這並非易事。金寶湯(Campbell Soup Co.)在20世紀90年代初試圖進軍中國市場的時候﹐它的首個嘗試是銷售在美國食品雜貨店很常見的即食湯﹐但是這種努力以失敗告終。如今﹐金寶湯希望以 美味的肉湯來敲開中國市場的大門﹐它希望新產品能夠迎合中國消費者做湯的習慣。
百勝餐飲集團(Yum Brands Inc.)通過其肯德基(KFC)餐廳在中國取得了成功﹐肯德基的菜單上有很多中國消費者熟悉的食物﹐如粥以及老北京雞肉卷等。雀巢在中國市場銷售的威化餅乾中有芝麻和紅豆口味。
卡 夫食品推廣奧利奧的努力最終有所回報。2006年﹐奧利奧威化餅乾成為中國最暢銷的餅乾﹐超過了中國本土公司達利(Dali)旗下的好吃點系列餅乾。新奧 利奧產品在中國的銷量超過了傳統的奧利奧夾心餅乾﹐同時卡夫食品開始在亞洲其他地區、澳大利亞以及加拿大銷售奧利奧威化餅乾。之後﹐卡夫食品還在中國市場 推出了巧脆卷－－一種管狀的巧克力威化卷﹐它還可以作吸管來喝牛奶。