Introducing Oreos to China

Kraft Foods’ Oreo cookies are one of the most popular dessert items in American grocery stores, with millions of packages sold weekly. Oreos are available in many other countries, but sales in China never achieved anywhere close to the volume enjoyed in the United States. As it turns out, Chinese consumers are not big cookie eaters, and Oreos are quintessentially an American cookie. After being on the Chinese market for a decade, Kraft’s market research revealed that American-style Oreos were too sweet for the Chinese palate and that the price was too high. The options were obvious: either discontinue marketing Oreos in China or reformulate the product. Kraft chose the latter option and reformulated Oreos to be less sweet and less expensive. Interestingly, Kraft abandoned the circular sandwich version of Oreos, which did not resonate favorably with Chinese consumers, and replaced it with a chocolate-covered wafer filled with vanilla and chocolate cream.
Convincing Chinese consumers to try the new Oreo wafer was perhaps an even more challenging task than coming up with a suitable replacement for the American-style Oreo cookie. Although advertising was useful for making Chinese consumers aware of the new Oreo wafer, advertising alone would be insufficient to persuade Chinese consumers that Oreos taste good. Sampling clearly was required. The approach Kraft took for distributing product samples involved recruiting and training 300 college students to become Oreo brand ambassadors. These student ambassadors rode the streets of Beijing on bicycles and gave Oreo samples to more than 300,000 consumers. Oreo wafers quickly became the best-selling cookie in China, and Kraft doubled its Oreo revenue in that country.

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