Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China's Consumers

Overview

Chocolate. Sensuous and decadent, irresistible and just a little bit naughty. A natural match for . . . China?

They say opposites attract, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before chocolate—which has held so much of the world in thrall for so long—would finally find its way to the legendarily severe cultural landscape of China. But introducing such a singular symbol of the hedonistic West to China is no small feat, as the chocolate-industry giants have found out over the ...

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Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China's Consumers

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Overview

Chocolate. Sensuous and decadent, irresistible and just a little bit naughty. A natural match for . . . China?

They say opposites attract, so perhaps it was only a matter of time before chocolate—which has held so much of the world in thrall for so long—would finally find its way to the legendarily severe cultural landscape of China. But introducing such a singular symbol of the hedonistic West to China is no small feat, as the chocolate-industry giants have found out over the last thirty years. Not only were these companies the conduit to, and self-appointed arbiters of, China’s newfound taste for chocolate, they were among the pioneers whose first attempts in the evolving Chinese economy and marketplace resulted in any number of triumphs and failures.

Advance Praise for Chocolate Fortunes:

“No consumer goods company can call itself ‘Global’ without having a meaningful presence in China: a must-win market for long-term survival! Lawrence Allen has the inside scoop on how our iconic chocolate brands fared within the rapid development of China’s retail industry over the past thirty years. Chocolate Fortunes reveals lessons that aren’t taught in business schools and that could apply to any consumer goods company that ever struggled with, or dreamed of, success in the world’s biggest market!”— Michael Wong, Regional Vice President–Asia Pacific, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. (retired)

“With a balanced focus on business, culture, and history, Lawrence Allen explains successes and failures in adapting global strategies in China’s complex market in a way that redefines ‘think global, act local.’ Chocolate Fortunes is a must-read for today’s international executive seeking to understand China.” — William Tung, Vice President of International Sales and Operations, Columbia Sportswear

Chocolate Fortunes provides a fascinating and entertaining account of chocolate companies’ ventures into China and how they faced the opportunities and challenges there. With a clear understanding of the vital human element required to succeed in China, Lawrence Allen offers critical observations for any company engaged in or about to explore the China market. It is required reading for our global team of professional consultants.” — Joanne and Scott Ulnick, Managing Partners, Ducker Worldwide, Strategic Market Research and Consulting

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Informative, cautionary and essential, this book is a must-read for executives currently doing business, or planning to, in this most volatile and critical market.” —Publishers Weekly

"Allen focuses exclusively on China's nascent chocolate market, but he makes sure to write his book so the lessons learned by the five companies can be applied to other industries looking to break into an emerging economy." —Houston Business Journal

"For anyone thinking of bringing their product to the Chinese consumer market, or even simply interested in the cultural characteristics of the Chinese consumer, Chocolate Fortunes offers valuable, hard-won insight from a true industry expert. The branding and marketing case studies alone make this book a worthwhile read, but Allen’s skillful prose — which at times is as smooth and enjoyable as the chocolate he describes — and deep understanding of Chinese culture and history make Chocolate Fortunes much more than just another business-in-China book." —Jing Daily (www.jingdaily.com)

"For anyone who is thinking of going into consumer products or food or retail in China (and who out there is willing to ignore 1.3 billion customers?) this book is a must read." —China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com)

"a fascinating look at the process of establishing business connections in [China]" —Women's LifeStyle

"Chocolate Fortunes captures the essence of China’s fast-moving consumer market. It tells the story of the global chocolate industry's entry into China in a style which is captivating and informative. Allen presents a compelling story with personal anecdotes, historical perspective and some clear lessons for the future. Chocolate Fortunes is a delightful book to read that is strongly recommended for those seeking to understand this most dynamic of markets." —Lorna Davis, President and Chairman, Kraft Foods China

"a scintillating glimpse inside one of the most hard-fought cross-cultural indulgence battles since the Opium Wars" —Global Times

"In Chocolate Fortunes, Allen describes these strategies in detail, offering a fair, informed and often fascinating assessment of where they succeeded and where they failed.... Chocolate Fortunes is a case study that delivers broad, transferable advice to Western corporations looking to move into one of the world's largest and most potentially lucrative markets. Offering unusual insight into the complexities of manufacturing and selling Western goods in China for Chinese consumers, the stories of the Big Five combine the emotional power of the cautionary tale with the practical precision of the how-to book. Far more elementally, Chocolate Fortunes is a helpful primer on basic business practice." —Knowledge@Wharton

Publishers Weekly
Allen, a senior international executive with a 20-year track record of international branding, offers a fascinating look at the chocolate wars in China. Allen, himself a participant in bringing chocolate to this new frontier as an executive for Hershey and Nestlé, recounts the struggles of doing business in a rapidly changing market of almost limitless possibility. For five global chocolate titans (Ferrero Rocher, Cadbury, Hershey, Nestlé and Mars) entering this market, the stakes were extremely high and included a billion potential customers for generations to come. Allen details the challenges these organizations endured, including copyright infringement, dedicating lengthy chapters to each corporation, documenting their failures and successes and ultimately demonstrating that there's no single path to business success in this emerging world power. In addition to the many trials these firms encountered, Allen notes a new one that will soon emerge—competition from local Chinese companies. While local competitors are a low-level threat today, in the future, they will gain greater market share. Informative, cautionary and essential, this book is a must-read for executives currently doing business, or planning to, in this most volatile and critical market. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814414323
  • Publisher: AMACOM
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,138,505
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

LAWRENCE L. ALLEN (Beijing, China) is a former senior executive for both Hershey and Nestlé in China. He has spent more than 20 years building consumer brands for multinational companies in China.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction: One Country, Three Centuries

China’s breathtaking transformation from a command to a market-socialist economy over the past twenty-five years has turned some 300

million of its 1.3 billion people into ravenous consumers of everything from candy to cars. And until twenty-five years ago, almost none of them had ever eaten a piece of chocolate.

They were, to coin a phrase, ‘‘chocolate virgins,’’ their taste for chocolate ready to be shaped by whichever chocolate company came roaring into the country with a winning combination of quality, marketing savvy, and manufacturing and distribution acumen. In short, China was the next great frontier, a market of almost limitless potential to be conquered in a war between the world’s leading chocolate companies for the hearts, minds, and taste buds—and ultimately the wallets—

of China’s consumers. To the victor of the chocolate wars would go the spoils of over a billion potential customers for generations to come.

Despite China’s radical transformation over the past quarter century, from economic basket case to economic powerhouse a it is still a work in progress. Figuratively speaking, in

China today there are fewer than 50 million people living in the twenty-first century, about 300 million living in various stages of the twentieth century, and nearly a billion people living in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless,

China’s economic renaissance over the past two and a half decades has been nothing short of astonishing, especially considering the havoc wreaked by the failed economic, social a and cultural experiments of the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s—and the brutality with which they were carried out. This period would, however, prove to be the dark hour before the dawn of China’s emergence, under Deng Xiaoping,1 into the global economy, a process begun in the late 1970s.

And while China’s transformation is unprecedented, so too was the establishment of foreign businesses within a major country undergoing a complete economic and social transformation from a centrally planned economy to a market-socialist economy.

• *

For seven years, between 1998 and 2006, I was a foot soldier in the ‘‘chocolate war,’’ first as an executive with Hershey, and later Nestle´, two of the world’s largest manufacturers of chocolate;

as such, I was on the front lines of a battle for the hearts a minds, and taste buds of more than a quarter billion people constituting China’s new consumer class.

This book is the story of the five global titans of chocolate—

Ferrero, Cadbury, Hershey, Nestle´, and Mars—that bat-tled to capture a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish their brands with one-fifth of the world’s population. It is also the inside story of East meeting West through the introduction into China, a xenophobic land of austerity and deprivation a of an icon of the Western world’s decadence and selfindulgence:

chocolate.

When I first arrived in China in the 1980s, I was a newly minted MBA; a twenty-something, ‘‘me-generation’’ American looking for adventure and riches in this vast economic frontier.

The country was then in the early, experimental phase of its social and economic transformation, and trying to do business there meant wading endlessly through the detritus of vestigial government organs and policies while attempting to find purchase on its ever-changing economic and regulatory landscape. A high tolerance for ambiguity was essential.

Two early experiences exemplify the Alice in Wonderland nature of doing business there at the time, and it is a tale of two cities: Beijing, the belly of China’s centrally planned communist beast; and Shenzhen, the tip of the spear of China’s economic reforms.

During my final semester of graduate school at the Thunderbird

School of Global Management, I co-founded Transnational

Trade Services, a general trading company with glamorous headquarters in my Arizona dorm room. My most promising client was an American antiques buyer, and shortly after graduation I traveled to China together with my classmate and Chinese business partner, Li Jianmin, to find a source for Chinese antiques.

Upon arriving in Beijing we went to meet a former associate of Li’s, a branch manager of a state-owned trading company a to see whether he could help us locate and export antiques. His office was located in an unimpressive, sootcovered one-story government building; it was not exactly an auspicious beginning, and our fortunes didn’t improve from there. Though we were greeted politely, through Li’s trustworthy translation and my basic Mandarin Chinese, it quickly became clear that this gentleman was a midlevel, lifelong bureaucrat comfortably ensconced in a large bureaucracy. As

we talked, I became increasingly mindful of the portrait of Chairman Mao,2 literally and figuratively looking over his shoulder. Throughout our discussion he was consistently oblique and noncommittal.

The business we were proposing would be new to him and his department, he said, and would require approvals from many different people in many different agencies. This would be difficult and would take time. Finding the antiques we were looking for would also be a time-consuming process, and even with the approvals and the goods in hand, export procedures would be cumbersome. Where we saw opportunity he saw barriers. Perhaps, we thought, we would make more progress over a meal, and we invited our host to lunch. By the time we left the building for a nearby restaurant, we had nearly a dozen of his colleagues in tow. It seemed he’d invited nearly everyone in his office. Far too much food and too many bottles of wine were ordered, and when we parted my lunch guests were loaded down with doggie bags full of food and wine, a bounty they would share with grateful families that evening.

As I reflected on what had gone wrong, I realized that, for many in China, it must be difficult and risky to break with old habits. This gentleman had nothing to gain from meeting with us—other than a free lunch with enough left over for his family.

If something went wrong, he would have a problem on his hands. If he did nothing, he would still get his government pay, housing, and benefits. Why take a chance? I clearly had a lot to learn about doing business in China.

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Table of Contents

CONTENTS

Foreword by Dr. Angel Cabrera and Dr. Mary Teagarden of Thunderbird School of Global Management ix

Acknowledgments xii

Introduction: One Country, Three Centuries 1

Chapter 1: China and Chocolate: East Meets West 9

China’s Road from Communism to Market Socialism 12

The Evolution of the Global Chocolate Industry 20

Chinese and Chocolate: A Foreign and Exotic Curiosity 22

The Size of China’s Chocolate Prize 28

Selling Chocolate 31

Selling Chocolate in China 33

Chapter 2: Ferrero Rocher: Accidental Hero 40

Ferrero’s Journey Along the Modern-Day Silk Road to China 44

China’s Emancipated Consumers 46

Establishing a Route-to-Market in China 49

Ferrero’s Struggle with Local Copycats 56

Did Ferrero Succeed in China? 62

Chapter 3: Cadbury: One Billion Consumers 70

A Brief History of Cadbury Chocolate 71

Cadbury China 73

Cadbury’s China Morass 76

Attempting to Turn the Tide 85

The Battle for Chocolate Bars 88

The Final Blow: A Breakdown of Leadership 91

Chapter 4: Hershey: Back to Basics 95

The Hershey Company 96

Hershey’s International Business 98

Hershey China 103

The First Season: 1995–1996 113

The Second Season: 1996–1997 120

The Third, Fourth, and Fifth Seasons: 1997–2000 126

The Sixth Season: 2000–2001 134

Under New Management 138

Epitaph 140

Chapter 5: Nestle´: China’s Chocolate War Sideshow 141

A Brief History of Nestle´ 143

Nestle´’s Arrival in China 145

The Birth of Nestle´ China 151

Sweating the Assets and Reducing KitKat’s Cost 156

The Launch of Nestle´ Wafer 159

In the Shadow of Nestle´ Wafer 165

Nestle´ Could Have Been a Contender 171

The Last Word on Nestle´, Chocolate, and China 174

Chapter 6: Mars: A Well-Regulated Militia 176

A Brief History of the Mars Candy Company 179

Mars’s International Expansion 182

Mars’s China Market Entry 183

Mars Versus Its Big Five Chocolate Competitors 190

Mars’s Commitment to Market Leadership 193

Chapter 7: Going the Distance: China’s 10K Chocolate Race 201

The State of the Chocolate Market: 2008 203

The Threat from Local Competitors 213

Managing China’s Multitier Market Going Forward 220

Notes 225

Index 238

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