How Oreo Cookies Adapted to the Chinese Market

Oreo, the top-selling cookie in the U.S. market, were first introduced in 1912. Nearby 85 years later, in 1996 the Kraft Food Inc. started to sell them in China. The first 4 years of solid sales growth were followed by 5 years of flat sales. The problem: the company kept selling the U.S. version of the cookies. As the company marketing manager stated, the Albert Einstein definition of insanity was perfectly demonstrated:

Doing the same thing over and over for years and expecting different results.

Clearly something needed to be changed. In-depth research delivered interesting findings:

  • Traditional Oreos were too sweet for Chinese tastes. The Chinese consume only few sweeties; Many Chinese restaurants don’t offer any desserts at all!
  • The packages of 14 Oreos priced at 72 cents were too expensive.

The company developed 20 prototypes of reduced sugar cookies and tested them with Chinese consumers before finding the recipe that met the taste. After that Kraft Food introduced smaller packages of cookies for only 29 cents. As the Chinese consumer are curious, get bored quickly and willing to try out new things, the company introduced after more experimentation other kinds of Oreo such as mini-Oreos, crispy wafer with chocolate and vanilla cream, crispy sticks filled with cream and Oreos filled with flavoured cream such as green tea, mango&orange, coconut or birthday cake. The handling process has been improved as well. Now the product can be shipped across the country, resist the hot humid climate in southern and cold in the northern China – and it is still ready to melt in the mouth. The efforts have paid off. In the recent years the Oreo revenue in China has been more than tripled!

Nabisco Organics Oreo Chocolate Sandwich W/Organic Flour & Sugar

The Oreo with organic flour and sugar are one the latest version you can find the US market.

Guess now, what kind of Oreo you will meet in U.S. supermarkets? Of course they are “Oreo with organic flour and sugar” as well as “reduced fat Oreo” with 30% less fat than original. But if you carefully study the ingredients description, you will discover ca. 30% more sugar in the reduced fat version! Besides the traditional cookies, the cream flavours whose meet taste of U.S. consumer are for example peanut butter, banana split or brownie. And last but not least: the family size package remains very popular.

About Olga Medinskaya

Olga Medinskaya is a Russian native, author and international culture specialist. She is also the founder of Han De Travel, a travel organization specializing in cultural experiences. Olga has lived and worked for several years in China, Germany, and Russia. She has been educated as an economist at the University of Mainz, Germany, where she earned her master’s degree, and at the University of Rostov, Russia, where she earned her bachelor’s degree.