What’s Happening Yonder? Career in American Food Brands in China? 中国的美国食品怎么样?

So lately, I’ve been wondering what to do with life. This is a perfectly sound question to be asking when you are at the end of your adolescence (I’m 19 for Pete’s Sake!). I’m at a “quarter-life-mid-crisis,” as appropriately described yesterday by a campus leader at the She’s The First Summit, which I was a volunteer photographer for.  I came partly to hone my photography skills and partly to listen in and learn.

There, I met a Dartmouth student who was interested in working in American/Chinese business due to her dual background. This is a career field that my mom always encourages for me but I always envisioned it as extremely corporate and such. It was something that I thought was boring and definitely would not be in my future. So I would pretend with a “Yeah, yeah, I’m totally listening” face (filled with properly placed “mhm” and “yeah”), which many teenagers are familiar with when they want their parents to finish their point as quickly as possible without getting a second lecture in the importance of listening.

Last night, I was thinking, how can I use my (pending) Chinese minor? I’m going to be studying abroad in China in a month because I want a Chinese minor. How can I take advantage of my Chinese background and studies aside from being able to order food in Chinese and singing Chinese karaoke? These are both noble and worthy actions but how can I better use it?

This summer has been a valuable experience for me to accept my interest in food. It is something that I’m interested far beyond its delicious qualities. I like writing about it, even if at this point is extremely casual and I need to control myself so I can produce more meaningful food reviews. I like taking photographs of it. I like to joke that it’s easy to photograph food because it doesn’t move and run away. I always imagined this blogging journey to pertain to places where people order from a menu, hence the creation of Fast Food, Etc., where I write food reviews on small (non-chain) restaurants. Places that were far from the national and international chains were what I viewed as unique and had character.

But in actuality I do like chains.  A packet of Oreo cookies and, of course, milk will satisfy me, along with cravings for cookies n’ cream ice cream, my favorite. A trip to Taco Bells will spur childhood memories of the weekly Saturday dash from music and swimming lessons to there and then finally to Chinese school. (Ah, it always ends with Chinese.) Wendy’s will always be known as the place where my mother introduced me to mustard. As much as we try to be hipster and avoid chains, they have done a great job in squeezing into our lives. There’s a reason why the mentioning of Oreo will prompt a visual of twisting a cookie open, licking it, and then dunking it in milk. (But I always personally preferred crushing it over vanilla ice cream as a topping.)

So if I like food and I am (kind of) fluent in Mandarin Chinese… What about the industry of American food brands expanding to China? Oreo wasn’t always as successful. Before, they did a copy of their products and marketing in America and pasted it in China, with Chinese translations of course. The Chinese did not warm up to it as Oreo had thought. With much research, Oreo developed various products, expanding from their classic circular cookie model into wafers and straw-shaped cookies. New marketing campaigns were launch to make twisting, licking, and dunking the perfectly normal thing to do when encountering an Oreo cookie. If you’ve never seen or heard of Oreo you’re entire life, you’re definitely going to find this a foreign concept. In fact it is, it’s a tradition that comes far away across the ocean from a place called Meiguo (美国), or America. Mondelez International, which houses the Oreo brand, has done an exceptional job in listening to the Chinese consumers and giving them what they want. In return, Oreo’s wafer sticks has become the most popular biscuit sold in China.

But before I can look into this as a plausible career for myself, I’ll have to research. What American food companies are expanding to China? What have they done? How popular are they? What is the Chinese perception of them? Then I’ll have to learn what types of career focuses are tied into this. From the top of my head, I can assume marketing, research, and product development. I’ll also have to learn the food trends in China because I’m already familiar with American food brands from being inundated with their cleverly placed and formulated marketing. I have an idea to create a separate blog dedicated to that to chronicle my journey in sampling American brand food in China. What are the different flavors? The marketing? People’s thoughts? Oh boy, a third blog?

Chinese Oreo Commercials:

Yao Ming introduces the twist, lick, and dunk to China. Him playing in the NBA in America and his popularity in China made him an obvious spokesperson to introduce the American tradition of eating Oreos. Of course, the slam dunk involved in basketball makes it perfect to tie him to that tradition.
“扭一扭” “舔一舔” “泡一泡”

2 cute boys eat Oreos with dual fruity flavors by introducing it through “magic.” I can’t wait to try this flavor! I wonder why certain flavors of products develop around the world. I remember being amazed by the potato chip flavors in China compared to America’s offerings.

An extremely cute girl tells her dad about Oreo wafers through a riddle. She’s so cute that it’s almost creepy and I laugh each time watching her.

Yao Ming makes another appearance to introduce mini Oreos with another cute boy. Yao Ming just seem to have a knack in showing children the wonders of food right?

Oreo’s Chinese Logo

By the way, Oreo in Chinese is Ao Li Ao (奥利奥). When English is translated into Chinese, characters are selected based on phonetics. I don’t think there is a meaning for the name, since the two repeated characters in the name means “profound and difficult to understand” (Pleco Chinese Dictionary App). But there are clever names for American brands, such as Coca-Cola is Ke Kou Ke Le (可口可乐). The name is extremely similar in sound to Coca-Cola and is easy to say since it has acatchy rhythm. Ke Kou means “tasty” and Ke Le means “laughable; funny” (Pleco). Together, it creates a positive image of the brand.

So what do you think about this idea? Isn’t it interesting how a brand can offer such different products from the ones you are familiar with? Also, how are they marketed differently yet still maintain the essence of the brand in different countries with different cultures?

Sources:
“Rethinking The Oreo For Chinese Consumers” (npr)
“Kraft Changed its Biscuits for China” (Financial Times)
“Kraft Reformulates Oreo, Scores in China” (The Wall Street Journal)

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