The Negotiation

In this episode of The Negotiation, we speak with Jesse Chester, Category Leadership Director at Mars. This was a really sweet conversation and I mean that literally, as Mars is the company behind fan favorites like the Mars Bar, Snickers, Twix, etc., as well as some brands that you might not know were theirs like Whiskas, Dove, and Uncle Ben’s. We talk about how the Chinese market treats confectionery and sweets when compared to North America, we talk about what the differing tastes and preferences such as a texture for Chinese consumers and what some of the unique flavors were that they created just for the China market were. We talk about the differences in the demographics for candy, gum, and chocolate, as well as HOW each demographic shops for and pays for them. We also talk about how Mars competed with domestic brands and some of the strategies and tactics they leaned on to stay competitive there. Enjoy!

Show Notes

Today on The Negotiation, we speak with Jesse Chester, Category Leadership Director at Mars who leads the category leadership organization in Guangdong, China, and in Arkansas, USA. Jesse’s role was to create strategic plans around category growth by working with retailers to help grow the marketplace as a whole. He also contributed to the reinvention of Mars’ innovation strategy.
The snack industry in China “runs the full gamut” compared to that of North America. According to Jesse, the Chinese see food such as corn or bread rolls in the same category that they do chocolate bars or gum. Also, the health angle towards confectioneries and sweets in China is not as prevalent as it is in North America simply because consumption is much lower among the Chinese.
It is clear that what works for the sweets industry in the west does not work the same in the east. Marketing is much more reliant on Key Opinion Leaders and capitalizing on events to sell these sorts of products. Also to be taken into account are cultural differences in the presentation and experience of sweets. For the Chinese, it is important to hone in on popular flavors unique to the country, but attention should also be put on the texture and packaging of the sweets.
Jesse relates his experience working in China as a foreigner and having to adapt not only to the business environment but the cultural environment as well. His greatest strengths were his determination to focus on key tasks, but he also came to appreciate the power of taking initiative rather than leaving his Chinese business partners to take the lead every step of the way. He also was able to gain trust in an environment known to be rather impersonal and emotion-free by making it a point to build relationships with his partners, many times over baijiu.

What is The Negotiation?

Despite being the world’s most potent economic area, Asia can be one of the most challenging regions to navigate and manage well for foreign brands. However, plenty of positive stories exist and more are emerging every day as brands start to see success in engaging and deploying appropriate market growth strategies – with the help of specialists.

The Negotiation is an interview show that showcases those hard-to-find success stories and chats with the incredible leaders behind them, teasing out the nuances and digging into the details that can make market growth in APAC a winning proposition.