China's Women to Watch

Kraft's Haiyan Wang Knows Chinese Customers Are Hungry for Innovation

Kraft Foods China CMO and VP-Marketing Is Tackling Challenge of Adapting to Local Markets

By Published on .

Haiyan Wang has a problem many marketers would envy. China offers so many growth opportunities that her toughest challenge is picking the right ones.

"What you need is courage, because it's so tempting to try to do so many things. To have the courage to make the trade-off decisions, to have courage to stay focused. Sometimes you have to say 'No' to a lot of things," she said. "That kind of courage actually is not easy to have, but once you have it, it's a huge advantage."

Haiyan Wang
Haiyan Wang

Ms. Wang, CMO of Kraft Foods China, is a veteran of the packaged-foods business, returning to her native country in 2009 after 15 years in the U.S. managing brands at Kraft Foods (Chips Ahoy and Wheat Thins) and Kellogg (Corn Flakes and Special K).

"How do you take the knowledge and experience from the States and apply that to a developing market?...How do you customize the brand marketing expertise to a market and to a consumer group like what we have here in China? It's a really good test of your understanding of the local market," she said.

Kraft Foods reports double-digit growth in China, with brands such as Oreo, Chips Ahoy, Prince cookies, Cadbury Choclairs and Halls candies. The company also claims a leading position in China's biscuit category.

Product innovations are one way to stay relevant to Chinese consumers who aren't particularly brand-loyal. Oreo cookies, for example, come in variations such as birthday cake, with sprinkles in the middle; double fruit, with combinations such as grape and peach filling or mango and orange on the same cookie; and chocolate-covered, mocha-flavored Oreo wafers, which are aimed at white-collar females.

One successful product is already making its way to U.S. grocery shelves: Ice cream Oreos, cookies with a cream filling that creates a cooling sensation in the mouth.

The focus that Ms. Wang and Kraft have placed on Oreo in China can help sibling snack brands grow as well, said Pully Chau, chairman and CEO of DraftFCB Greater China.

"Everything has a spillover effect; it makes the whole organization more confident in rolling out other brands nationally. Oreo is leveraged by the Kraft organization as a model for the other snack brands," Ms. Chau said. "Even for Oreo, there's so much opportunity to grow."

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