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Localising FMCG Brands for the Chinese Market: A Case Study on Lay's

China’s FMCG industry is highly competitive and dynamic, and thus it is crucial for brands to innovate and localise for sustained growth and consumer engagement. One such brand that has embraced this strategy with remarkable results is Lay's, the popular snack company. With a deep understanding of Chinese consumers' preferences and a commitment to innovation, Lay's has implemented various strategies to cater to the unique tastes and preferences of the Chinese market.

This article delves into Lay's localisation efforts in the Chinese market, examining its approach to flavours, co-branding initiatives, innovative formats, health-conscious options, and limited-edition releases.


1. Localised Flavour


Lay's demonstrates a commitment to continuously innovating and meeting the diverse preferences of Chinese consumers by introducing a range of regionally-inspired chip flavours. This includes a trio of hotpot flavours such as Spicy Hotpot, Numb & Spicy Hotpot, and Beijing-style hotpot with Sesame Sauce.


Moreover, Lay's showcases its attention to local tastes by incorporating distinctive and renowned food flavours from different cities. Notably, Lay's introduced Peking Duck-Flavored crisps in Beijing, the birthplace of this iconic dish, Linyi Stir-Fried Chicken crisps in Shandong province, and a fiery Spicy Chicken variant tailored for the fiery Sichuan province.

2. Co-branding


Co-branding has consistently been a popular marketing strategy in China, and Lay's effectively utilises this approach to engage with Chinese consumers. Capitalising on the prevalent Guochao trend, Lay's has collaborated with three renowned Chinese food brands to introduce new Chinese-flavored products. This includes the fusion of "Salted Duck Egg and Roast Pork Zongzi" from Wu Fang Zhai, the delectable "Marinated Duck Neck" from Zhou Hei Ya, and an intriguing addition, potato crisps infused with the innovative flavour of White Rabbit candy.


Continuing its successful co-branding endeavours, Lay's has now embarked on a collaboration with Helens, China's largest pub chain. This latest partnership unveils two exciting flavours: Peached-Flavored Beer and Craft Beer. By joining forces with Helens, Lay's aims to captivate consumers with unique and refreshing taste experiences that resonate with the evolving preferences of young Chinese consumers.

3. Innovative Format


Lay's has expanded beyond traditional potato crisps, offering a diverse range of new formats. An exemplary instance is the introduction of potato-alternative ingredients such as taro, featuring Sea Salt Black Pepper and Lime flavours, and sweet potato crisps, available in Original and Brown Sugar flavours.


Furthermore, Lay's innovatively incorporates additional ingredients on top of the crisps. For instance, the Grilled Chicken Skewers flavoured crisps are adorned with diced chicken pieces, and similarly, the Beef flavoured crisps feature savoury beef toppings. Notably, the Spicy Crayfish flavoured crisps incorporate chopped chilli for an added dimension of flavour. These inventive additions enhance the taste experience and showcase Lay's commitment to culinary creativity.

4. Healthy Trend


Lay's is actively striving to overcome its previous reputation as an unhealthy snack brand, as Chinese consumers increasingly prioritize their health. As part of their Nature Taste range, Lay's has made a pledge to reduce saturated fat by 50% by incorporating NuSun Sunflower oil and palm oil. This range offers flavours such as Lime, Sea Salt, and Seaweed, catering to health-conscious consumers.


In a bold and innovative move, Lay's has introduced air-dried chicken breast crisps, marking their entry into the high-protein meat snack market. Made with chicken breast as the primary ingredient, these crisps boast a 30% real chicken breast content. Utilizing an innovative "air-baking" technology, the crisps showcase visible pieces of real meat, resulting in a light, crispy texture and a satisfying meaty flavour. Packaged individually in 30g portions, these crisps offer convenience and portability, and address the concerns of overconsumption. The "Original" flavour is available through e-commerce platforms, while the "Roasted Chicken" flavour can be found exclusively at select Sam's Club stores. This strategic partnership with Sam's Club, a premium retail channel, enables Lay's to reach young consumers who prioritise food quality and value their own health and well-being.

5. Limited Edition


This spring, Lay's unveiled its exclusive offering, the Spring Limited Edition World Cuisine Flavored Potato Crisps. This collection features a captivating array of flavours, including the Salt & Pepper Mantis Shrimp, the Takoyaki (Octopus Balls), and the Beef Wellington. This product launch is a collaborative endeavour with Henan TV's Lantern Festival special program, emphasising the theme of "Bringing World Flavors to China". The international thematic focus of this collaboration served as a key element in promoting the unique and enticing attributes of the new Lay's potato chip collection.

Through a comprehensive case study on Lay's, we gain valuable insights into effective localisation strategies and the brand's ability to resonate with Chinese consumers. If your brands are about to enter China market, and are wondering how to be localised and better engage with Chinese customers, don’t hesitate to contact us today!

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