China is a country with a 56 cultural differences, 80 dialects and vastly differing tastes. How does a company manage to develop new products that sell well across the market?
On a recent trip to Shanghai, PSFK was invited to visit the Coca-Cola China ‘kolab’ – a center for research and development that serves not only the beverage company in Asia but the rest of the world too.
We were told that R&D is seen as a partner of marketing but they don’t take a brief. From the concept initiation the team come up with technical feasibility while marketing defines the idea consumers are looking for. Both teams also work closely with the consumer insights group and they also collaborate with Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) suppliers, bottlers and sales teams to help develop the innovation process.
At the KoLab they mix PHDs and people with Master degrees from around the world – China, India, Spain, UK. Coca-Cola hope that this cultural mix will create a diversity of thinking which helps when they work together because researchers will bring different expertise to share. The management have tried to create casual non-laboratory environments because science has shown that if someone is relaxed your brain drops in temperature and your synapses work faster.
The group work on developing between 50 to 60 products at any one time. Sometimes they are pacific region focused and at other times they are global initiatives.
Regional hits such as the Minute Maid Pulpy Super Milky dairy product drink with with fruit pulp and the Sprite Tea drink have been regional hits have been developed out of the R&D unit in China.
Here’s a recent ad for the dairy drink – a product that introduced milk to many young Chinese diets: