Chinese Chicken Strips – Roasting in Retail Ethnography
By Rupa Ranganathan, Ethnic Strategist, Strategic Research Institute
Carol Hymowitz wrote in The Wall Street Journal earlier this week: “On a recent evening stroll, James Rice, a vice president at Tyson Foods and the head of its China operations, wandered into a narrow alley, drawn by the pungent scent of spices coming from a food vendors stall. The vendor was selling skewers of barbecued lamb coated with cumin, a popular evening snack here. That detour gave Mr. Rice the idea for a new food product: cumin-flavored chicken strips.”
Within a few weeks of Mr. Rice’s visit to the market, Tyson’s R&D department had produced a new recipe and the company began testing it. Chinese consumers gave it a whopping 90 percent approval rating.
James Rice is to be lauded for his ability to glean the right flavor from a plethora of ingredients used by the Chinese food-stall vendors and to creatively bring it right into the context of his product lines. His casual market visit is an excellent example of ethnographic observation and retail research at a very grassroots level.
It could not have been accomplished without enlightened risk-taking and the support of senior management. Numerous brand executives would surely have strolled into this very street and also shared the same olfactory experience as James Rice without translating it into an idea for a solid product launch.
With competition hotting up in China and elsewhere, brand teams must break many templates to find success, not only in international markets, but back home in the United States with global citizens who now call America their home.
Moderator’s Comment: What lessons are there to be learned for CPG companies and retailers from the story behind Tyson’s cumin-flavored chicken strips?
Was the Tyson story unusual in terms of how product ideas are formulated? What about the speed with which the product came to market? –
Rupa Ranganathan – Moderator
- Executives in China Need Both Autonomy And Fast Access to Boss – The Wall Street
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