Jesse Chester | China's Sweet Tooth

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Manage episode 273218044 series 2638833
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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.

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