Now that’s a headline that we surely would never have seen back in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. In those days, Oreos were a prized possession for the foreigner working in China — something that you asked your mom to put in the big box that she shipped to you (surface) in September, in hopes that it might reach you before Christmas.
Whether it did or not was immaterial; all that mattered was opening the box and finding the (mostly crushed) bag of Oreo cookies. Sometimes we ate them all in one sitting, and sometimes we rationed them.
And there was always the trip to Hong Kong during the Spring Festival holiday to look forward to. Oreos were readily available there and could be shipped back to China quickly and cheaply (or simply stuffed into your suitcase).
Sometimes we could even find imported Oreos at the venerable Friendship Store in Beijing.
In 1996 Nabisco began making and selling Oreos in China, and they quickly became popular. I remember serving one to a Chinese friend once who, after tasting it and examining it carefully, declared “I have an oven at home; I think I can make this.”
I assured her she couldn’t.
According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, the Chinese seem to be falling out of love with the Oreo:
Oreo has been one of the country’s most popular cookie brands since it launched in China in 1996, with Mondelez holding the largest market share in China’s biscuit segment at 16%, according to market-research firm Euromonitor International. Cookie sales in China have more than tripled from 2003 to 50.4 billion yuan, or roughly $8.3 billion, last year.
But industry watchers say China is one tough cookie, and Mondelez is facing bigger obstacles to growth here. Consumers in the world’s most populous country are curious and willing to try out new things, but that means as more brands enter the market, there are more snacks to distract them from Oreos, said Ben Cavender, a senior analyst at consultancy China Market Research in Shanghai.
Mr. Cavender said most companies are finding that Chinese consumers bore easily, so it’s key for food makers to innovate and introduce new brands. ”You have to keep the market constantly hooked,” he said, noting that changing the packaging often isn’t enough.
Oreos losing their popularity in China? Please say it isn’t so!
Image source: Wall Street Journal