Developing Innovative Foods for Diverse Global Consumers

Taste preferences vary hugely from one region of the world to the next. So how does a Michigan-based global food company come up with the next big consumer hit halfway around the planet?

Here at Kellogg, we spend a lot of time talking directly to consumers, especially in our newest markets, learning what they like to eat and analyzing which foods and flavors resonate the most. We also hire locally. After all, who better to understand regional tastes than those who were born and raised in that region? The more diverse our workforce, the better understanding we have of the diverse needs of our consumers.

Craig Rethwill, (Retired) Vice President, Emerging Markets R&D

Craig Rethwill, (Retired) Vice President,
Emerging Markets R&D

In India, for example, we recently opened a new breakfast research and development lab and hired all local employees. “These new employees naturally know what people eat in India for breakfast and what will sell there,” said Craig Rethwill, Kellogg’s Vice President, Emerging Markets Research and Development (R&D). “Our India lab requires all of its employees to spend time visiting with consumers and retailers so they can stay connected.”

Regional Foods for Regional Tastes

We spend a lot of time talking directly to consumers, especially in our newest markets, learning what they like to eat and analyzing which foods and flavors resonate the most.

Indian consumers, like many others around the world, prefer savory tastes for breakfast. Rather than reformulating popular Western flavors from sweet to zesty, we focus instead on generating new foods that target particular markets. Our Kellogg’s Oats® porridge is a perfect example. With the bold and spicy flavors of curry and masala, the oats represent a radical departure from the Kellogg breakfast foods sold in the U.S. and Europe — but they suit the Indian palate perfectly.

Also in India, we recently launched a new cereal made from ragi, or millet, leveraging an existing local custom of feeding the traditional grain to young children. In Latin America, meanwhile, we have been adding amaranth to a variety of foods, including cereal bars and snacks. And in Africa, where we have been expanding, we are developing fermented grain porridges and drinks.

Playing with Flavors

Sweet potato. Crab. Seaweed. These are just some of the flavors that are popular in non-Western cultures. So in South Korea, we produce a Special K® cereal with a sweet potato-based flake, while in Japan, we sell a popular seaweed-flavored Pringles® chip. Crab flavoring pops up in several Kellogg foods in Asian markets.

The Cereal Habit

India Breakfast Research and Development teamCereal isn’t necessarily the first choice for a morning meal in many of the regions where we make and sell our foods. But we believe it will grow in popularity. “As people get busy and move into the middle class, an increasing percentage of them will see the convenience and nutrition of breakfast cereal — just as they did in the U.S. several generations ago,” Craig said. “We are building the habit of cereal for breakfast.”

To do that, we’re making cereals that employ grains, proteins and legumes that are more popular in other countries. And we’re focusing many of our efforts on cereals that are eaten hot, rather than cold, in keeping with local traditions.

Craig, meanwhile, is encouraging his research team to consider savory cereals as the next potentially big trend in the U.S. In other words, we’re learning from new markets and thinking of ways to bring diverse, international Kellogg foods to the U.S.

“The rest of the world really likes savory cereals and bars for breakfast,” Craig said. “That’s one idea we might import from our emerging markets back to the United States.”