Italian confectionery giant Ferrero remains confident on its goal of doubling its size in China within five years, despite the uncertainties brought by the pandemic. In 2019, Ferrero proposed the target of doubling the size within five years.
"I would say the ambition remains unchanged, as Ferrero holds a long-term vision for and commitment to China's market," Mauro De Felip, General Manager of Ferrero China said during an interview with Food Inc. "The objective is to double our size in the next four to five years by expansion into the categories beyond chocolate."
However, aside from the unchanged goal, Ferrero also has many adjustments to make. During the interview, Mauro De Felip talked about online channel layout, new product plan and performance of Kjeldsens.
"At present, the Chinese market is showing strong recovery from the pandemic," Mauro De Felip said to Food Inc. "As China has responded to the pandemic efficiently, most FMCG products are bouncing back to growth curve or the normal level, including the chocolate market in the past two to three months."
Despite the industry-wide turbulence due to the pandemic, the industry began to pick up the pace of recovery from August last year. "We are having a jumpstart since Sep 2020 till now, growing faster than originally planned. " Mauro De Felip said. In the last fiscal year, the Ferrero Group achieved growth in terms of both sell-out in value and net sales, giving its China BU the confidence to continue to move towards the five-year target. Mauro De Felip said that several new opportunities have emerged from the pandemic, especially the accelerated digitalization and spanning online platforms. "It is not about changing the five-year target or our long-term vision, it is more about adapting ourselves more speedy to the changes, to cater for the demand and deliver the utmost," he said.
Ferrero has increased investments on O2O new marketplace. On 21 January, Ferrero signed a strategic cooperation agreement with DADA Group, to forge in-depth cooperation in digital marketing and targeted user management to drive the sales of Ferrero products on JDDJ.
On the cooperation with DADA, Mauro De Felip said, "We set a very ambitious target, we hope to double our sales on JDDJ. In accordance with what we the result accomplished so far, this target is definitely achievable. And if we keep working together like this, we may overdo it."
Ferrero revealed that digital sales account for 25% to the total Ferrero business in China, including traditional e-commerce and O2O, self-run EKA, compared to 15% two years ago. According to data from ECdataway, the online market share of Ferrero is approaching the No.1 chocolate player.
Mauro De Felip also told Food Inc that the accelerated growth is driven by the shift from offline channels to online channels, which gives the company a new opportunity to expand brands and portfolio, and reach consumers even in remote areas. Although it is hard to predict the changes in the China market, Mauro De Felip believes that there is a possibility that Ferrero's shares of online sales can be doubled in the next 2-3 years.
In addition to the changes in the post-pandemic era, what else will be Ferrero's growth pillar to realize its five-year goal? The enhancement of Ferrero's digital capability and category expansion are the answers Mauro De Felip gave.
"First of all, our growth and development acceleration rely on proficiency in all aspects of digital capabilities," he said, adding that these aspects include marketing, corporate communication, supply chain and finance.
The second is to expand Ferrero's business footprints into other adjacent categories. "We are expanding our product portfolio by accelerating innovation, and launching more products and brands,” he said. Besides chocolate, Ferrero has products in the biscuit and sugar confectionary category. He emphasized that biscuit is a strategicthreshold for Ferrero.
In fact, Ferrero China already owns a series of biscuit products, including Kjeldsens, which was acquired by a Ferrero Affiliated Company and Kinder Happy Hippo. Mauro De Felip told Food Inc that "we launched Kinder Happy Hippo at the end of 2019. Despite the influence of the pandemic, we increased its market investments, and the brand has achieved significant success." Meanwhile , the brand launched a new Chinese New Year package this year.
It is worth noting that Mauro De Felip also said that in the future, Ferrero plans to launch more biscuit brands under Kinder, but he did not disclose further details. Food Inc noticed that at the CIIE last year, Ferrero showcased a variety of biscuit products such as Kinder Cards.
According to Mauro De Felip, leveraging the products from global business acquisitions, Ferrero China will launch new brands of biscuits and sweets in the coming years, and is expected to launch a brand specifically developed for the China market. He said, "We are working with global innovation teams and hope to develop new products and brands especially for the China market."
As Food Inc has mentioned before, Ferrero has frequently made mergers and acquisitions in recent years. It acquired Kellogg's Keebler Cookies, which represented childhood memories of the 80's and more than 20 sweets and chocolate brands of Nestle US. Last December, Ferrero announced its plan to acquire the snack company Eat Natural, which possesses products such as cereal bars and roasted cereals. These resources may bring greater diversity to Ferrero's future product portfolio in China.
Kjeldsens, which has annual sales of more than RMB 400 million, is also a competitive and strong player complementary to Ferrero’s brands. The brand is also making every effort to prepare for the Chinese New Year peak season.
"Kjeldsens is a brand with strong seasonality, and its performance during Chinese New Year is very important. To embrace the biggest occasion over the year, we are increasing our inventory as planned," Mauro De Felip said. Kjeldsens launched two packs exclusively sold on Tmall: Kjeldsens 1200g Pack and Kjeldsens Chinese Knot Pack, both of which adopt new packages incorporating the elements of traditional Chinese festival.
Mauro De Felip said, "During these months, the needs for gifting and sharing packs are particularly strong, especially the demands for Rocher and Kjeldsens." Ferrero and Kjeldsens are dominant players in the chocolate and cookie markets respectively during Chinese New Year. The synergy between the two brands is strong in promotion, display, and online and offline cooperation.
As Kjeldsens had said to Food Inc previously, the brand can leverage Ferrero in many aspects including the online and offline channels' layout, capturing of Chinese consumers' demand, as well as building brand equity.
According to Ferrero, Kjeldsens, Rocher and Kinder jointly participated in the online Chinese New Year shopping festival activities on Tmall and JD.com. The three brands will also cooperate with top anchor Viya in livestream selling before Chinese New Year. Mauro De Felip told Food Inc that Ferrero is optimistic on China's consumption market during Chinese New Year, and confident of achieving growth in the 2020/2021 fiscal year (note: as of the end of August this year). "In the long run, our confidence in the Chinese market remains unchanged," he said.