In Texas, for example, people generally like fluffier tortillas than those sold in the rest of the U.S. In California they like elastic tortillas, and in Arizona they like chewy tortillas. Why? At first it baffled us, but then we learned that each of those areas had been settled predominantly by Mexicans from a particular region, where variations in the local quality of tortilla manufacturing ingrained certain preferences. Now we target our sales accordingly.
China is another good example of how we adapt our flatbread. We could sell our wraps with chicken and beans, as we do in Mexico. But it makes more sense to sell them with duck and plum sauce. We’ve hired chefs whose sole job is to develop recipes with Chinese food for our wraps. Once we know what flavors and recipes work, we go to the culinary schools, quick-serve restaurants, hotels, and canteens, and we share the recipes and teach how to prepare them.
Understanding our potential consumer allows us to adjust our marketing strategy accordingly. In less-mature markets, we often sell equipment and flour directly to artisans who make fresh flatbread locally. In more sophisticated markets with well-developed infrastructure, we use fast-food restaurants for distribution. And in markets where our product has such a strong appeal that consumers want to cook flatbread recipes at home, we sell premade flatbread in supermarkets and other food retailers.
Extending into foreign markets poses obstacles, but fortunately, strategies are now emerging to help executives parse these new challenges. Our approach is to simplify the process by breaking it down into two fundamental questions: Are potential consumers willing to try your product, and if so, can you adapt it to their tastes? Nothing guarantees success. But getting clear answers to these two questions substantially increases your odds.
Jairo Senise (Jairo_Senise@missionfoods.com) is chief executive officer of Gruma Inc., a US$2.5 billion, Monterrey, Mexico– based maker of flatbreads.