International Flavor: A Potato Chip Case Study

Category: Culture

All too often, brand expansion strategies are limited by the perspective that it’s enough to simply translate U.S. versions of products for international customers and not adapt them to local tastes. While there are plenty of international consumers hungry for American brands, focusing solely on this view restricts creative product development and may even, in the end, limit product sales overseas.

For food brands, localization can mean the complete reinvention of a product. Palettes are as regional as language and at times can be as funky as slang. This is certainly true for PepsiCo’s Lay’s potato chip, which recently announced the launch of Pepsi-Cola Chicken Flavored Lays in China.

Is this a first for Lay’s? Hardly. The global deployment of Lay’s chips represents a case study in some of the strangest (at least to our American taste buds) and most creative product adaptations for international markets.

It’s somewhat stunning when you consider up until the early 1990s, barbecue and “original” were the only two flavors available from Lay’s in the U.S. In fact, as of January 2012, there were approximately 204 versions of Lay’s chips available worldwide. The new Chinese cola-chicken chip appears to be number 205.

PepsiCo’s strikes a great balance in flexibility and brand consistency when it comes to Lay’s. In markets like India, the logo remains almost identical to the U.S. version. In China and other Asian markets, the brand name is accompanied by localized translations. In the U.K., Lay’s is marketed under the name “Walkers,” but the logo retains the sun and banner design. In Vietnam, the chip is known as “Poca,” and in Egypt, be sure to ask for “Chipsy.”

Though your business may not be centered on snack food, the lesson to take away here is one of adaptability. Lay’s maintains its brand while changing almost everything about the product for international buyers. How can you rethink your products or services for global markets? What flavor of your company represents you in global markets?    

Photo attribution: Herr_Bert