Global snacking giant Mondelez appointed Narmeen Khan as Managing Director for its Malaysia and Singapore businesses recently in February 2022 to succeed former market head James Kane, from her previous role as Managing Director in Pakistan, bringing a total of 17 years of experience with the company.
Khan highlighted her hopes and plans for her newly-commissioned markets in an exclusive interview with FoodNavigator-Asia, stressing Malaysia and Singapore as Mondelez’s ‘key growth markets in South East Asia’.
“While consumer profiles differ and the market size varies to Pakistan, the consumers [in both regions] share the same love for iconic brands including Cadbury Dairy Milk and OREO - In fact, we remain a category leader in the chocolate and biscuit categories for these markets,” she told us.
“There is an interesting [difference] in consumer purchasing habits though - Over here, the advancement and appetite for ecommerce and online purchases are driving a more mature modern trade market [and with] Malaysia and Singapore also being a multicultural epicentre, it’s fascinating to see how our snacks are being purchased, consumed and gifted for various festivities year round.
“Combined with our multi-category offerings including local jewels such as Twisties and Chipsmore, we have a tremendous opportunity to strengthen Mondelez’s omnichannel approach in delivering our products to consumers here [and] I’m excited to be expanding my knowledge and experience in these markets.”
Based on the region’s rise in ecommerce and online purchases when it comes to snacks, Khan said that Mondelez will be evolving accordingly to meet consumer demands in the region.
“The South East Asian region has experienced a big leap forward in digitisation and automation over the last two years [which] has created exponential growth in platforms and channels, fueling a higher demand and expectation for snacks to be available anywhere, at any time, for different needs,” she said.
“At Mondelēz, we have been reinventing our supply chain and channel expansion strategies to ensure our products remain accessible the way consumers want them across every retail touchpoint – on shelf and online.
“[We also have] two manufacturing facilities located in Shah Alam (Selangor) and Prai (Penang), so Malaysia plays a critical role in facilitating and expediting our response to evolving supply chain requirements and surging demand for our products in the region.”
In addition to this, Khan will also be guiding the firm in launching more localised and better-for-you snacks, believing that these characteristics are crucial to ‘stay close’ to consumers as snacking occasions rise in importance.
“One of our key product development innovation paths this year will be to execute smart localisation across our portfolio of iconic global brands, [so] Malaysian and Singaporean consumers can access new offerings designed to cater to local taste preferences [and] timely needs - One good example is the Twisties Kaya Butter Toast launched in early 2022, which offers unique connection to a flavor locals are familiar with,” she said.
“I recognize there are many similarities between Malaysia and Singapore, but I believe there is certainly room to customize our approach as we strengthen our connections with consumers in each market.
“The other area of development for us will be to expedite our Mindful Snacking initiatives, to help consumers make informed choices about what they snack on, with well-being and balance in mind.
“We are already making significant strides by offering products with improved nutrition and ingredient profiles [and] this year, we aim to further extend our portion-controlled formats and less sugar options for a variety of products, including [well-known brands such as] OREO.
“[These innovation paths are crucial] as staying close to our consumers remains a priority for us, [and to do this] we strive to understand the evolving role that snacks play in their lives from tastes and preference to physical and well-being needs, as well as their personal values.”
Lifting of restrictions to boost growth
Although the snacking category was one of those within the food and beverage sector to see a boost during COVID-19 as a result of rising consumer demand and the natural convenience factor, Khan believes that the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in Malaysia and Singapore is a signal for even stronger growth ahead.
“As COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed, we are looking to increase our brand penetration and strategic initiatives particularly for core categories [based on] our strategic plans,” she said.
“[Main initiatives include] growing our distribution and channel exposure to fill white spaces and adjacencies within the region [which will involve enabling snacking for consumers] beyond physical nourishment or meal-fillers [to look at] snacking to satiate indulgence and improve mental and emotional health during challenging times.”
Watch out for Part II of this exclusive interview, coming soon.