Q&A: Kaajal Shivdasani – Marketing Director, Global Emerging Markets at General Mills

In the lead-up to the Digital Food and Beverage Asia event in February, this is the first in a series of conversations with industry experts offering their unique insights.

With the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry facing unprecedented shifts amid changing consumer expectations and the growth of online sales, companies are working to drive e-commerce and digital initiatives to create a customer experience that not only boosts revenue but also builds loyalty.

In the lead-up to Digital Food and Beverage Asia, this is the first in a series speaking with industry experts to access their experience and unique insights to help guide marketers through the rapidly changing landscape.

This time we speak with Kaajal Shivdasani, Marketing Director, Global Emerging Markets at General Mills.


 

Over the course of our conversation, Shivdasani shares insights into General Mills’ recent collaboration with South Korean super app Kakao, how General Mills remains consistent with brand messaging across diverse markets, some trends to watch for in 2024, and more insights.

At the upcoming Digital Food and Beverage Asia, you’re giving a talk called “From Scratch to Multi-Million: Collaborating with a super app to drive exponential growth.” Can you give us a preview of what to look forward to in your talk?

In this brief case study, I’ll discuss how we’ve collaborated closely with Kakao, the leading super app in Korea, to develop a multi-million dollar ice cream cake business for Häagen-Dazs, General Mills’ leading premium ice cream brand in the Asian markets. I look forward to sharing the local consumer and gifting insights that helped us develop this idea, as well as how we worked closely with the platform to execute against it and unlock this opportunity.

Häagen-Dazs x Kakao cakes (Image via General Mills)

As Marketing Director across emerging markets you have a wide mandate across different cultures. Can you share some examples of how General Mills remains consistent with brand messaging while appealing to demographic nuances in emerging markets?

In my current role, I have the privilege of working across a diverse range of markets and cultures, ranging from India to Mexico and South Korea to the Middle East and the Nordics. At General Mills, we aim to stay consistent on strategy and fresh on execution. Häagen-Dazs, one of our brands with the largest global footprint, is perhaps the best example of this.


 

We launch the same core and innovation campaigns globally, but how markets execute this differs. For example, this year we launched our range of Macaron ice creams, in partnership with world-renowned French pastry chef, Pierre Hermé. While this was a global launch, our Korea team customized this by launching a dance challenge on TikTok, something that had strong appeal and resonated with the Korean consumer, in a way that is quite different from how we would activate in other markets.

One of your recent marketing initiatives was the launch of the Masterpiece campaign for Häagen-Dazs. Can you tell us more about that and share some of the results?

“The Masterpiece” is the most recent Häagen-Dazs campaign, inspired by art and showcasing the craftsmanship and care with which our products are developed in an aspirational, fun and engaging way. This campaign has been tested and run in markets across the globe, including Hong Kong, France and the UK, to name a few. In Hong Kong for example, this campaign tested as one of the top 5 pieces of communication ever tested in the market.

Häagen-Dazs: “The Masterpiece” campaign

Can you tell us more about the shift from a demographic target to an attitudinal target and how this has worked out for your campaigns?

For a number of years now, we have moved away from focusing on specific demographic targets on a number of our brands to more attitudinal targets, whose passions and interests match the personality and values of our brands. So, on Häagen-Dazs, for example, we’ve targeted consumers looking for great experiences who are naturally more adventurous and open to new ideas, and have recently refined our targeting a bit to align more closely with premium food buyers.

What this has meant in practice is that we don’t just target women, who were the historic target on the brand, but also men, and are less concerned about very specific age ranges. While this has worked well for the brand and helped us grow penetration, it is also a constant journey, where you need to periodically review and refine your target audience over time to ensure you remain as relevant and effective.

What are some digital trends you’re seeing in the F&B space that are important for marketers to be aware of and how can they leverage these trends?

One clear trend is the rapid increase in quick commerce and food deliveries in less than 30 minutes across markets. This enables not just planned purchases but also impulse buys and the ability to satisfy cravings. Food brands need to consider how they adapt their marketing strategy to cater to these platforms, and also partner with them to ensure product availability through dark store networks and efficient logistics and packaging solutions for last mile deliveries.

Can you share any trends you see in the food and beverage industry in 2024, especially in emerging markets?

Experimentation and the continued search for new and unusual food pairings continues to capture consumers’ imaginations. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram have democratized the creation of such trends to a large extent, as we see consumers share plenty of wild and wonderful ideas. One recent trend that we saw go viral was for one of our Fruit Snack products, Fruit by the Foot, where a micro-influencer combined it with Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream to create a unique treat that led to us going out of stock on Fruit by the Foot for a few months in key markets like the U.S. and Latin America, but we also picked up the same trend all the way in South Korea.

Over the course of your career what are some campaigns you’ve worked on that you are most proud of?

Häagen-Dazs, Betty Crocker and Old El Paso are the General Mills brands that I have worked most extensively on. The “Masterpiece of Masterpieces” campaign for Häagen-Dazs, as well as our recent new launch campaigns for the Macaron and our festive nut collections are some of our most distinctive pieces of work that I’m very proud to be associated with.

On Betty Crocker, we have recently launched a new campaign titled “Don’t Say It, Bake It”, in our Middle Eastern markets earlier this month. The campaign is all about rediscovering the joy of baking to truly show your love for those you care about. Lastly, Old El Paso, our Mexican food brand, is another iconic brand where we’ve launched the “Make Some Noise” campaign to ritualize Fajita Fridays in a fun, informal, engaging way that is uniquely true to the brand.

Betty Crocker’s “Don’t Say it, Bake It” campaign

How in your view will marketing fundamentals change in the near-future as processes, expectations change from the user point of view as well as business point of view?

I anticipate performance marketing will become the norm for all marketing moving forward. Performance marketing is effectively data-driven marketing, focused on reaching the right person, with the right message to drive action, and to continually learn and optimize. It allows for greater customization, more targeted and therefore effective messaging. It provides a great opportunity for marketers to leverage data and technology to ensure we are inspiring consumers while simultaneously driving action.

When it comes to creating and building memorable marketing and brand experiences, what do you feel marketers need to pay attention to more?

I would suggest a greater focus on an omnichannel approach that goes across touchpoints, from the physical to the virtual world to create a seamless consumer experience across channels. I’d also add that it’s critical to really think about what differentiates your brand and the experience you provide consumers from competitive offerings, and find an engaging and memorable way to highlight those benefits.

Why are events like Digital Food and Beverage Asia important to attend?

Events such as these provide a great opportunity to engage with your peers, learn from the experience of others in the same field and leverage and harness the power of those learnings to determine your next steps and actions for the future.

This is part of a series of interviews done in collaboration with Digital Food & Beverage Asia. You can receive 15% off when using the code “BIA15” to get tickets here.

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