Intense competition between fast-food outlets worldwide prompted McDonald’s to shift away from a standardized menu and turn instead to more localized menus. That is why McDonald’s has made a conscious and aggressive attempt to offer localized products to its consumers. Be It rice triangle wraps in China or McAloo Tikki in India, products are launched to suit the local flavors and tastes. In India, due to religious sentiments, mutton replaced beef, and more stress was given to a vegetarian menu. Thus, items such as McAloo Tikki, Paneer Salsa and Veg McCurry are seen more often on the Indian menu cards and billboards!

Low-calorie food is another pitching point for McDonald’s to the health-conscious consumers. The fast-food giant has in recent years hosted a series of health campaigns amid growing public worries over the high fat content of its food.Thus, marketing on the health plank as well as offering local flavors were the key elements of the marketing strategy for penetration into the Asian markets.
One such factor or consumption pattern identified by McDonald’s was the rice-loving societies in this part of the world. This pattern prompted the food giant to launch Rice burgers…and the first country to experiment was Taiwan.
McDonald’s launched the concept of Rice Burgers (a slice of chicken or beef sandwiched between two rice cakes) in Taiwan initially in Feb 2005. It was the first time rice burgers were on the menu of McDonald’s, which till that time, was only marketed by MOS Burgers.

The burgers became so popular that within 3 months of launching them, Rice burgers were being exported to other Asian Markets and within six months of its launch, the sales of its home-grown rice burgers reached 5 million units (Courtesy: Taipei Times) inspite of facing competition from established players like Mos Burger and 7-Eleven convenience stores. According to figures released by McDonald’s, 30 out of every 100 customers that visited a McDonald’s in Taiwan opted to order a rice burger since this locally-developed product was released.

This success in the Taiwanese market prompted McDonald’s to extend the concept to other Asian countries. Only a couple of days back, it launched the Rice Burgers in Singapore. Singapore’s population of 4.4 million people is predominantly ethnic Chinese, Malay and Indian, and rice is a staple food for the three ethnic groups, thus the extension of its strategy of penetrating into the rice-loving societies.

Rice burgers were popularised by Japanese fast-food chain MOS Burger (pronounced as “Masu Baagaa“) which has nearly 1,500 outlets in Japan, 107 in Taiwan and 17 in Singapore. Being pioneers of the concept, they have mastered the art of customization – atleast when it comes to Rice Burgers.

Thus, the concept of Rice burgers per se is not a new one. But for McDonald’s, it has been a key indicator of their glocal initiatives and source of revenue.

However, this has not been a sure-shot success formula for the food giant. In certain markets like South Korea, it has failed due to lack of customization and sticking to International standards. Incidentally (as mentioned in the article), McDonald’s lost out to its rival Lotteria Co on ‘Kimchi and rice burgers attuned to Korean taste’.

So, there is no set pattern or formula to offer to consumers in this part of the world. Though “glocal” initiatives is the norm of the day, it is not as simple as its derivation (global+local). Customization is imperative, but what is more important is
– it has to be pertinent to the consumers,
– a detailed analysis of the taste buds and the consumption patterns,and
– a compehensive evaluation of the local competition

Anyways, great strategy by McDonald’s and a good case-study.

What’s next? Roti Burgers? Or Mc Kulcha? 😉

4 Responses

  1. I know.. this is the sole reason why I love Mc Donalds so much! The funny thing is- I refuse to enter a McD’S here in USA but absolutely love the ones in India! hah

  2. hmmm..another interesting trend is that food tastes tends to have a cyclical pattern.initially when fast food outlets came to India, they had to do everything to change the routine from ghar ka we had the fast food counters, oily food, completely westernised outlets.But now there is a move towards more indegeniousation again.Sometime in the future all types of food will coexist happily.

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