In a Chinese New Year marketing double dip, Fonterra raised the Anchor brand profile in China while helping citizens celebrate with family and friends despite being discouraged from travelling because of Covid-19 concerns.
Fonterra's NZMP team in China had to think on its feet as to how to maintain its traditional sales surge during China's biggest holiday of the year, a time for family and friend reunions and gift-giving - especially of food treats.
This involved coming up with smart adaptations for brand consumers as well as food manufacturers who buy from NZMP's ingredients and food services businesses in China, Fonterra Greater China chief executive Teh-han Chow said.
According to official estimates, only 98 million Chinese travelled during the February 11-17 spring festival - 77 per cent down on 2019, he said.
One idea, which contributed to double-digit growth in the brand's business during Chinese New Year, was launching a mini-website where people could create their own poster for festive greetings with an Anchor photo frame and designs.
About 150,000 posters were created, Chow said.
In January, NZMP rolled out a consumer range themed "A Taste of New Zealand, An Heirloom for the New Year", to promote Anchor products as New Year's gifts.
For some of Fonterra's ingredients customers, Chinese New Year sales could make up a quarter of their full-year revenue, and special themed products were created, he said.
The China Anchor food professionals team developed new recipes for customers to create, such as cheesecake gift packs, cheese-stuffed sticky rice dumplings and ox-shaped cakes to mark the Year of the Ox.
With the Chinese government discouraging travel from city work places to hometowns, demand for takeaways increased. Fonterra responded by helping local customers transfer their business from offline to online, and creating online delivery menus.
It launched a new frozen shredded mozzarella cheese to support the surge in online pizza delivery.
One of Fonterra's snacks maker customers created a sugar-coated, cheese flavoured lollipop, using only Fonterra ingredients.
Shipping and logistics were a major focus for the NZMP team, amid Covid-19 disruption to supply chains, Chow said.
Customers needed to roll out Chinese New Year gift packs in time to be on shelves around mid-January. The spring festival officially runs from February 11-17, but Chow said Chinese people started celebrating before then and after, taking days off on either side.
"Our customers typically experience an increase in sales in the weeks prior to, and after, the ... holiday period. Thus we would see an uptick in the month prior for our food service and consumer brands business," Chow said.
"For our ingredients customers, which have a longer lead time, we would see the ingredient stock build beginning a few months prior....
"Depending on the segment, we could see a 10 to 30 per cent increase in those months as compared to normal months."
The new year's eve dinner was the most important family event during the Chinese New Year, but this year because of Covid-19 many families had to prepare the feast instead of dining out like they would usually do, Chow said.
This created huge demand for ready-to-go food products which NZMP responded to by developing innovative recipes for customers, such as cheese dumpings and cheese shrimp balls for hot pots.
Chow told the Herald some of NZMP's adaptations might stay given the good results and customer feedback.
"But if Covid is not going to be an issue next year, things will probably be completely different and again, we will have to be adaptable and change our ways accordingly as well.
"I think over the last year we've been trained by circumstances to come up with multiple plans. You need plan A and B and maybe even C in your pocket and take elements of each."