In July of 2010, Don Knauss gave a presentation to the Asian ERG on leadership. At the end of his talk, he challenged the organization to think about how its members could help drive the business. After all, a shift in demographics in the U.S. offers a compelling reason to focus on these consumers. In the last ten years, the Asian American population grew about 43 percent. As one of the most affluent consumer groups in the U.S., Asian Americans represent $600 billion in annual buying power.
The Asian ERG is making business contectivy a priority.
The Asian ERG quickly went to work exploring how they could help drive growth, assembling a group to brainstorm three business challenges. Focus areas that rose to the top included targeted marketing for the Green Works® brand, food mergers and acquisitions and market entry into India. The teams then worked with the business on co-leading these focus areas.
"I’m excited that the Asian ERG is evolving from our initial emphasis on social connections and cultural appreciation to becoming a resource that can drive even greater value for the company and its employees," said Akemi Ooka, chief of staff, Asian ERG. "Our focus on business connectivity also gives people the opportunity to contribute to the business in a way that’s different from their day-to-day jobs."
Nikhil Dani, James Siacunco, Rick Nishijima, Anupa Patel and Ann Cheng tackled the food category, focusing on Asian sauces and marinades to support the Specialty division’s strategy to expand the dressings and sauces business. With support from the Asian ERG executive sponsors, the team gathered existing consumer and category research, implemented an online survey targeting Clorox employees and visited Jungle Jim’s stores in the Midwest to learn more about the category.
Research confirmed that Asian flavors have become broadly appealing in North America. Asian restaurants are now firmly entrenched in the American mainstream, with many full- and limited-service businesses like P.F. Chang’s, Panda Express and Sushi Samba among the top 400 restaurant chains.
When it comes to home cooking, the team found that about 60 percent of consumers need a little help with Asian seasonings and sauces, wanting pre-packaged ingredients to add to meat, fish, vegetables and salads to make new dishes.
Based on their research, the team presented a number of brands for potential acquisition, including Soy Vay®, evaluating targets based on their growth rates, actual sales and distribution over the last six years. Other questions they addressed for further insights include: What made these brands unique? What was the "yum” factor for these brands and which ones did consumers prefer? Do any of these brands have credibility and recognition among Asian consumers?
"The Asian ERG did the initial work that fed into our mergers and acquisitions target list," said Jon Balousek, vice president ─ general manager, Litter, Food & Charcoal. "It’s the kind of inspired thinking we need to continue to drive growth for the company."
In December, Clorox ended up acquiring Soy Vay Enterprises, Inc., a small California company that makes Kosher Asian sauces, complementing the company’s Hidden Valley® and K C Masterpiece® businesses, which started off as small, regional brands like Soy Vay.
"Business connectivity is now a formal part of the company’s diversity strategy and cascades throughout the ERGs’ objectives," said Erby Foster, director, Diversity & Inclusion. "Soy Vay is another great example of how our ERGs can be tapped to drive value, even competitive advantage, for the company."