Nutfruit Magazine

The official voice of the INC

19 July, 2021 A Chat with the Industry

Jason Chen, Senior Sourcing Manager, Aisa Nuts, Mars Wrigley, China

Jason Chen, Senior Sourcing Manager, Aisa Nuts, Mars Wrigley, China

"We believe our business will thrive for generations to come only if the millions of people who contribute to our success thrive too."

Jason Chen is responsible for Asia peanuts and tree nuts sourcing in Mars Wrigley, with China as the focus. Mars Wrigley has some of the world’s most beloved nut-centric brands including M&M’s and Snickers. Jason has been in different sourcing roles in his 12 years with Mars, from packaging to ingredients. He also spent several years in the supply chain and quality-related functions.

Where do you see potential growth for nuts and dried fruits in Asia? And why?
China is still the area with the biggest potential, considering the great population and quickly developing economy even in the shadow of Covid-19. Before the pandemic, we already saw great market growth (10% CAGR in some estimation) for nuts and dried fruits in China led by the daily pack. With the quick recovery from the Covid-19, the Chinese consumer is becoming more aware of the healthy lifestyle and nuts and dried fruits are one of the preferred choices.

Mars Wrigley has some of the most internationally recognized brands. Can you explain how nuts and dried fruits help take Mars Wrigley's products to the next level, and what features of nuts and dried fruits are desired from a confectionery standpoint?
The most fundamental consumer need for confectionery or snacks is a great experience in all five senses: Taste, Smell, Vision, Touch, Hearing. While at the same time, consumers are always seeking novelty products, the many varieties of nuts and dried fruits offer a lot of innovation opportunities. Recently, with Covid-19 impacts, consumers are also expecting the product to fit in their health agenda at the same time. Nuts are a good solution to all of the above points. The KIND Bar is a very good example of nuts and dried fruits playing an important role in a successful product. In terms of desired nuts, freshness and consistent quality are very important. If there is proven nutritious benefit, it will also be a very good selling point.

As a Senior Sourcing Manager, you have quite a bit of experience with the supply chain, what challenges have Mars Wrigley had to face with the current global shipping situation, and what’s your opinion on the outlook of shipping?
The container shipping market has never been so hot due to the surge of demand linked with the pandemic. The port congestion and container shortage are making the supply situation even worse, and the Evergreen vessel blocking the Suez Canal makes the past one year truly a black swan year. Supply continuity might be the focus of all parties in the short term. However, with the capacity buildup and as the pandemic impact reduces with vaccination progress globally, the current tightness might be eased over time.

Speaking of the supply chain, sustainability is a rapidly growing and an important topic for many businesses in our industry. What steps are Mars Wrigley taking to increase sustainable activities across their operations, and specifically in Asia?
Sustainability is always one of the most important focuses of Mars Wrigley business. In 2019, we launched Sustainable in a Generation plan, focusing on Healthy Planet, Thriving People and Nourishing Wellbeing. And last year we launched Pledge for Planet supplier seminar introducing the Plan and calling our partners to action. We have a lot of sustainable activities ongoing in Asia. From packaging sustainability to greenhouse gas emissions control. From food safety center interaction with industry to good agricultural practices promotion. In terms of the nuts-related value chain in China specifically, we were continuously driving the development of high-oleic peanuts which is beneficial to all parties in the value chain, from farmers to consumers. We believe our business will thrive for generations to come only if the millions of people who contribute to our success thrive too.

What role can nuts and dried fruits play in sustainability?
Depending on different nut categories, sustainability shall help reduce the impact on the environment or improve the lives of the participants in the supply chain. By introducing higher yielding/higher quality varieties, water savings technologies, and aflatoxin mitigation strategies, nuts can play an important role in sustainability.

Another aspect of the supply chain that is gaining traction, is traceability. Why is traceability in the supply chain important? And do you believe that this matters to the end consumer?
The underlying logic for traceability gaining traction is consumer focus on food safety and food integrity. Good traceability in the supply chain means higher level of quality management. The transparent supply chain will more easily gain the trust of the consumers. And with the quick development of QR code, the traceability system can also benefit the business with consumer interaction opportunities and enabling big data marketing, which can be a game-changer to traditional route to market. So, a traceability system is definitely beneficial to both business and consumer.

Now for a more personal question. What is your favorite nut and or dried fruit, and what is your preferred method to eat them?
Deep fried peanut pickled in Chinese Vinegar. This is a delicious dish in China.
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