Coca-Cola awakens Chinese foodies’ tastebuds, stepping up in localisation

Key takeaways:

  • Coca-Cola thrilled local food aficionados in Beijing and Shanghai by throwing a banquet at the foot of the Great Wall, celebrating local food culture with a cola themed twist.
  • Gastronomy giants and Gen Z celebrities were paired together and engaged in on-site cooking demonstrations, enhancing a luxurious and immersive dining experience.
  • Participatory activities where the brand’s signature fizzy drink was at the centre, was introduced to entertain visitors, resulting in over 230 million views on Weibo during the promotion season.

Having long been synonymous with fizzy drinks, the American beverage retailer Coca-Cola is now seeking to deepen its penetration of the Chinese market by foraying into the food sector. Such an ambition is conveyed through a series of initiatives, where local respected chefs and food enthusiasts were in the spotlight and traditional cuisines were at the centre of the celebrations.

Inspired by the concept of “Friendship”, the collision of the East and the West was further enhanced with the attendance of local gastronomy giants.

A multicultural celebration of food

Kicking off on 2 September, the first session was unveiled at Gubei Water Town in Beijing, which leans against the most dangerous and majestic section of the iconic Great Wall. Staged in the centre of traditional structures in a courtyard style, the venue was illuminated with Coca-Cola’s trademark red hue with Coca-Cola bottle-shaped installations fitted across the space, contrasting the ancient ambiance of the village with the historical site.

Inspired by the concept of “Friendship”, the collision of the East and the West was further enhanced with the attendance of Dong Zhenxiang, a Beijing native and a giant in Chinese gastronomy and his best friend Sun Houxian, who is also a heavyweight in the food industry. Their culinary creations infusing traditional Chinese cooking practices with Western ingredients while a live culinary presentation by Dong – dubbed “China’s father of ‘artistic and aesthetic cuisine’” – which was flavoured by Coca-Cola’s signature drink became the highlight of the night.

The banquet was spiced up with the appearance of another peer Gao Qingchen, emerging Thai singer of Chinese heritage and his Chinese counterpart Zhang Jiayuan, once again giving a nod to the theme of “Friendship” while leveraging the influence of the duo who are both in their early 20s and are followed by over 2 million on Weibo, capturing the attention of China’s young generations.

A range of participatory activities were introduced to get attendees started on their own food journey.

The sensation in Beijing was then extended to the metropolitan city of Shanghai on 10 September where Li Wei, head chef at Ji Pin Xuan, a renowned two-Michelin starred restaurant in the city and Cai Zhaohui, consultant for the eatery, collaborated to curate “a customised menu” for the occasion. While Lin Mo, another Chinese singer was paired up with Lian Huaiwei, a 25-year-old who impressed his younger brother Lin with an on-site demonstration of his pancake cooking skills.

Tantalising the tastebuds of diners

To enable a more engaging visiting experience, a range of participatory activities were introduced to get attendees started on their own food journey with cola being a protagonist. This included sugar painting – a form of Chinese traditional folk art using hot liquid sugar to draw two-dimensional objects on a marble or metal surface, as well as lucky draws for “secret menus” and blind boxes. The series of endeavours soon gathered traction in the digital space, propelling the campaign hashtag to garner over 230 million views on China’s Twitter-like space Weibo as of 21 September.   

By doing so, Coca-Cola was able to pay homage to China’s food culture while strengthening its ties with local consumers through the shared love of food. While expanding its footprint in the food and drink sectors, such a high-end dining experience joined by high profile personalities, allows the brand to more effectively resonate with the younger generations who appreciate the experiential aspect of marketing activations. The effort is also in line with the pursuit of a better-quality lifestyle amongst these demographics and a culinary experience with a luxurious twist, undoubtedly caters to the new way of living.