Taste, it seems, is far from universal: Russians prefer their Lay's potato chips dusted in caviar and crab flavors. The Chinese like their Oreos stuffed with mango and orange cream. And in Spain, Kellogg's All-Bran cereal is served floating in hot coffee instead of cold milk. Americans might get squeamish at the thought of their favorite snacks being tweaked, but snack makers are in an arms race to capture the hearts and taste buds of developing nations' growing hunger for on-the-go foods.
When Kraft took the Oreo to China, it rolled out a smaller cookie that wasn't as sweet, in line with Chinese tastes. But when summer sales lagged, it rolled out a popular local flavor—green tea ice cream, followed by raspberry-blueberry and mango-orange—and watched sales soar by 60% a year. "It made us realize the smallest of details make a big difference," says an exec. PepsiCo, meanwhile, is finding success with "Red Caviar," Pickled Cucumber," and "Crab" Lay's chips. Plain old "Classic" Lay's, however, isn't taking off in Moscow: "They find it a very boring flavor," says a rep. (Read more Oreo stories.)