To crack China’s markets, the ABC is working with Aaron Lau, president and CEO of Cheil, an international company, to gain marketing success in China.

“China is an extremely complex market and Aaron has been extremely helpful to the Almond Board in gaining a better understanding of the unique dynamics of Chinese culture and its consumers,” said John Talbot, vice president of global market development for the Almond Board of California.

Talbot and Lau joined Ketchner on stage to highlight successes and strategies the ABC is using to market California’s growing supply of almonds.

According to Lau, what makes China complex isn’t just its 1.3 billion citizens spread over 22 provinces and four municipalities. The complexities come with the increasing speed at which such a large population is changing. Consumers there want more and willing to spend the money to have it.

To illustrate this, Lau said China’s gross domestic product is forecast to reach $12 trillion by 2020, double its 2010 GDP. Moreover, Lau said China’s middle class population of 691 million today could grow by another 91 million by 2022.

Consumerism is growing in China, as are Chinese aspirations for a better, middle-class life, Lau said.

Lau is helping grow almond exports in China by helping Americans understand how important nuts are to the Chinese diet, and how simplistic the Chinese are when it comes to how they see food.

For instance, the Chinese culture has long seen its centuries-old traditional medicines as important. Nuts play a key role in this, Lau said. Because shelled walnuts resemble the human brain, Lau said the Chinese believe they are good for the brain. Cashews, another poplar nut in China, are thought to promote good kidney function because they are shaped similar to a human kidney.

“The issue for almonds is how we find a way to put almonds in the context of traditional eating wisdom,” Lau said.

Lau is working on that by pointing out the similar shape almonds have to the classic heart symbol. Given almonds’ heart-healthy status, Lau helped launch a marketing program in China called “young at heart.”

Television commercials and interactive video games taxi clients can play while riding in the back of Chinese taxi cabs are elevating California almonds to the same heart-healthy status they now enjoy in other world markets.