Collaboration between Aalen University and Ritter SportA new cooperation with the chocolate producer, as well as Fudan University in Shanghai

Marcus Auch, HR-Business Partner at Alfred Ritter GmbH & Co. KG, and Prof. Dr. Jörg Büechl (pictured right) from Aalen University are initiating an international praxis project with Ritter Sport with students of Aalen University. Photo Credits: © Hochschule Aalen | Jörg Büechl

Mo, 15. March 2021

In the last three months, students from the master study programs Healthcare Management and Management of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises at Aalen University have been working on a localization strategy in collaboration with Chinese students from Fudan University towards the market entry for Alred Ritter GmbH and Co. KG in China. Under the direction of Prof. Dr. Jana Wolf and Prof. Dr. Jörg Büechl, the students were heavily prepared for the intercultural cooperation. “Giving the students the opportunity to build on their international and intercultural management and leadership competencies during Corona times was also a welcome challenge for us lecturers. We have all learned a lot from it, and are excited about the results and further exchanges,” says Wolf.

In small international teams, the students developed a survey method to allow for collecting and evaluating specific data regarding the Chinese market. For that purpose, potential Chinese customers were surveyed about the chocolate eating habits in China, the packaging designs for sweets, as well as the preferred tastes and purchasing behaviors. While the German students took on the role of team management, the Chinese project members conducted the data collection and market analysis on location.

The students gathered valuable experience through the project, as Miriam Gazem from the Management of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises program recounted: “The subject Global SME Management has given me the opportunity to try out practical work for international teams in the university’s protected environment. Of course, the international collaboration brought along different challenges as well, like the language barrier or time difference, for example. But with the efforts of my classmates, the diversity of the project, and the interesting experiences which go beyond just the project work, these problems were pushed aside. Everyone who has the chance to work on a project like this should take it,” advises Gazem. “I’m thankful that I was able to experience this.”

The students presented the results to the lecturers and the project leaders from Ritter Sport: The market for sweets in China is heavily contested. German companies will need to focus on increased perceptions of their product. German products in China continue to enjoy a strong reputation, which is why the branding “Made in Germany” should be maintained. The awareness for the Ritter Sport brand could also be raised through marketing collaborations with products from other industries, according to the summary. Furthermore, the surveys have shown that sustainability in the sweets industry is currently a relatively unimportant role for Chinese consumers.

Added Value for Students, Lecturers, and the Praxis Partner

Fudan University, the international partner, is satisfied with the collaboration. “This project offered the students from China and Germany a unique opportunity to get to recognize and deepen varying cultural perspectives,” says student Xinran Shi. “During the project work, the Chinese students were able to develop a better understanding for their own culture and habits, even from a relatively distanced attitude.”

Rebecca Hornung, team leader of the project from Aalen University, is proud of the successful cooperation: “From the first semester in the master program, taking on the task of team leadership of an international group showed me what management responsibility means. I was able to not only improve my English proficiency through regular Zoom meetings, but also get to know and understand a previously foreign culture, which helped me improve on my previous competences.”

The team leaders from Ritter Sport, Patricia Hack and Marcus Auch, were very pleased with the project results: “The collaboration with the students was, as with previous projects, refreshing, and their genuine and open mindsets help us to continue thinking critically and find new ways to think. The application of scientific methods and modern tools like design thinking also greatly assists our approaches. The long-lasting and excellent cooperation with Aalen University is an important element in advancing the knowledge transfer between our company and academics, but also in terms of personal development and networking.