It is clear that a key component of improving the health of poor populations is related to their diets to be enhanced. Indeed, many efforts are being made to improve the nutritional content of the food available in emerging countries, such as enhancing agricultural techniques and fortifying existing food products with additional nutrients.
However, it may not be enough to simply place better quality alternatives in front of poor consumers. In addition to providing populations with access to better products, it is critical to ensure that demand for these types of products is created. This involves changing cultural habits and educating consumers about the importance and health benefits of more nutritious food items.
Lessons on how to do this can be learned from the private sector, since food companies have been perfecting ways to get consumers to learn about and buy new types of food products for years. This is how marketing can help the poor.
For example, Hellmans recently embarked on a campaign to increase mayonnaise consumption in Brazil by printing recipes that use mayonnaise in unconventional ways on the backs of the supermarket receipts of customers. This was a clever way to show consumers that mayonnaise can be used for more than just making sandwiches, and sales increased by 44% just in the first month of the campaign.
This same type of campaign could be used to help educate and change the habits of consumers in relation to more nutritious foods, such as supplements or food products that have been fortified with micro-nutrients.
There is already evidence that marketing can be used to increase the consumption of fortified products. For example, Nestlè fortified its Maggi bouillon cubes with iron knowing that these are popular products in West and Central Africa. If consumers in these regions, who purchase 100 million bouillon cubes per day, would switch to the fortified type, the iron intake of millions of people could be increased through the sale of a simple, low-cost product.
The challenge was to ensure that consumers would prefer to buy the fortified product over the one they were already used to buying. In order to make this happen, Nestlè launched a campaign that involved a road tour through Cameroon, the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nigeria featuring cooking demonstrations and presentations on the benefits of micro-nutrients. These initiatives reached 50,000 people directly in just Nigeria, providing individuals with information not only about the Maggi product but also about the general health benefits of cooking with healthy and fresh ingredients.
These types of efforts, if employed in relation to other health-related initiatives, can ultimately help to change cultural habits and increase awareness about nutrition and the importance of micronutrients, creating a built-in demand for fortified products and healthier food in general.
It is therefore critical that lessons are learned regarding how marketing can help the poor. This knowledge could be applied not only to the sale of nutrient-fortified products but to any number of goods and services that can help improve the health and lives of the world’s poor. Companies targeting the bottom of the pyramid have already shown that the world’s poor represent a massive block of consumers. The challenge now is to ensure that these consumers are sufficiently informed to make consumption choices that will help improve their health and their lives.
– Caroline Poterio Martinez
Source: Next Billion