Increasing community demand for nutritious and safe food via digital tools
To increase consumption of nutritious foods in low-income communities, funders have often focused on improving the supply of food to these areas. However, there is increasing recognition of the need for community-level demand creation, alongside improving supply, to drive real-world change in food consumption behaviours. Even when nutritious food products are available people may not be motivated to purchase or consume them. To create demand for nutritious foods we must understand community members’ values, motivators and decisions around food purchases and create messages that are tailored to their priorities to effectively influence behaviours.
Digital tools can be a powerful way to engage low-income communities at scale and to rapidly test the effectiveness of different kinds of messages to drive real-world changes in food consumption behaviours. In 2020, Every1Mobile and Bopinc demonstrated the effectiveness of Every1Mobile’s digital platform and behaviour change approach to increase demand for, and purchase of, a nutritionally fortified maize powder (Yellow Ogi by GraceCo) among low-in come, bottom of the pyramid consumers in Lagos with funding from 2SCALE.
The key results from the digital programme were:
- Result 1: Increased community demand for, and purchase of, nutritionally fortified maize powder (YellowOgi by GraceCo).
- Result 2: Tested the effectiveness of different kinds of messages to drive food consumption behaviour change.
We implemented the programme via the Every1Mobile digital platform and our on-the-ground network of Patent and Proprietary Medicine Vendors (PPMVs) who were registered on Naijacare. Naijacare is Every1Mobile’s digital community of 250 PPMVs in Lagos who can access digital tools that build their business capacity and the quality of healthcare services they provide to communities. PPMVs are one of the primary channels for healthcare provision in low-income communities in Nigeria.
We involved 11 PPMVs from Naijacare in the programme. These PPMVs were provided with nutritionally fortified maize powder (Yellow Ogi by GraceCo) stock for them to sell and were asked to recruit 5-10 female customers to participate in the programme. These customers received behaviour change messaging, via Whatsapp, and e-discount vouchers, via SMS, that could be redeemed at the PPMVs to purchase Yellow Ogi at a reduced price.
We measured changes in the female customers’ knowledge, attitude and practices (KAP) in two ways – firstly, customers who participated in the Whatsapp group took part in a pre and post discussion survey and secondly, redemption of the discount vouchers enabled us to remotely track changes in purchasing behaviour.
Result 1: Increased community demand for, and purchase of, nutritionally fortified maize powder (Yellow Ogi by GraceCo)
103 female consumers were recruited by the PPMVs to participate in the study. The women were enrolled in WhatsApp groups for 4 weeks, where a fictional character called Mama Bose guided them through a discussion. Mama Bose shared the benefits of Yellow Ogi and facilitated engagement about recipes and personal experiences with the product. Alongside the Whatsapp discussions the women received e-discount vouchers, via SMS, that could be redeemed at the PPMVs for discounted Yellow Ogi.
Increased demand for, and purchase of, Yellow Ogi by GraceCo:
- 8% increase over the intervention period in the number of women who agreed that eating Yellow Ogi was important because it is healthy and nutritious.
- 16% increase over the intervention period in the number of women who purchased Yellow Ogi using the e-discount vouchers.
- Over half the PPMVs requested additional Yellow Ogi during the programme period because community demand outstripped supply.
Increased demand for hygienically sealed food products:
- 58% more women reported they bought Yellow Ogi in a professionally sealed sachet by the end of the project period, which demonstrated increased awareness of the importance of purchasing hygienically sealed and stored food.
Increased knowledge of Yellow Ogi by GraceCo:
- 46% more women knew about the GraceCo brand by the end of the project period.
Result 2: Measured the effectiveness of different kinds of messages drive behaviour change
The 103 female consumers were randomly allocated to one of two cohorts for the WhatsApp group discussions. Both cohorts received messaging that included the full range of benefits of Yellow Ogi but with nuanced emphasis (details below). Both cohorts received e-discount vouchers that could be redeemed at the PPMVs to purchase Yellow Ogi at a reduced price. Tracking the voucher redemption rates of the cohorts enabled us to identify which messages were most effective to drive changes in purchasing behaviours.
Cohort A – Product Benefit Messaging: Messages focused on convenience, storage, product lifespan and value for money of Yellow Ogi by GraceCo. Eg. tasty and affordable recipes.
Cohort B – Health Benefit Messaging: Messages focus on the hygiene and nutritional benefits Yellow Ogi by GraceCo can bring to the consumers’ families. Eg. tasty and healthy recipes.
Both groups had high voucher redemption rates indicating that both kinds of message were effective. Health benefit messaging led to a slightly higher reception rate. Cohort A (product benefit) had a 43% voucher redemption rate whereas Cohort B (health benefit) had a slightly higher voucher redemption rate of 54%.
Certain messaging resulted in greater prioritisation of certain product benefits. In both cohorts there was an increase in the number of women who said they wanted Ogi that was in a professionally sealed sachet. However this increase was greater in Cohort A (5% to 78%) compared to Cohort B (9% to 55%) which reflects the fact that Group A received more of an emphasis on the benefit of the hygienic packaging of the GraceCo product.
Generating community-level demand for nutritious food, alongside improving food supply chains, is essential to drive real-world changes in food consumption behaviours. Digital tools can be a powerful way to engage low-income communities at scale and to rapidly test the effectiveness of different kinds of messages to drive real-world changes in food consumption behaviours.
Our study demonstrated the effectiveness of Every1Mobile’s digital platform to remotely test and track the impact of different messages on food purchasing and consumption behaviours and to increase community demand for Yellow Ogi by GraceCo (a nutritionally fortified maize powder) among low-income, bottom of the pyramid consumers in Lagos.
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