Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
The modern consumer is more informed and discerning than ever before. They have access to a wealth of information regarding food and its production, and they are increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of their choices. This presents both a challenge and an opportunity for producers.
On the one hand, producers need to be aware of the changing preferences of consumers. They need to produce food that is healthy, sustainable, and convenient. They also need to be transparent about their production practices and the environmental impact of their products.
On the other hand, the changing preferences of consumers also create new opportunities for producers. By meeting the needs of these consumers, producers can differentiate themselves from their competitors and capture a larger share of the market.
During a recent Nation in Conversation discussion held at Nampo 2023, a panel of experts explored the changing food preferences and consumption patterns of consumers. The panel was moderated by Theo Vorster of Galileo Capital, and included Prof Naushad Emmambux of the University of Pretoria, Johan van Deventer, retired Freshmark CEO, Marina Fourie of Red Meat Industry Services (RMIS), and Wolfe Braude of the Agbiz Fruit Desk.
Prof Emmambux started off by discussing the issues of undernutrition, overconsumption, and micronutrient deficiency that exist in many consumer segments. He noted that these issues are caused by a variety of factors, including the consumption of food that is high in energy but low in nutrients. He also highlighted the importance of fortifying high-energy foods such as bread with beans and pulses, as this can help to reduce our reliance on wheat and improve the nutritional value of these foods.
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Consumer insights and education are key
Van Deventer then discussed how different consumers buy fresh produce. He noted that supermarket chains that target lower-income consumers often sell produce in its unprocessed form, while chains that target higher-income consumers sell ready-to-eat products. He also warned that lower-end consumers should not be neglected, as they represent a much larger segment of the market than higher-end consumers.
Fourie emphasised the fact that consumers do not always conform to producers’ or organised agriculture’s perception of them. She stressed the importance of conducting thorough market research to determine the preferences of each consumer segment. She also highlighted the importance of educating consumers regarding sustainability.
If consumers have a basic understanding of the farm-to-fork process, producers can market their produce more effectively. Tailored messages regarding sustainable farming practices and climate change factors such as methane production can help raise awareness among different consumer segments.
Braude turned the discussion to international trends. He noted that consumers in markets such as the United States and Europe have particular preferences with regards to packaging. They want to move away from single-use plastics, a trend that could also spill over into South Africa’s higher-income markets.
The key takeaway message from the panel discussion was that consumers have diverse preferences, and producers need to leverage consumer insights to target different segments. By meeting consumer needs, producers can differentiate themselves from their competitors and capture a larger share of the market. – Renate Louw, Plaas Media