What the customer wants...
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CTA. 1999. What the customer wants.... Spore 83. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to cite or share this item: https://hdl.handle.net/10568/48552
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Customer preferences in food products, whether in ACP States or elsewhere, are forever changing, driven by the fashions and fads of the local urban market, and interregional and international markets. Farmers and food processors who are interested...
Customer preferences in food products, whether in ACP States or elsewhere, are forever changing, driven by the fashions and fads of the local urban market, and interregional and international markets. Farmers and food processors who are interested in expanding their business have to take customer choice into account, and follow the rule of law, and the rule of thumb, as far as hygiene, quality and product image is concerned. A dish of starch, accompanied by a sauce of sorts to help it down, has been the basis of nine in ten of mankind's meals since the beginning of time. In ACP countries the model varies according to the ingredients of the one (starch, cassava meal, rice, banana, sorghum, maize) or the other (fish, chicken, meat, vegetables, leaves and condiments). There are, though, changes afoot in consumer tastes for food. Urban demand is growing, and food processing enterprises are expanding their range of products, sometimes with the traditional being given a modern, processed, presentation (powdered yam, cassava flour, peanut butter, ground peppers). New products are emerging in response to the needs of migrant communities who bring in new food habits. The forefront of these changes is often at the level of the street food stalls, popular for their practicality as well as their exotic side. Imported products are now being easily taken up: they are cheaper than local products, and they meet the needs both of urban consumers and mobile vendors in terms of ease of use and quality. Rice, Maggi stock cubes, tomato concentrate from Turkey, Italy and Greece, bread and canned corned beef are pushing local products aside. Some nostalgic souls (men!) deplore the arrival of artificial manufactured flavouring in the family kitchen, though it does not stop them from 'shamelessly dipping a chunk of bread smeared with mayonnaise from a tube in a cup of Nescafé sweetened with concentrated milk'. As for the women of the household, they free themselves from the kitchen to pursue their busy lives outside, seemingly rattling their spoons like swords. Packaging adds value Packaging is the way forward, even in developing countries: packaging a product gives it appeal, keeps it in good condition, and seduces the customer. Small problem : not everyone can afford it. Many food processing enterprises, small in size and usually in the informal sector, are put off by the complexity of modern packaging and the investment it requires. In Côte d'Ivoire, for example, where the packaging industry is the most developed and diversified of all West African countries, steps are under way to make the best possible use of existing resources and make inexpensive and good quality packaging materials available to local businesses. The Kraft food company is studying the production of paper packing from bagasse (crushed sugar cane) and local and imported recycled paper; another study is on the use of coconut coir for making string; a project for sisal cultivation is underway, and a pilot plant is starting produce cardboard boxes to replace imported packaging. In Burkina Faso, three small Ouagadougou firms producing dried foods have come with several solutions for soft packaging (which makes up almost 35% of the product's cost price). The first replaced its handicraft printed packaging with one produced industrially, with a zippy modern look. The second producer found a market niche by using packaging produced on the premises. And the third sells part of its output using generic packaging (without any brand name) shared with other firms, thus latching into more promotion possibilities and sales networks. It still uses its own brand packaging for its own special product lines. New life for local products Thanks to processing techniques, new products can be developed from familiar local primary products. And so it has come to pass that many businesses and cooperatives have launched whole product lines based on a narrow range of farm produce. Take the case of Molige, a small processing company in Cameroon which produces jams and fruit juices. By using a variety of packaging from 35 grams to 7 kg it can serve clients ranging from household level, through hotels, to airlines. Similarly women's groups have processed products on offer. Often they breathe new life into surplus materials : biscuits based on groundnuts, natural drinks made from cereals and wild fruits, and wine from sorghum, sorrel and guava. Such processed products do not yet have a firm foothold in local markets, however, due to the combination of local consumers' weak purchasing power and strong competition from traditional and imported goods. More success can be found in the wholesale markets of Europe where there are some runaway winners such as the Côte d'Ivoire cooperative Promexa, which sells its atiéké (cassava couscous) as far afield as Europe. These leaders have met the pre-conditions of overcoming not a few obstacles in transport and conservation, and of fulfilling the veritable arsenal of very strict hygiene and quality standards. Hygiene and quality labelling The quality of marketed food products depends primarily on the processors. But they depend on improvements in both products and hygiene upstream, on the farm. And these are seen differently from culture to culture, embracing not only the actual hygiene of the product itself, but also of its 'environment' (packaging, storage, transport). Hence the importance of a food code to protect consumer health, underlined in 1985 by a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly which called upon governments to support and adopt the standards of the Codex Alimentarius of the FAO and the World Health Organisation. These standards cover the general principles dealing with food additives, contaminants, analysis and sampling methods, and labelling of all foods. They provide a real code of conduct for the international foodstuffs industry. Many developing countries have established bodies for control and standardisation which will guarantee consumer food safety and the quality of commercialised foods. In Burkina Faso, a sanitary programme has been running for a decade in the field of poultry: 500 vaccinators work to build up the awareness of poultry breeders on issues of animal health, and, ultimately, of consumer health issues. In Senegal the Office for the Control of Fishery Products has been designated by the authorities as the competent body for checking sanitary standards. Bodies like these essentially deal with food products destined for the export market, but they should ? along with the standards of the Codex Alimentarius ? provide practical guidelines for the marketing and improvement of products for the local and regional markets. For further reading: Appropriate food packaging Fellows, P., Axtell, B. ILO/TOOL, 1993, 146pp, ISBN 90 7085728 6 CTA No. 462, 20 credit points Drying foodstuffs Rozis, J.-F. (ed) Backhuys/FAO/GERES/NEDA, 1997, 309pp, ISBN 90 73348 75 7 CTA No. 844, 40 credit points Making safe food. A guide to safe food handling and packaging for small scale producers Fellows, P., Hidellage, V. Co-publication CTA/IT Publications, 1993, 42pp. CTA No. 461, 5 credit points Manuals of food quality control. 17. Unacceptable visible can defects -a pictorial manual, 32pp, FAO, 1998. FAO Food and Nutrition Papers. ISBN 9251041768. US$ 8, e 7.50
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