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Focus on health crucial for dealers in edible oils

By Rajul Malde | Oct 5th 2018 | 4 min read

People are becoming more health conscious and shifting to products that deliver this core aspiration. Rising prevalence of lifestyle diseases and a rapidly expanding, mostly urban, middle class population, are some of the factors underpinning this shift. Changing consumer tastes and preferences built into this health-centric mindset have made innovation in consumer goods manufacturing imperative.

Quality, health matters

Increasingly, consumer brands can no longer hope to compete on the basis of pricing only. Instead, they have to focus more on elements like quality and health value of their products.

This applies to the edible oils industry. The latter forms an important part of Kenya’s manufacturing sector in terms of output, employment and value linkages to key sectors of the economy like agriculture. Last year, the edible oils industry volume was estimated at 480,000 tonnes.

Consumers are also more aware of healthier food options as well as where to source such foods. According to Euromonitor International, Kenyan middle class consumers are more keen on the health benefits of edible commodities. The modern Kenyan consumer boasts more income, is better educated and therefore more discerning and demanding.

Health conscious consumers are more concerned about product ingredients and nutritional impact. As people embrace healthy diet as a safeguard against lifestyle diseases like cancer, hypertension, stroke and diabetes, the ingredients used to prepare and cook meals really matter.

Diet has been found to be a critical factor in the control and management of lifestyle ailments. A healthy diet also helps check obesity, one of the primary drivers of lifestyle ailments. This is why people are paying more attention to what they eat and how they prepare their meals.

An insightful report released recently by consulting firm Deloitte reveals that preferences like health and wellness are informing consumer choices in equal measure if not more than traditional factors like price, quality and convenience. Eighty-eight per cent of the companies surveyed by Deloitte reported introduction of products that are designed to support healthier diets and lifestyles.

These findings reinforce the argument that companies and brands cannot afford to ignore the crucial element of the health of their consumers.

This is compelling evidence that manufacturers of consumer goods, especially food products like edible oils, are switching to innovative product development, marketing and distribution strategies that not only offer a competitive edge, but also provide tangible health and nutrition benefits to consumers. Vegetable oils are a crucial ingredient in food preparation.

With more people switching from processed to healthier forms of diet, what goes into the meal preparation process becomes a significant component of consumer choice.

Targeting the brand

Hence the need for manufacturers to channel more resources into making products that meet the consumer aspiration for a healthy lifestyle. Innovation in this context should involve or target the consumer to grow the business or brand in the long-term.

And this goes beyond making mere nutritional claims to creating products that actually deliver the touted benefits. The true value for the consumer lies in offering them products that meet their lifestyle aspirations, including healthy living.

The edible oil industry must work to ensure that our products meet this goal. Our product innovation cycle must be premised on the thinking that consumer needs come first. Our value proposition should be that our products not only promote a healthy lifestyle but are also affordable and meet consumers’ quality expectations.

With this, the Kenya’s edible oils market will certainly witness further expansion and competition. This offers a unique opportunity to entrench a culture of consumer-oriented innovation in our manufacturing sector.

Increasingly, consumer brands will differentiate themselves through value beyond pricing and quality by including health benefits to the user.

To compete with global brands, local manufacturers can make healthy consumer lifestyle the cornerstone of their innovation agenda. With the Government committed to supporting local manufacturing under the Big Four development blueprint, innovation for the consumer will not only create opportunities to expand production but also develop internationally competitive consumer brands.

Inclusive growth

More importantly, a healthy consumer population provides a base for a competitive and sustainable manufacturing sector. This speaks to inclusive business growth, that is, growth that involves the consumer and factors in their well-being, not just the revenue bottom line.

The more consumers perceive and enjoy the health benefits of various products, and as they increasingly influence product design and packaging, the more loyal they will be to brands that deliver such value. Consumer affinity fostered on innovation is the lifeblood of any business or brand.

Mr Malde is the Commercial Director, Pwani Oil.

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