Marketing Challenges in Rwanda: Nutrition vs. Size

At our bakeries in Rwanda, TWB teaches women to bake and sell nutritious breads. These breads run the range from fortified white bread to highly nutritious, protein packed muffins and biscuits.

One of the regular hurdles we face in our work in Rwanda is mindset change.

We are trying, over time, to change people’s preferences so that they choose a nutritious bread over a fried bread. We are trying to convince people to choose quality over quantity. We are trying to get customers to try new kinds of breads and to develop a taste for unique options like carrot muffins, beet muffins, and peanut biscuits, along with the more standard breads and rolls they are already familiar with. Sometimes, it happens quickly and people love a product right away. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen at all.

We’ve all heard the sentiment that, “the customer is always right.” When you are in the food industry, this can quickly become overwhelming. Each customer has their own individual preference. Every day in our bakeries we hear reports of what customers are saying.

It’s good, it’s sweet, it’s too sweet, it’s too salty, there isn’t enough salt, it’s too soft, it’s too hard, I don’t like peanuts, the peanut biscuits are my favorite, it’s too small…The list goes on and on. The challenge is to sort through all of this feedback and decide what is consensus from most customers and what is limited to a few individual’s opinions.

From this, we revise and adjust. Do we increase the sugar content a little? Can we increase the size without losing too much profit?

And this is where TWB also has to regularly challenge our own mindsets.

Though one of our goals as an organization is to improve community access to nutritious products, and thereby improve community nutrition, we are often challenged by the local preferences and standards: large size over nutritional value, different taste palates, incredibly low cost bread from competition using low quality ingredients. From our standpoint, it may seem like a simple choice to choose the higher quality, more nutritious bread that is still the same price as the other things on the market, even if it is a little smaller.

As we market to the bottom of the pyramid, however, we need to take all of the local preferences and standards very seriously. If people prioritize size, regardless of nutritional value, we need to understand why. We need to understand why our rationale of nutritional value isn’t enough, by itself, to convince most potential customers to buy something that is smaller than what they are used to.

As part of our team wraps up an Acumen Course called Marketing to the Bottom of the Pyramid, we hope to increase our understanding of our target customers, and learn how to best market our products to them in a way that resonates and turns potential buyers into regular buyers of our quality, nutritious breads.