Nutrition studies

Hunger ranks higher than health in Bangladesh

Arla Foods Ingredients finds that low-income families choose filling food before nutrition. A new affordable food strategy is on the way.

Nutrition is not the number one priority for low-income consumers in Bangladesh, an Arla Foods Ingredients study has revealed. When money is tight, the top need is to buy the most filling and tasty food so the family doesn’t going hungry.

For the mothers doing the shopping, the most important concern is that the food appeals to their children.

“They see the kids as the future – their health and education is the hope of the family. The kids are always pushing their mothers to try something new, usually a snack they have seen on the television,” comments Barbara Fouchet, who designed and conducted the focus group study.

Understanding eating habits
The aim of the study was to understand the daily eating habits of Bangladeshi people on the lowest incomes and how they manage their budget. Out of a population of 169 million, more than one third live on $1.25 a day.

In the capital Dhaka, however, a typical low income is around $4 a day. Here, 30 women participated in the study, where they were asked about the foods they buy, their perception of nutrition, and how they are influenced by advertising.

Volume and taste are most important
“Our findings show that fish, meat and milk are the products the women stop buying first if they are short of money because they prioritize volume and taste. If their income goes up, then they would buy more dairy products and snacks to please the kids,” Barbara Fouchet says.

“Doctors have the biggest influence on the women’s perception of nutrition, because they are seen as being trustworthy due to their education.”

Packaged products are also trusted as they are often sold under well-known brands, so they are regarded as being safe.

Insights for an affordable food strategy
Arla Foods Ingredients will use the insights in the development of an affordable food strategy to meet consumer needs for volume, taste and nutrition. The study in Bangladesh has also provided the framework for similar studies to be carried out in other countries with a high proportion of low-income consumers.

According to the Access to Global Nutrition Index, food and beverage manufacturers can both help to address poor nutrition and dietary patterns by increasing consumers’ access to nutritious and affordable foods.  Responsible marketing can also influence consumers’ buying choices.

“Many of our customers are already working towards improving the availability of affordable food,” says Barbara Fouchet.

“At Arla Foods Ingredients, we want to support this trend. Our market studies provide important knowledge about the needs and wants of consumers on very low incomes, so we can develop relevant, nutritious ingredient solutions.” 

Find more information about the Access to Global Nutrition Index at accesstonutrition.org. To learn more about the Arla Foods Ingredients study in Bangladesh, contact ingredients@arlafoods.com.