This report discusses the findings from several case studies, with regards to best practices for marketing nutrition to consumers at the bottom of the pyramid.  

As of 2014, malnutrition remains a widespread issue across the globe. Families living at the BoP spend an average of 60% of their income on food, and yet, undernutrition still accounted for 3 millions deaths among infants and young children. 26% of all children under five are stunted, irremediably reducing their chances of growing into successful adults.

A range of solutions have been developed to improve the quality of nutrition during the critical first 1,000 days of life.  Little is known, however, about the potential contribution of market-based solutions. This report learns from the successes and failures of best practice organizations that successfully sell nutritious complementary foods and supplements for 6-24 month old infants to BoP families in developing countries, concluding with 8 lessons drawn from the analysis of the innovative marketing, sales and distribution approaches of these successful organizations.

Further research is needed to validate and deepen these findings. Yet we hope that they can lead to more large-scale initiatives that leverage market-based mechanisms to bring the benefits of innovative products and services to more families at the BoP, and help solve the scourge of malnutrition.

Key Insights

  1. Marketing nutrition is not (only) about health: the value proposition should provide an immediate satisfaction to the child and convenience for the mother, while meeting local food habits. For example, micronutrient powder has been well accepted in Bangladesh where women are used to cooking with spices that they mix with home prepared food. However, similar powders were a commercial failure in Indonesia where the concept of food supplements and vitamins already existed but in the form of pills – mothers were not attracted to the concept of sprinkling a micronutrient powder on food, in any case not enough to purchase such a powder.

  2. BoP consumers are ready to pay more for nutritious products that they value: mothers want to give their children the most expensive – seen as the best – food they can afford, not the cheapest product on the market

  3. Effective promotion leverages trust and aspirations: this might include promotion or sampling through health professionals (when in line with local laws), aligning the entire caretaker environment to motivate behavior change, and using aspirational (rather than health) messages

  4. Constant reminders and incentives drive compliance,which is key to simultaneously achieve social objectives and economic sustainability for the marketers of these products

  5. When traditional retail exists, in rural and mature markets, it is the most cost efficient distribution channel: beyond marketing practices, daily product availability is necessary for regular use and must be achieved at the lowest possible costs 

  6. Door-to-door sales can create demand and build client loyalty in new urban markets, or in existing markets where consumers demand services which can only be provided by door-to-door 

  7. Optimizing salesforce productivity requires following private sector best practices for other types of fast moving consumer goods, and innovating “frugally” for distribution solutions 

  8. Broadening the customer base is key to building a sustainable business, i.e., by creating additional premium products, catering to a larger population than infants and young children, or carefully leveraging large-scale institutional orders