Posted by Dola Adeboye

On May 21, 2020


Excerpts of webinar delivered by Mr Charles Chiaka Nkwoala of South East Chapter of NIFST

Food product development as a key aspect of Food Science and Technology in Nigeria needs to adapt to the new norm post COVID 19.

Product development is a process that begins with the generation of an idea, goes through the development of the product from that idea (in a lab or pilot plant) and ends with the successful commercialisation of the resulting new product (market launching and large-scale production).

However, in food product development researches in Nigeria, which form a huge part of undergraduate and postgraduate research projects in Food Science and Technology in tertiary institutions, the NPD process is incomplete. Most times, it breaks off just before the final stage of commercialisation; ending in publication of laboratory findings instead (so that students can graduate).

An important aspect of developing a new product is design and development informed by the target market for said product. There in comes the need for social marketing strategies to be employed in New Food Product Development (NPD) researches. This aspect of NPD is skipped in today’s research strategies in FST.

Post COVID 19, peoples’ outlook on lifestyle will change to conform to a new normal – improved personal hygiene, working from home, more savings from disposable income. This in turn will affect their food selection behaviour. (they have learnt to experiment and cook at home during the lockdown, they now consider the hygienic production processes involved before buying pre-packaged food products on supermarket shelves, etc). Food quality will be considered based on a balance between wants and needs/necessity.

Therefore, NPD researches in FST going forward will need to redefine quality attributes associated with food products based on the new normal and will need to implement a consumer-focused idea generation in product development. The new realities facing consumers cannot be understood by a single researcher in a laboratory or even by pre-existing literature because, realities will have changed.

The social marketing strategy focuses on generating data and ideas from consumers by investigating individual attitudes, reactions, behaviours and preferences and then applying these in the NPD process; thereby prioritizing characteristics identified as most important by the consumers.

The social marketing mix further extends the traditional marketing mix of the 4Ps – Product (what type of product and for whom?), Place (where should it be displayed and to attract who?), Promotion (whose interest should it capture?) and Price (how much are consumers willing to pay?) by adding an extra P – People who lie at the centre of the development process as they have to be considered for the other 4Ps. As a result, consumers should not just be passive buyers because, as appetizing and nutritious as a product may seem, its quality and benefits can only be appreciated by consumer demands.

Co-creation between consumers and researchers reduces the risk of product failure and enhances successful commercialisation of a product because researchers will develop a better understanding of consumer needs which they can already incorporate at early stages of NPD.

Practically, researchers will need to develop the skills to conduct consumer surveys, collate and interpret generated ideas and then integrate food regulations and standards inline with consumer suggestions. Consumer opinions can be generated by personal interviews, focus groups, survey questionnaires and consumer marketing databases. In Sensory evaluation for instance, the commonly used sensory attributes – colour, texture, flavour and taste are assumed to be of equal importance to consumers and so are equally weighted. However, if consumer opinions are sought, then a longer list of quality attributes to focus on during product development can be generated and weighted according to their importance to consumers.

Consumer behaviour and lifestyle which encompasses food selection and preferences is a dynamic phenomenon which will change post COVID-19 and may not be answered for using laboratory instruments. Therefore, there is a need for food researchers to incorporate consumer opinions in researches going forward. Social marketing offers a key for new food products to leave laboratory shelves and enter the market successfully.

Submitted by: Prof Nneoma Obasi

Chairman South East Chapter of NIFST

Please find here the presentation: