Natural Juice, Lower Prices and Delivery at BoP Consumers’ Doorsteps: IRA Juice!
Written by Rosanna Martucci, Project Officer Food Security
It is 8AM and trucks and cars are parked in the courtyard of Promo Fruits’ processing plant in Allada, Benin, waiting to be unloaded of large amounts of pineapples. The same cars will soon leave empty, directed again towards the farms. In the meantime at the plant, the pineapples are manually pealed and mechanically washed, cut and squeezed. The result of this is a fresh and natural juice, that is pasteurized and packed in cans and tetra packs of different volumes under the label of IRA. The juice is very popular on the Beninese market, but is also traded across the borders to neighbouring countries in West Africa. Despite being locally produced, IRA juice is still difficult to access by BoP consumers in Benin. As highlighted in a market study carried out by 2SCALE, IRA is scarcely available through market channels used by BoP consumers; there still is limited awareness about its fresh quality, and its price is still too high for many.
Since 2014, 2SCALE has been working alongside Promo Fruits to improve its outreach to BoP consumers in Benin by launching creative and informative marketing campaigns, rethinking distribution models to overcome last-mile distribution challenges and testing more cost-effective packaging options to contain the final price. These initiatives can greatly improve marketing and distribution strategies for businesses to better satisfy BOP consumers’ needs and aspirations. In the past two years, Promo Fruits has tested several of these ideas with the support of 2SCALE.
In the first place, to strengthen IRA brand and improve its marketing, a new and more appealing label was introduced for the packaging. A competition was launched in the Netherlands that challenged 10 teams with each three students from the Graphic Lyceum in Utrecht, to create an attractive design that represents the freshness and natural taste of IRA juice. The most suitable design was chosen by Promo Fruits Managing Director Dieudonné and is showed below (read more on this here).
As already mentioned, the current price ranging from 250 CFA (0.38 EUR) to 1000 CFA (1.52 EUR) on average is not affordable to most BoP consumers. To bring the price down, Promo Fruits and 2SCALE identified three possible distribution models that would allow direct distribution in urban and peri-urban settings, instead of the current distribution through wholesalers. Different and cheaper packaging solutions were also tested. The ideas were tried out in Allada and Cotonou for a period of six months starting from June 2016 onwards. In Allada, juice was sold by agents on bikes and push carts; in Cotonou, juice was sold on push-carts either alone or in combination with sandwiches at a discount. Juice was sold in 250ml drink cartons for 250 CFA (0.38 EUR), in 200ml drink cartons for 200 CFA (0.30 EUR) and in 150ml biodegradable packages for 75 CFA (0.11 EUR).
The three distribution models were very much appreciated by BoP consumers, the vendors and the company: sales and outreach increased. Thanks to the bikes and push carts, IRA fresh and natural juice was delivered at consumers’ doorstep in markets, nearby schools and hospitals and in crowded streets downtown. Vendors reported averages of 30,700 CFA (around 46,80 EUR) per day from sales on bikes, 23,457 CFA (35,75 EUR) from sales on pushcarts in Cotonou and 21650 CFA (33 EUR) from sales on pushcarts in Allada!
Consumers were very happy about the quality and packaging options offered through the three different models. In our evaluation study 65% of them said they appreciated the juice and sandwich combination for the easy digestibility of the sandwich after the consumption of the fresh juice. According to 86% of the consumers, the drink cartons better preserved the juice quality while keeping its price reasonable and affordable. Similarly, the can packaging was highly appreciated by 91% of the consumers, although due to the slightly higher price it was more often purchased by consumers with higher purchasing power. Only the biodegradable packaging appeared to be less of a success, since 35% of the consumers experienced difficulties opening the packaging and found the taste of the juice was slightly altered.
Apart from expanding the access to the BoP consumers and business opportunities for Promo Fruits, the pilots have granted new economic opportunities for 13 agents, of whom 6 are women. They all affirmed their work as sales agents positively contributed to support their household. In the scale-up phase there will be an effort to use lighter materials for bikes and baskets, to enable vendors to use them on the hilly roads of Benin when they are filled with juice and ice.
Building on the successes and learnings gathered throughout the pilot phase, Promo Fruits will implement the three distribution models at a full scale in 2017. The company will welcome financial support to establish a network of 10 independent agents located around the country and each working with 10 distributors (5 bikes and 5 push-carts). Promo Fruits Managing Director Dieudonné is thrilled with the idea that IRA juice will originate from surrounding fields, go through the processing plant, and end up directly in the hands of so many BoP consumers and contribute to their nutritional needs!