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The “Quality Turn”: The Growing Opportunity in Africa

Danny Trench Bowles, International Insights & Planning Specialist, Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board

15th September 2020

Africa is emerging as the world’s next great consumer market. 4 of the world’s fastest growing economies are on the continent and the population is increasingly young, urban and middle class. With these shifts, there has been a so-called “quality turn” in the continent’s food and drink.



Irish Producers Making Inroads

Our food producers are gaining from this quality turn, especially in the dairy sector. The local agricultural capacity is unable to meet the growing demand for quality, and Irish producers have benefitted. Year to date, there has been a 34% increase in the value of dairy exports, on top of a similar increase last year. Fat-filled milk powder makes up half of these exports, but there is stronger year-to-date growth for whey milk powder, casein and skimmed milk powder, as demand increases for all dairy ingredients. We are equally seeing a boost in demand for Ireland’s premium gins and whiskeys, poultry and PCF products.

Africa’s More Demanding & Higher-Spending Consumer

Africa represents 54 distinct countries and markets but the key trends that are pushing the quality turn are occurring across the continent. Continuing urban and middle class growth is creating a more demanding consumer, looking for modern, high quality food products that meet their lifestyle and wellbeing needs, and those of their family. These trends have coincided with economies opening up, allowing into the market more international players and a large amount of new products. African consumers say they want to try these new products, with 8 in 10 saying “every year, there are more things I want to buy” (BCG, 2019).

nd they are willing to pay a premium for the products that matter. That same survey suggested milk is the product consumers are happiest to pay a premium for. Looking at food and drink innovation in Africa, there are a huge number of new milk powder products on the shelves. Human health claims around the benefits of quality dairy are becoming more and more common on these products, as African consumers demand a healthier and more functional product. We also see many new premium spirits and confectionary in the market, as the growing middle class seek more treats and indulgence.

Of course, there are challenges in entering African markets. Supply and cold chain infrastructure is underdeveloped, but developing. The threat of Covid-19 cannot be discounted as consumers may become more price-conscious, and restrictions have seen a big hit on alcohol sales in the short-term. But shifts to hyper and supermarkets away from traditional retailers as a result of restrictions may make distribution easier. And trends towards a younger, more urban, more economically mobile population will continue, making Africa an exciting market for Irish goods as the “quality turn” continues.  

BCG (2018). African Consumer Sentiment 2019: Optimism and an Eagerness to Spend. Available at: https://www.bcg.com/publications/2019/african-consumer-sentiment-optimism-eagerness-to-spend 

Bord Bia (2020). Performance & Prospects. Available at: https://www.bordbiaperformanceandprospects.com/

Mintel (2020). A Focus on Food Innovation in Africa.

Mintel (2020). Global New Product Database.

Nicolas Ranniger (2019). Africa: A Market of Huge Potential. Irish Farmers Journal. 21 December 2019