Consumer demand and processed foods in Nigeria: A complex, evolving picture

Nigeria faces many of the challenges confronting other low and middle-income countries today. Rapid development, high population growth, and rural-urban migration are leading to swelling cities and a new set of issues. Urban food demand is different from that in rural areas, as consumers seek more convenient foods, many of them processed, resulting in a quickly evolving food system. These consumers may also lead more sedentary lifestyles, making them susceptible to malnutrition in the form of overweight and obesity. At the same time, under-nutrition also remains a substantial concern, particularly in rural areas, while micronutrient deficiencies are a persistent problem throughout the country.

Policymakers need information on what kinds of interventions can effectively combat these simultaneous challenges and ensure that people have access to healthy foods. To help inform those decisions, we used the Nigeria Living Standards Measurement Survey data, collected between 2011 and 2016, to examine how demand for food has evolved in recent years as well as how it responds to within-household fluctuations in welfare, focusing on both the level of processing and food eaten away from home. Our research revealed a complex and nuanced picture of consumer demand for processed foods. We also identified several data shortcomings that need to be addressed to better understand the dynamics of these food systems before determining best courses of action and future policy interventions.