I read a great interview with the inimitable Paul Polak yesterday. He talks about why big companies should think little: the miniaturization of products. Polak is a thought leader in designing and delivering innovative strategies to reach base of the pyramid (BOP) consumers with affordable and aspirational goods and services. He has identified some simple principles to follow to help provide the 1.2 billion people living in poverty with an opportunity to transform their lives: design (everyone likes nice things); simplicity (back to basics – no frills); affordability (for those living on less than $2 a day) and miniaturization.
Delivering products in small unit sizes is a strategy widely acknowledged as effective in reaching low-income consumers – low price – high volume. Lowering the purchase barrier enables better access to goods of services for the poor and there are great examples in agriculture (seed packets), telecoms (low value talk time vouchers) and consumer products (soap sachets).
Polak cites the Green Revolution where “miracle seeds” were designed and delivered in tiny packets to make them affordable to farmers. This was a great step forward but many of the seeds required complex irrigation and irrigation could not be divided into miniature affordable pieces. It is only recently that the agriculture industry has focused on making tools smaller and cheaper enabling the true realization of the potential of miracle seeds.
I love bottom-up innovation and Polak’s blog got me thinking about my own consumer habits and what I could learn from his core principles. I was with my friend Jenn in London’s Borough Market yesterday and we both commented on how we wanted to eat a little bit of everything, not a lot of something. I am very aware of the volume of “ready to go” food that I buy, my personal wastage (food and money) and that of others. Put simply, for me and many of my friends, portion sizes are too large.
I would love to be able to buy a half sandwich (like this delicious looking thing I eyed up yesterday), a mini chocolate bar and a small bunch of grapes for my lunch. With a few exceptions (three cheers for Pret a Manger and their single slice sandwiches!) I am not able to do this without resorting to products aimed at kids or nasty low calorie options.
BOP entrepreneurs provide small unit sizes to make their products affordable to the poor. What can the UK food industry learn from them? Think small to get big?
(I am all for new and innovative products on the food market. But goaty ice-cream? Not so sure!)