Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Team Food - Agriculture 2

I was fortunate to spend 5 additional days in Peru traveling to Cusco, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and of course, Machu Picchu. We were assisted in our travels by a local tour company that provided a driver and guides. Overall, contact with these folks as well as people we met during our visit to Lima, provided a richer context with which to think about the research my team had done about the social context of Peru. We had researched the diversity of the Peruvian population and indeed, my time spent in Peru confirmed this. I met 3 Peruvians with Asian ancestry:
  1. Irene—a colleague of Tom Winston’s at Oracle whose family roots are in Japan
  2. Gilberto—a driver whose father immigrated from Canton as a child
  3. Dr. Cecilia Ono—a research scientist at CPX who also had Japanese roots
Interestingly, all 3 identified themselves as Peruvian and Irene and Gilberto knew little of their ancestral cultures and didn’t speak their ancestral languages. Food seemed to be the strongest link to their Asian ancestry. Cecilia, on the other hand, spoke fluent Japanese and even received her PhD from Tokyo University. While I was in the Cusco area, I saw a more indigenous population. Our travel guides were both from the area and had a lot of cultural pride on their indigenous ancestry. They spoke about their regret that they could not speak Quechan. They said they were not taught their ancestral language at school and were discouraged from speaking it. However, times have changed. Now, children in the Cusco area are formally taught Quechan and encouraged to speak it in an effort to preserve the language and traditions. In fact, students of the national university in Cusco must demonstrate proficiency in Quechan to graduate. While Irene, Cecilia, Gilberto, Alex and Karina (our travel guides) all had different backgrounds from one another, they all identified themselves as Peruvian, essentially expressing strong cultural identity with a strong national identity.

We heard a lot during site visits of the challenges reaching Peruvian consumers. Andres Abusada at InkaCrops explained why he exports his products rather than trying to distribute to the many small bodegas where most Peruvians shop. Andres also described that most of these small bodegas carry single serving or smaller sized products because that is how many Peruvians buy fast moving consumer goods. At class visits, this type of consumer behavior was also confirmed by the CEO of Quicorp Peru. I observed this at a pharmacy in Ollyantambo, a small village in the Sacred Valley. While looking around to see what medications could be bought without a prescription, I observed a customer buying 2 tablets of what we would call Pepto Bismol in the US. Our local guide, Karina, also took us to the San Pedro Market in Cusco. She explained that there are no supermarkets in Cusco, the 4th largest city in Peru and that the local populace still buys food daily.

She said that Peruvians feel it is important to use all 5 senses in evaluating food in the market to buy and that she would find it strange to go to a supermarket and buy fruit or meat pre-packaged. She says she has relationships with sellers of fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, etc.. She also says that going to the market is a social event, particularly on Sundays when she tends to run into people she knows. She is exactly the middle class demographic we have been reading so much about and is even a working mother with 2 young sons. Yet, despite how busy she is, she still prefers to shop in a traditional market. While there will be tremendous opportunities to create value for this customer segment, old traditions are still very important and not so easily changed.

Peggy Chou Team "Aggie 2" (Food/Agriculture2)

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