A brief introduction to urban food systems in the global south
The Global South, particularly Africa and Asia, is currently experiencing rapid urbanization (UNDESA, 2014). It has been projected that the urban population will increase by 2.5 billion people between 2018 to 2050 with about 90% of this growth occurring in Asia and Africa (UNDESA, 2018). Between 2007 and 2017, the population of the City of Matola increased from 671, 556 to 1, 032, 197 (INE, 2017). The form that this urbanization takes will determine the extent to which cities become sites of prosperity or sites of spatial inequalities, poverty, food insecurity and social exclusion for the urban poor (UN HABITAT, 2016). For many cities in the Global South, this rapid urbanization has led to a wider urbanization of poverty and food insecurity (Frayne et al., 2014).
Within Mozambique, the capital city Maputo, and the secondary city Matola, have experienced population increases within unplanned settlements, giving way to rising unemployment and poverty within the cities (Andersen et al.,2015). This rapid urbanization potentially influences food system transformation and food security. Previous studies within Maputo have illustrated that only about 33% were food secure whilst about 37% were severely food insecure (McCordic & Abrahamo, 2019). There are several interconnections between urbanization and food systems which support access to food. Food systems bring together all processes related to the production, distribution and consumption of food as well as infrastructure and institutions involved (HLPE, 2017).
With urbanization, there is a shift from rural, productionist and government-driven policies towards market driven food system governance, which integrates both corporate and consumer interests (Lang & Barling, 2012). In Global South cities, the traditional and informal food sector comprising of informal street vendors and open air markets are heavily relied upon for providing food access among the urban poor (Crush & Frayne, 2011; Skinner and Haysom, 2017). However, rising incomes, and economic activities associated with urbanization, have increased the demand for sourcing food conveniently and the purchasing of processed food (Reardon et al., 2021).
This trend has created opportunities for various forms of food retail and the influx of large multi-national food businesses including supermarkets which aim to maximize sales and influence how consumers behave and purchase food (HLPE, 2017; Das Nair, 2020). For instance, transnational food and beverage companies, like Heineken, Walmart, and Carrefour, have entered many Sub-Saharan African urban food systems (Baker & Friel, 2016; Raimundo et al., 2018; Nkhonjera & Das Nair, 2018). The spread of supermarkets appears to be catalyzed by rapid urbanization, rising incomes, and the promotion of ultra-processed convenience food spurred by the globalized media and the enhanced use of advanced internet technology (Traill, 2006; Battersby & Watson, 2018).
Supermarketization in urban food systems of the global south
Within this context of urbanizing food systems, Africa has become a growing market for supermarkets, especially Southern Africa (Reardon et al., 2004) where Matola is located. The spread of supermarkets is often referred to as “supermarketization” or “supermarket revolution” which is defined by the increased sale of food products through supermarkets (Das Nair, 2020). Supermarkets have become prominent food sources in cities, drawing consumers from both wealthy and poorer neighborhoods (Traill, 2006). Citywide surveys in Maputo, Mozambique by the Hungry Cities project reveal that a third of households purchased food such as milk, sweets and chocolate from supermarkets (Raimundo et al., 2018). The proliferation of supermarkets in the developing world and their implications for urban food system transformations have become a growing research area (Crush & Frayne, 2011).
Reardon et al. (2019) offer a conceptual framework for understanding food system transformations from traditional to modern food systems. The traditional food system, defined by small food supply chain actors and rural food producers dealing in low processed food, undergoes a transition to a modern food system defined by urban food enterprises selling increasingly processed food (Reardon et al., 2019). Food systems in the modern stage are characterized by widely accessible supermarkets and processed foods (Reardon et al., 2019). Most countries are experiencing these transformations simultaneously with product-specific and location-based variations as consumer behavior changes from the traditional stage to the modern stage via increasingly frequent food purchases from supermarkets (Reardon et al., 2021).
The spread of supermarkets implicated in food system transformations have also been linked to ongoing nutritional and epidemiological transitions (Popkin, 1999, 2001; Baker & Friel, 2016). The nutrition transition describes cultural shifts in dietary preferences towards processed, fatty and sugary foods and shifts in activity levels towards sedentary lifestyles (Popkin, 2001). These marked shifts have influenced non-communicable disease patterns and the intertwined occurrences of undernutrition, stunting and obesity in the last few decades (Popkin, 2001; Popkin, 2004). This phenomenon, termed “the double burden of malnutrition,” or ‘DBM’, has been observed across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia (Popkin, 1999, 2001; Reardon et al., 2021). That said, the implications of the supermarket revolution for this nutrition transition appear to be mixed in the research literature (Popkin, 2021). For instance, recent meta-analyses indicate that the results from investigations into the association between supermarket accessibility and rates of childhood obesity are mixed and further research is needed (Zhou et al., 2021).
These trends have significant implications for local food markets in cities. Studies from the early 2000s predicted that the spread of supermarkets in the Global South would accelerate and overtake local retailers (Reardon et al., 2003; Reardon & Hopkins, 2006). Indeed, some authors have identified growing tensions in price, convenience, quality and safety between traditional retailers and supermarkets (Reardon & Hopkins, 2006; Machado et al., 2017; Makhitha & Khumalo, 2019). However, recent studies indicate that traditional, transitional and local food retailers still dominate sub-Saharan food consumption and purchases (Crush et al., 2018), whilst supermarkets cater for only about 10–20% of total processed food retail (Reardon et al., 2021). Notably, local or traditional food systems have begun to incorporate the sale of ultra-processed foods that were previously only found in supermarkets (Global Panel, 2017).
The diversity of household food sources is displayed in Maputo, Mozambique where common household food sources include supermarkets, traditional markets, small shops, informal street and backyard vendors. According to Raimundo et al., (2018), 91% of households in their survey of households in Maputo purchased food from traditional markets and small shops at least twice weekly whilst only 37% purchased food from supermarkets at least once a week or less. Within the Mozambican context, supermarket products are more often accessed via smaller kiosks and shops rather than at supermarkets themselves (Gómez, & Ricketts, 2013). In other words, patrons may be able to access supermarket products at a variety of sources (each with varying pricing and convenience) and supermarkets are integrated in the value chain for other food sources, like small to medium sized kiosks.
Local and informal food systems therefore play an important role in providing food access among residents in deprived areas who cannot access supermarkets (McCordic & Raimundo, 2019) as well as providing jobs and income for the urban population (Raimundo et al., 2020). Within this context, poor urban households can increase the stability of their food access by accessing food from a range of food sources (Battersby & Haysom, 2018). This observation supports the phenomenon of ‘selective’ adoption, which has been documented in other cities, where consumers who purchase food at supermarkets still frequently purchased food from traditional markets as well (Goldman, 2000; Ratnayake, 2015; Si, Scott, and McCordic, 2019).
These transformations also reflect evolving consumer food purchase behaviors, which can differ based on demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Studies in Nanjing China identified frequent supermarket shoppers as mostly younger males earning high incomes who frequently purchased convenience foods like canned and pre-cooked food (Veeck & Veeck, 2000). Conversely, traditional food market patrons were mostly older married females, earning lesser incomes who purchased frequently from local markets near their homes (Veeck & Veeck, 2000). More recent studies from Nanjing have indicated the important role that accessibility plays in shaping food purchasing decisions (Si, Scott, & McCordic, 2019).
Consumer purchasing behavior is driven by both consumer motivations and by the characteristics of the food environment in which that consumer resides (Reardon et al., 2021). However, the influence of such factors on food sourcing from supermarkets or local food retailers has not been extensively researched in a Global South context.
Drivers of Supermarketization
The interrelated factors of urbanization, employment shifts, income growth and liberalization policies have influenced the demand and supply of ultra-processed foods, primarily via supermarkets, in Sub-Saharan Africa (Reardon et al., 2021). An assessment of demand side factors indicates that supermarkets are positioned in areas where consumers can afford supermarket products (close to high-income residential areas). According to Tschirley et al., (2015), more than 66% of urban household food expenditure in sub-Saharan Africa went to processed foods. Battersby (2017), demonstrated that a similar supermarket diffusion process can also happen within cities based on socioeconomic indicators of wealth. Via a case study of Cape Town, Battersby tracked the proliferation of supermarkets from wealthy to poor neighborhoods over an approximate 20-year period. Her findings indicated that wealthy neighbourhoods were often targeted first by supermarkets before lower income neighbourhoods.
This research implies that low-income communities will be the least considered for the siting of supermarkets. Ongoing trends, however, indicate that there is little difference in the demand for supermarket items across low to high income terciles in Africa and Asia with regards to the consumption of non-staple and processed food (Reardon et al., 2019). Despite this shared demand for supermarket products across income groups, the neglect of low-income communities as sites for supermarket locations may mean that the food security of such communities will be undermined by urban planning (Pothukuchi & Kaufman, 2000). This trend may result in the creation of urban food deserts. Food deserts have been described as communities in economically disadvantaged areas who are food insecure because of structural inequalities such as the absence of supermarkets. However there is the need for caution when applying the concept to African urban food systems, where a diversity of formal and informal food retailers may comprise a given food system (Battersby, 2012; Crush et al., 2018).
The food desert phenomenon is primarily grounded in a Global North context and has often been measured according to the presence or absence of supermarkets in a given spatial area (Battersby & Crush, 2014). This association between supermarket location and food security may not be appropriate in the Global South, where the emergence of supermarkets in the region has been more recent compared to the Global North (Battersby & Crush, 2014). In line with this discussion, Battersby and Watson (2018) recommend that the siting of supermarkets in low-income communities should not displace existing informal markets which are suited to consumer demands (which may include a demand for smaller food purchases, payments on credit and earlier/later hours of operation when compared to supermarkets). This diversity in food sourcing is already seen in Maputo where urban residents purchase groceries from both informal vendors and supermarkets. Conceptualizing food deserts in the Global South should include complexities regarding mobility, accessibility, transportation, time and education as well as structural drivers of food insecurity existing outside the scope of households (Battersby & Crush, 2014; Wagner et al., 2019; Shannon, 2014).
From a supply perspective, supermarket diffusion can be described at a regional scale, where supermarket diffusion begins in larger cities before spreading to rural towns (Reardon & Hopkins, 2006). Battersby (2017), indicated that changes in zoning restrictions following the end of apartheid in South Africa allowed large supermarkets to establish themselves in population centers of Cape Town that was previously prevented. This trend highlights the role of urban planning, zoning and spatial distribution in facilitating supermarket access.
Reducing spatial unavailability by localizing food systems creates more options and provides access to nutritious food whilst reducing the incidence of diet related diseases (Seyfang, 2009). The spatial availability of supermarkets and their proximity to living areas (accessible within minutes by biking or walking) have been key for increased patronage of supermarkets (Goldman, 2000; Zhong et al.,2018). In some communities without supermarkets, large supermarket chains may own smaller convenience stores to be able to cater for the needs of such consumers in urban, peri-urban as well as rural areas (Das Nair, 2020). Given the evolving role of supermarkets in urban food systems, the literature on the drivers of supermarket patronage in cities offers heterogeneous insights into the social and spatial drivers of the phenomenon.
The studies that have investigated the drivers of supermarket patronage are often contextually bound to the large global cities within which these investigations were carried out. Given the focus on global cities in the supermarketization literature, further research on the drivers of supermarket patronage within the context of secondary cities of the Global South is needed. This gap and research impetus is especially true given the projected rapid growth of these cities in Africa and Asia (UN DESA, 2019). Consequently, Matola provides a fertile ground for empirical studies on the spread of supermarketization and food insecurity in secondary cities. This investigation will rely on household survey data to investigate the respective social and spatial drivers of supermarket patronage within the secondary city of Matola, Mozambique.