In Benin, tomato, the most consumed vegetable by the population, is subject to significant post-harvest losses (up to 50% of the production). Therefore, the processing of tomato puree becomes an opportunity to value this commodity. However so far, the stakeholders of the tomato puree value chain fail to exploit the potential of the urban market because of the preference of households for the imported double concentrated tomato paste. This study was initiated to analyze the acceptability of local tomato puree by urban consumers in South Benin in order to understand the market potential for this product. A survey was conducted across a sample of 405 households selected in four major cities of southern Benin (Cotonou, AbomeyCalavi, Sèmè-Podji, and Porto-Novo). In each household, a structured interview took place with the person in charge of food supply in the household. The data collected focused on sociodemographic characteristics, consumer expectations (measured on a 7-points Likert scale), consumption patterns and the willingness to pay (WTP) tomato paste, using the contingent valuation method. The Wilcoxon non-parametric W test on Likert scores enabled to identify the important expectations of consumers for the local tomato puree. Student’s t test for paired samples was used to compare the average monthly quantities of canned tomatoes purchased according to the seasonality of fresh tomato on the market. The two-steps Heckman regression model was used to identify the determinants of the WTP. The results showed that most respondents ignored the existence of a commercial production of tomato paste in Benin. Consumers’ expectations included competitive price and technical quality attributes. The vast majority of households used to consume the imported double concentrated tomato paste while the consumption of local tomato puree was scarce. The preference of consumers for the imported double concentrated tomato paste stems from its main attributes: bright red color and consistency. Overall, the quantities of products purchased varied significantly according to the seasonality of fresh tomato. Two-thirds of respondents approved the idea of upgrading local agri-food products, but there were far fewer (about one-fifth) to consider buying the local tomato puree. The WTP ranged between FCFA 450 and 550 for 500 g of local tomato puree; while the average retail price of the product was FCFA 600. The factors influencing the WTP were as follows: the gender of the person in charge of food supply in the household, the income of the household head, and the income of the household mother. This study highlighted the need for increased coordination in the local tomato puree value chain, so as to improve operational efficiency. This will also ensure the quality and traceability of the products along the value chain. Capacity strengthening is needed to enable processing companies to incorporate the technical quality attributes sought by consumers into local tomato puree.
Key words: Local tomato puree, expectations, consumption, contingent valuation, willingness to pay.