Consumer perceptions and purchasing of packaged water products in Sierra Leone
AbstractIntroduction: Access to improved sources of drinking water remains a complex challenge in Sierra Leone and other low and middle income
countries. We aimed to qualitatively examine consumer perceptions and purchasing behaviors of packaged water products in Sierra Leone.
Methods: We conducted 25 focus groups with 178 consumers and petty traders of packaged water across the four geographic regions of Sierra Leone. Discussions were recorded, transcribed, and coded into themes. The Health Belief Model guided the thematic data analysis.
Results: Packaged water was broadly perceived as safe, accessible, and convenient. Participants who lived outside of the capital city, Freetown, were more likely to report cost as a barrier. Personal experiences with a brand moderated trust levels. Self-reported handling behaviors of PW products were generally unhygienic. There was widespread belief that packaged water keeps newborn babies healthy. Consumers desired a simple mechanism to better identify government approved PW products.
Conclusion: Perceived risks, benefits, barriers, self-efficacy, and reinforcing cues to action qualitatively influenced consumers’ purchasing behavior of packaged water. Government regulators should provide consumers with reliable means to identify approved packaged water products. Consumer education efforts should include hygienic handling of packaged water products in order to minimize post-production contamination.
Keywords: Packaged water, Sierra Leone, consumer perceptions and behavior