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Meet the Grantee: Eric Nyarko

Is it really the "global image" that makes people choose multinational food corporations’ products in Ghana? – Consumer study designed during Short Term Grant stay suggests otherwise

Dr Eric Nyarko from Ghana and his host Jun.-Prof. Dr Tina Bartelmeß have been working together at the new campus in Kulmbach to look at the social responsibility of multinational food corporations for public health nutrition in Ghana from a consumer perspective. They approached the topic in an interdisciplinary way, making interesting findings and laying a foundation for a long-term research cooperation in the process.

Dr. Nyarko

What are the foci of your joint research funded by the Short Term Grant?

Eric Nyarko: There is paucity of information about the drivers of multinational food corporations products' preferences in developing countries. For our work funded by the Bayreuth Humboldt Centre, we focused on augmenting this knowledge gap by providing quantitative evidence. We started by reviewing the literature, and through expert consultation with food actors, we came out with plausible factors related to multinational food corporations' product consumption in Ghana. Based on these factors, Tina and I designed a consumer study to provide quantitative evidence on the drivers of MNFCs product preferences.

Tina Bartelmeß: In the context of the Humboldt Short Term Grant, we focused on a broader topic on which a lot of research is being done, but not in relation to nutrition and not in emerging economies: the social responsibility of multinational food corporations for public health nutrition in Ghana. With a consumer study, we wanted to critically question whether it is really the always claimed "global image" that promotes the consumption of MNFCs products in Ghana. Our results point to other drivers. We will continue to work on the topic and also look at other facets besides consumer preferences.

In what way is your work interdisciplinary, and what does interdisciplinarity mean to you in academic work and life?

EN: My research focuses on experimental designs and their applications. I frequently form a consortium with public health researchers by leveraging our expertise to solve issues in the areas of infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, antimicrobial resistance, child and maternal health, climate, food and water safety, health behavior, health policies, nutrition, One Health, snakebite, and prevention strategies. To me, interdisciplinary means leveraging expertise from various fields to improve our work.

TB: With this research topic, we are moving into the broader field of public health research. This is already very interdisciplinary. In addition, Eric and I are both researchers from different disciplines. This interdisciplinarity enriched our discussions and research from the very beginning. With our disciplinary and methodological backgrounds, we both have different focuses on the topic, which complement each other very well and make it possible to discuss the topic and our results in a more comprehensive way.

What is in your opinion the future of your field, and in what way can research in your field contribute to meeting the urgent challenges of our time?

EN: As a statistician with particular focus on experimental designs and their applications, I would like to leverage my expertise to address challenges in the areas of food communication and sustainability, as well as those mentioned in question 2.

TB: With globalisation and the nutrition transition in emerging economies, the nutritional environments and conditions are changing. We need to respond to this and reflect both the positive and negative contributions of, for example, multinational food corporations. With our research, we help to bring the role of the private sector into the discourse and, above all, to shed light on the consumer perspective.

What does international research mobility mean to you?

EN: The professional life of a scientist is characterized by mobility. For me, mobility is a mechanism for spreading knowledge that can positively impact organizations, industries, and territories. Technology could facilitate international research mobility, with the ability to easily use digital tools to communicate without being physically present. That said, despite this technology, international research mobility enables researchers from other countries to come together in person, experience the work done by others, and share knowledge.

TB: I am very happy that thanks to Zoom, Teams and other applications, it is possible to get in touch and make contacts without being physically present. Nevertheless, for me, international research mobility means, above all, actually seeing each other and the field you are researching in person. The Humboldt Short Term Grant was a fantastic opportunity for us to start our collaboration and lay a foundation for our long-term research cooperation.

What was your personal experience during your stay?

EN: Every experience we encounter allows us to grow, overcome difficulties, and expand our minds. Thanks to Tina for her virtue of social, kindness, incredible reception, and friendly disposition during my research stay. Indeed, I found Tina to be well organized, a team player, who knows how to keep defined tasks running. Remarkably, my research stay in Kulmbach was one of the most fantastic moments in my life, combining scientific work as well as getting to know the city and its surroundings. The best thing was how our interdisciplinarity enriched our discussions and research from the beginning. Despite our different disciplinary and methodological backgrounds, it was incredible how Tina and I could work efficiently, complement each other very well and discuss our results more thoroughly. In fact, the University of Bayreuth's Faculty of Life Sciences: Food, Nutrition, and Health have excellent staff with a friendly disposition. Kulmbach is characterized by pleasant traditions and excellent food but I was surprised to see beer everywhere and and about the fact that many shops close early.

The Grantee and his Host

Dr Eric Nyarko is a Statistician in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Ghana, Ghana. His research focuses on experimental designs and their applications. He focuses in particular on the application of machine learning experiments, discrete choice experiments, best-worst scaling, uplift designs, item response analysis, and modeling of population health including food communication and sustainability, nutrition, food and water safety, health behavior, non-communicable diseases, infectious diseases, child and maternal health, one health, snakebite and prevention strategies.

Jun.-Prof. Dr Tina Bartelmeß is Junior Professor of Food Sociology at the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Bayreuth. Her research focus is on food communication. Of particular interest is communication in relation to the topics of health and sustainability. Questions she deals with in her research are, for example, how health and sustainability are perceived in relation to food in society, how they are negotiated in social discourses and how and which specific patterns of interpretation prevail and become relevant for the food actions of individuals, groups or organizations.

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