Exploring Protein Consumption in LMICs: Understanding Behavioral Determinants
Florine Kremer 13 May 2024

Essential to our dietary requirements, protein-rich foods play a pivotal role in sustaining health and well-being. However, achieving a balanced intake presents unique challenges and opportunities. In our ongoing systematic literature review (not yet published), we delve into the intricate behavioural determinants influencing the consumption of various protein-rich foods within low and middle-income countries (LMIC) contexts.


Addressing research gaps

Our current project aims to bridge existing research gaps by employing established behavioural frameworks. Like many researchers before us, we view food choice as a dynamic process influenced by multifaceted factors (e.g. the Drivers of Food Choice project, Blake et al., 2021; DONE framework, Stok et al., 2017). This perspective advocates for the application of systems thinking and emphasizes the importance of empowering individuals, households, and communities for the design of effective interventions.


Utilizing behavioral frameworks

Informed by the behavioral change wheel proposed by Michie et al. (2011), our approach identifies three key drivers for behavior — Capability, Opportunity, Motivation. This is also known as the COM-B framework, where B stands for Behaviour. 'Capability' involves the psychological knowledge and physical skills needed to perform behaviors, reflecting the concept of perceived behavioral control. 'Opportunity' encapsulates the external social norms and environmental factors that either facilitate or hinder behavior. 'Motivation' combines reflective thoughts like planning and beliefs with automatic impulses such as emotions. This holistic approach suggests a shift from solely knowledge-based interventions to strategies that also address motivational drivers behind food choices.

These principles are essential for comprehending and addressing the factors influencing protein consumption in LMICs. To encourage desired behaviors, such as healthy and sustainable eating, each of these factors—Capability, Opportunity, and Motivation—must meet certain criteria. For example, I may be motivated to consume more plant-based hamburgers, but if they are unavailable nearby (opportunity), I cannot adopt this behavior. Therefore, exploring these three key elements is crucial in understanding consumer behaviors and could lead to effective behavioral interventions.

While our analysis is nearing completion, we remain open to collaboration and welcome insights from fellow researchers interested in this topic.


Exploring protein choices

Our review encompasses a diverse range of protein-rich foods, including meat, fish, eggs, dairy, insects, and plant-based alternatives such as legumes and pulses. By examining consumption patterns and behavioral determinants associated with each source, we gain insights into the preferences, constraints, and opportunities influencing protein consumption in LMICs.


Example: Drivers and barriers of fish and seafood (preliminary analysis)

Our study includes 144 articles, 44 of which include fish or seafood. This food group analysis reveals a nuanced landscape where motivational factors dominate discussions. Figure 1 shows the division of different COM-B elements researched in the papers.

COM-B elements researched
Figure 1. COM-B elements of papers about fish/seafood

Motivation clearly is the dominant element studied, with opportunity second, and capability hardly studied at all. Within motivation, price emerges as a prominent factor, closely followed by taste and health benefits. Availability emerges as the primary opportunity factor. We note a geographical focus on countries like Bangladesh, Ghana and Kenya.

It is crucial to note that the full scope of our findings and the directional insights into drivers and barriers are elaborated in our paper. Based on these first findings, we might conclude that motivational drivers and barriers such as product attributes (taste, texture) and price are often studied. However, other behavioural drivers and barriers are perhaps underexposed. Capability and Opportunity are, like Motivation, essential influences determining people’s food choices. Therefore, we could conclude that drivers and barriers related to availability, knowledge, skills, and many more, might deserve more attention in our research, as well as in future behavioural interventions.

For a comprehensive understanding, we encourage readers to delve into the detailed analysis that will be provided in the paper. We also hope to provide conclusions in the paper about different drivers and barriers for different food groups, e.g. plant-based and animal-based foods.


Connect with us

Understanding the behavioral determinants of protein consumption is essential for promoting sustainable and healthy dietary patterns in LMICs. As we near the conclusion of our analysis, we would be grateful to hear from fellow researchers and stakeholders about their experiences. We look forward to meeting you during the ANH conference and to contribute to a healthier and more sustainable food system.



Blake, C. E., Frongillo, E. A., Warren, A. M., Constantinides, S. V., Rampalli, K. K., & Bhandari, S. (2021). Elaborating the science of food choice for rapidly changing food systems in low-and middle-income countries. Global Food Security, 28, 100503.

Michie, S., Van Stralen, M. M., & West, R. (2011). The behaviour change wheel: a new method for characterising and designing behaviour change interventions. Implementation science, 6, 1-12.

Stok, F. M., Hoffmann, S., Volkert, D., Boeing, H., Ensenauer, R., Stelmach-Mardas, M., ... & Renner, B. (2017). The DONE framework: Creation, evaluation, and updating of an interdisciplinary, dynamic framework 2.0 of determinants of nutrition and eating. PloS one, 12(2), e0171077.

COM-B elements researched
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