Drink Up Your Vegetables or There’ll Be No Dessert!

The health & well-being trend in food is well-documented but, as we’ve noted previously, eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day seems unattainable for most families across Europe. In the UK, consumption statistics are based on actual fresh produce purchases not on disappearance data (i.e. volume of production + imports – exports divided by population) which they are for most other countries and explains, in part, why Brits appear to score so pathetically on eating fruit and veg. But, increasing amounts of fresh produce are now being purchased in a fresh prepared/processed form and are not included in UK fresh produce consumption statistics.

In UK supermarkets, chilled food rules the roost. Many newer convenience stores have 50% of their shelves refrigerated to maintain the safety and condition of ready meals, sandwiches and, yes, smoothies, pressed juices, fruit and vegetable salads. Ah hah, a clear example of laziness and declining moral turpitude in modern consumers. Bring back the lash you say?! Of course, it’s responding to what they demand, viz. tasty, convenient, healthy meals, mini-meals and snacks.

Much more than price level, the major factor constraining consumption of most fresh produce items is their intrinsic inconvenience – to prepare, eat and consume on the run. So, the industry provides a solution – drink your fruit and veggies. They can even link to the current fashion of using ugly/misshaped produce and give the consumer an additional benefit of saving waste and the planet!

Brands like Naked boast credentials and consumer friendly messages: no added sugar, made by sustainability leaders, looks weird tastes amazing, plus all the natural topics you can think of.

Brands like Naked boast credentials and consumer friendly messages: no added sugar, made by sustainability leaders, looks weird tastes amazing, plus all the natural topics you can think of.

Branded companies are substantially better at communicating the consumer benefits of their products than commodity suppliers. Innocent comes to mind and its ability to relate to a younger consumer base and link its products with worthy campaigns (e.g. putting little wooly hats on smoothie bottles in the Winter and charging 25p extra which goes to supporting an old age charity). Fresh fruit juices and smoothies led the pack in earlier years but were whacked heavily by revelations of their high sugar content and reduced health benefits because of fibre removal in processing. Now, vegetable-based smoothies/juices are all the rage (tipping our caps to the venerable V8 juice which is 67 years old) and the product offering is becoming increasingly sophisticated with cold-pressed juices (stealing some of extra virgin olive oils’ thunder), and “banana-free” and “celery-free” products showing that it’s just not gluten and lactose that have the mark of the devil!

What’s the impact of this fresh processed trend for the regular fruit and vegetable market? Likely not much in terms of volume loss, although the indicators of consumer preference for easy-to-eat produce have been well-signaled – e.g. the fastest growing fresh fruit categories over the past 10 years in the UK have been fresh berries and grapes (so easy to snack) and the slowest has been traditional citrus (isn’t life too short to peel an orange?!). The loss for the traditional produce players is in high value customers; those that are younger, higher income, less price sensitive and, importantly, higher margin for the business. Retail shelf space will expand for higher value products at the expense of the traditional. The humble traditional fruits and vegetables will be left for those that have to chew their way to 5-a-Day one carrot and one turnip at a time. There’s a serious social problem here: those consumers that are furthest away from eating recommended levels of fresh produce are those that can least afford the convenience offer. For society’s and the traditional produce sector’s best interests, we need to be creative in crafting an offer for them that meets their pocket book and purchase preferences.

Big business also have entered in this market buying innovative companies, like Coca-Cola / Innocent and Campbells / Bolthouse Farms 1915

Big business also have entered in this market buying innovative companies, like Coca-Cola / Innocent and Campbells / Bolthouse Farms 1915

Foodservice Operators are also targeting the market, thanks to the freshness and on the go benefits they offer to consumers.

Foodservice Operators – like the pictured Pod in London – are also targeting the market, thanks to the freshness and on the go benefits they offer to consumers.

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Posted in Convenience, Fresh Products

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About the authors
Prof David Hughes: Around the world, David speaks to senior agribusiness and food industry managers about global food industry developments that are and will affect their businesses and industry. Energetic, engaging, humorous and insightful, David gains the very highest evaluations at seminars, conferences and Board level discussions in every continent he visits. Miguel Flavián: works for several Spanish organisations and companies to help them to learn from the developments of the British grocery market and improve their business back home.
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