PBUK recently saw down with Trishna Shah, Analyst and Alex Kottke, Senior Analyst at Euromonitor International, a market research provider, to look at the evolution in consumption of fresh produce through the years in the UK:
What stands out in the fresh produce consumption of the United Kingdom residents?
Trishna: We are in era where consumer ‘vegucation’ is a reality, and consumers are more conscious of what they are putting into their bodies. It is no surprise that organic fresh food has become more popular over the past five years with eggs, meat, nuts and seafood showing double-digit compound annual growth between 2012 and 2017.
Increased health consciousness has led to the growth of organic and premium types of fresh food. Rising mistrust amongst British consumers has encouraged a “less but better” approach according to which consumers pay marginally more for the promise of better quality. Quality is often seen as a signal of better food safety, flavour and sustainability. Provenance will remain an important factor for consumers who see British fresh products as more trustworthy.
Consumers have already started to make the switch to premium with products such as eggs where the average unit price of organic eggs is considerably lower than that of meat and fish. Animal welfare is also a growing concern for consumers and products featuring ethical claims such as free range and Fairtrade are becoming more and more popular. As such, premium fresh foods and British specialities are expected to gain greater interest over the next five years. Factors such as sustainability and provenance will gain importance in the eye of consumers to justify a premium price tag and to feel better about buying more ethically-produced food.
What fruits are seeing the biggest increase in consumption across the United Kingdom?
Trishna: ‘Superfoods’ such as cranberries and blueberries are seeing the biggest increase in consumption across the United Kingdom. This is because they have started to lose their luxury status and are being made more affordable through discounters and the different formats they are sold in, from smaller punnets to frozen and dried bags. The nutritious profile and longer shelf life of these berries, in comparison to other berries, make them a preferred snacking alternative for health-conscious consumers. In addition, increased investment in domestic production of blueberries in Scotland, which will also help to improve affordability.
Trishna: Cauliflowers and broccoli is set to become the new kale. High in dietary fibre, Vitamin C and K and glucosinolates, compounds that help to lower the risk of cancer, cauliflowers and broccoli tick all the modern health boxes. The consumption of these brassicas has been propelled by the clean-eating trend which has seen British consumers choose vegetables based on nutritional and functional benefits.
Promotion of their versatility, healthiness and affordability by health bloggers and Instagram celebrities such as the Hemsley sisters is encouraging consumers to replace carbohydrates with raw cauliflower rice and meat with broccoli steak as they cook more at home. Like the trend for consuming kale, the popularity of cauliflower and broccoli will surge in the short term, but is expected to wane in the long term as consumers look for the new “it” vegetable.
What are some of the fresh produce highlights from Euromonitor’s most recent research? What are the most prominent catalysts for change?
Alex: An ageing global population, coupled with a rise in busy urban consumers living in smaller households, are inhibiting further growth of fresh food in favour of packaged food, due to the greater level of convenience afforded by the latter. Affecting a plethora of consumer types, especially in the wake of the 2015 report from the World Health Organization linking processed meat with cancer, is the meat reduction trend, which sees meat eschewed in favour of plant-based alternatives, if not completely then frequently.
This trend is particularly threatening to sales of red meat, with Western Europe already in decline and North America set for a slowdown over the next five years. Meat in general is also beset by growing concerns regarding the safety and security of fresh food supply, and scares of food contamination with antibiotics, pesticides and other pollutants, which are fuelling demand for more organic produce. This is itself one manifestation of the premium trend, which is in general prompting the arrival of value-added products to drive retail value sales within mature staple products.
Increased consumer expenditure through premium products can, however, be offset by savings through waste-reduction measures, especially for fruit and vegetables, which likewise will diminish losses for businesses.
Are there any perceptible differences in fresh produce consumption between the various European countries?
Alex: Naturally, the local European diets traditionally have been predicated on the native crops and livestock, something which continues to influence the consumption choices of the modern consumer across Europe despite a greater-than-ever array of fresh foods at their disposal.
The Southern European states are therefore most remarkable for their high consumption of seafood and certain fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and olives. The Northern European states also show a strong tendency for fish but with a greater emphasis on root and garden vegetables.
Western Europe, especially the major markets of the UK, Germany and France, tend to display the most dynamism in terms of embracing the latest trends in fresh food consumption, which typically filter out across the continent.
How has produce consumption evolved over the past 15 years in Europe? What has been the largest constant during that period?
Alex:In terms of constant performance, fruits and vegetables have grown steadily across the continent in the past 15 years, which is testament to how enhanced consumer education has led to a rise in sales of those foods that are considered to actively contribute to health and wellness.
Away from this sphere, Western Europe stands out globally as the only regional negative performer in meat over the past five years. This has been premised on the burgeoning flexitarian trend, which is manifest in more sporadic meat consumption, and augments the market for plant-based proteins.
Conversely, sustained increases in Eastern European meat consumption have largely been driven by poultry in Russia, which has gained appeal since the economic downturn in 2014.
How has produce factored in to the latest trend in online/ecommerce of meals at home?
Alex: Internet retailing and innovative concepts such as meal kits and round-the-clock vending add value, increasing consumer reach. Increased urbanisation across Europe, abets value growth, in that wealthier consumers show a preference for value-added products or innovative solutions, particularly with reference to meal kits containing fresh produce, which carry relatively inflated unit prices.
Nonetheless, traditional retail channels remain dominant as cultural entrenchment is profound and changes in the retail environment, whilst significant across Europe, do not take effect instantly and uniformly.