Daily consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in the European Union remains well below the minimum 400 grams per capita recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The latest findings from the Freshfel Europe Consumption Monitor showed that the average consumption of fresh produce stood at an average of 364g per capita per day for 2021. Projections suggest that this figure could decline by 10% in 2022 once the final data for last year is known.
Despite a very positive momentum for consumption growth, the latest consumption trends discussed in Freshfel Europe, covering 75% of the EU population, showed that many barriers are severely impacting the move towards a healthier and more sustainable diet for European consumers.
Figures are driven mainly by low consumption levels by millennials and the younger generations. Under difficult economic conditions, consumption among the low-income population is also of particular concern.
Informing and engaging with consumers to choose healthy, affordable, and sustainable diets were identified as priorities by meeting attendees, Freshfel Europe, retailer EuroCommerce and consumer organization BEUC.
The economic crisis impacting all Member countries following the war in Ukraine and growing protectionism in the world is severely impacting consumer purchasing power and limiting their food expenditure.
In times of crisis, these consumers tend to move towards a less healthy diet, which is perceived to be more energy satisfactory and a cheaper food option.
Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard said: “Consumers have a basic misperception about fruit and vegetable prices on the shelf in supermarkets. Fruit and vegetables are the most affordable products and have also undisputed health and environmental assets. Price and value of fresh produce are both very attractive in the food assortment”.
He added, “Compared to other food categories, rises in fruit and vegetable prices have been lower than the average inflation. A diet with 5 portions a day or half of the plate with fruit and vegetables can be achieved by €1 or €2 per person per day.”
On the other hand, public expenditure of social security for unhealthy diets reaches €6 trillion in expenditure for social security in the EU according to the World Economic Forum.
There is a need for the sector to bridge the gap between awareness of the benefits of fresh produce and concrete actions to be undertaken by authorities as well as by consumers.
According to a Eurostat survey, only 12% of consumers across the EU reach their 5 portions per day and alarmingly 33 % do not eat fruit and vegetables every day.
Fresh produce plays a big role in achieving the European Green Deal (carbon neutrality and low CO2 emissions). Leading people towards a plant-based diet and preventing diseases such as cancer are also part of the benefits of these foods.
Mr. Binard commented, “Regretfully, policymakers fail to be coherent in the implementation of these strategies and lack ambition in their measures, which should use fresh produce as an essential driver for success for their strategies”.
Efficient promotion policy towards generation Y (millennials) and Z as well as education programs in schools for generation alpha are crucial.
The latest consumption trends indicate that consumption levels are in decline mainly due to price increases.
The purchasing power of consumers is under pressure due to inflation and high household energy bills. This is changing purchasing patterns away from premium quality and organic products, towards searching for promotions and discount prices, as well as reducing purchase quantities.
Besides, consumers remain adamant to buy local and seasonal and are eager to be informed about the origin, variety, method of production, sustainable practices, and when appropriate preparation or consumption tips.
Freshfel Europe members remain confident that fresh produce consumption can be stimulated in the coming months and are giving confidence to retailers to build the share of the category as an essential part of a sustainable and healthy diet for European consumers in 2023.