Photo courtesy of Sainsbury's

Freshfel: Policymakers are missing massive opportunity to elevate fruits and vegetables


Freshfel Europe’s latest edition of the Consumption Monitor indicates that the average fruit and vegetable consumption in the EU decreased to 350 g/day/capita in 2022. The positive trend that started during the COVID-19 pandemic has been curbed by the economic crisis, impacting the purchasing power of consumers.

Freshfel Europe underlines the essential features of fresh fruit and vegetables based on their strong and undisputed health benefits and their low environmental impacts. Fruit and vegetables are part of the solutions to societal concerns. Consumption should be stimulated well above the minimum daily goal of 400 g per capita/day recommended by the WHO.

Freshfel Europe released its latest edition of the European Fresh Produce Consumption Monitor. The report provides a comparison of consumption trends in the EU-27 as a whole and in each Member State based on official statistics from EUROSTAT and FAOSTAT.

In the past two decades, the Freshfel Europe Consumption Monitor has become increasingly important in evaluating the trends of fresh fruit and vegetable production, trade, and consumption in Europe. The report, with its new look, has used a consistent methodology throughout the years and has become a unique reference document for the sector and decision-makers looking both at the business development and the evolution of the daily diet of fresh produce in Europe.

This year’s edition shows that the average fruit and vegetable consumption in the EU decreased to 350 g/day/capita in 2022, a 5% decline from 2021 and almost 3% below the average of the previous five years. This level is still more than 12% below the minimum 400 g/day/capita recommended by the WHO. The Freshfel Europe Consumption Monitor shows that only 6 countries in the EU reach the recommended goal of at least 400g of fresh fruits and vegetables/day/capita, leaving a great margin for improvement to stimulate consumption.

In 2022, the EU-27 fresh produce market size shrank to 71.350.965 t. This decrease has ended the positive trend that started in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, which had altered the lifestyle of Europeans towards a healthier approach, in addition to improving their attitude towards environmental causes and climate change. However, as of 2022, fruit and vegetable consumption came back under pressure across the European Union because of the economic crisis, the rising prices, and the generalized inflation impacting the purchasing power of consumers, limiting volume and searching for the most price-friendly option.

“In times of economic uncertainties, consumers tend to move towards a less healthy diet, which is perceived to be more energy satisfactory and a cheaper food option than fruit and vegetables.” Philippe Binard, General Delegate of Freshfel Europe, said. “Beyond the findings of 2022 Monitor, the preliminary data for 2023- 2024 confirm the ongoing decline trends which reached in many cases more than 10%, meaning that the post-pandemic consumption growth has now been totally lost.”

As the current legislative term of the EU is coming to an end, the success of the recommended move towards a more plant diet can be questioned. Multiple policy incoherences and lack of consistency of measures resulting from the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, the Circular Economy Action Plan, as well as Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan did not succeed in achieving the ambition to shift to a healthier and environmentally friendlier die.

The opportunity to set a positive discrimination for fresh produce failed. The momentum to significantly strengthen the position of fruit and vegetables in the food assortment was widely missed by policymakers. Fruits and vegetables must be considered as public goods and part of the solution to societal challenges and as such classified as essential products.

“National nutritional guidelines, Nordic Council recommendations and EGEA scientists agree that the ambition and the consumption target need to be raised towards 800 g/capita/day,” Binard said. “While the awareness is there, too many obstacles still prevent the growth.”

The benefits of fruits and vegetables should be better recognized in the promotion policy but also in the upcoming taxonomy debate. Besides, misperceptions about prices or safety should be addressed so that consumers can make informed choices. In parallel, the sector should continue its efforts and innovation towards more convenience, better taste and texture, target promotion actions towards the youngest and seek support so that fresh produce and affordable and are well present to the most deprived and lower-income households”.

Fruit and vegetables have many assets and are an affordable food option for European consumers. The fruit and vegetable sector and public authorities should join forces to build a sustainable consumption attitude based on the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables for the planet, the climate, and the health of the consumers themselves. There can be no compromise on the urgency of actions needed to address the consumption challenge, most specifically among the youngest generation.

The Freshfel Consumption Monitor is freely available for Freshfel members but can be purchased by non-members for 2.500 €. For all queries, please contact Gil Kaufman



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