Special Report: Vegetable-Inspired Trends Influence Increased Consumption

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01 May 2017 --- Earlier this year European Fresh Produce Association Freshfel - a non-profit association and the forum for the fresh fruit and vegetables supply chain in Europe and beyond - published a vegetable-inspired consumption trends report. FoodIngredientsFirst takes a closer look at this report, the latest data on trends within the fresh produce sector as well as the challenges to overcome and opportunities up for grabs. 

In recent years there has been a definite rise in the number of vegetable-related food trends around the world. From the increase in the numbers of people adopting a vegan, vegetarian and/or flexitarian diet to the rise in days like meat-free Mondays or Veggie-Friday (often boosted by trends on social media), the emphasis on eating more fruit and vegetables has got much stronger. But are people eating more of the good stuff?

While the American Heart Association recommends eating eight or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day (an average adult consuming 2,000 calories daily should aim for 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day, it advises), the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables per day (excluding potatoes and other starchy tubers) for the prevention of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity, as well as for the prevention and alleviation of several micronutrient deficiencies, especially in less developed countries.

Earlier this year a study by UK scientists revealed that up to 7.8 million deaths per year could be prevented if people were to eat 10 portions of fresh fruit and vegetables each day as opposed to the familiar “five-a-day” public health message that has been around in Britain for more than a decade. That would mean increasing fresh produce consumption from 400 grams daily to 800 grams daily. 

“Starting with the general fruit and vegetable consumption trends in Europe, we can see a slight increase in the EU average during 2013 and 2014, particularly regarding fruit consumption,” says Freshfel.

“In 2014, the average net consumption in the EU stood at 353 grams, per person, per day. While this remains below the minimum recommendation of 400 grams by the World Health Organization (WHO), overall it is a positive sign that consumption has increased again slightly, which hopefully will continue in the future," Freshfel adds.

According to Freshfel, in order to boost this positive development, society, as well as the sector, must continue to promote fruits and vegetables and further build on the factors that have started to improve the consumption trends.

Reaching the consumer remains challenging, says Freshfel. The sector needs to closely monitor the myriad of different types of consumers these days, as there is no real standard. Alongside the individual preferences of the consumer, there are other factors to consider like family, society structures and changing lifestyles as well as trends like personalized nutrition and swapping in more healthy ingredients, it says. 

“Interestingly, there also is an increased awareness and attention for non-traditional consumers and personalized consumption, such as gluten-free, fair trade, organic, vegan, just to name few.” 

“Coincidentally, it also has become much easier for consumers to act on these preferences, as it’s more widely available and not limited to specialized shops,” it adds.

Vegetable-Inspired Lifestyle
While food innovators continue to create new product developments inspired by fruit and vegetables, demonstrated by the rise in plant-based ingredients, plant-based proteins as replacements for meat and alike, there is a focus on reducing meat consumption in the foodservice industry as well. 

Or at the very least some restaurateurs are cashing in on veggie-inspired menus or even opening entire restaurants dedicated to one fruit - case in point; The recently opened Amsterdam restaurant, The Avocado Show, describes itself as Europe’s first all-avocado restaurant, and in the last few weeks avocado aficionados have been making a beeline for Brooklyn’s new avocado “fast food” restaurant Avocaderia.

At the same time, chefs (celebrity and otherwise) continuously looking for new and unusual ingredients to add flavor and texture to their culinary creations as well as boost their healthy, nutritional credentials. And this very often involves fruit and vegetables. 

A quick look at popular celebrity chefs in the UK shows much of their recent work - whether it’s in the kitchen or using their voice and fame to campaign on an issue and lobby government - is directed towards boosting the consumption of fruit and vegetables.

The same is true for other types of cooking trends, many of which have been influenced by the desire to promote fruit and vegetable consumption. Spiralizing, where vegetables are cut into long and thin ribbons and smoothie making have boosted consumption, not to mention sales of the gadgets that go with them. And even barbecuing, traditionally only associated with meat, is much more veggie-friendly with new product developments specifically promoting veggie alternatives for the grill. 

“There could be some opportunity for the sector to promote fruit and vegetables, not just as your five-a-day, but as part of alternative diet choices and your meat-free-Monday alternative,” says Freshfel.

Social Media 
Another element that could be better utilized for the promotion of fresh produce is the use of online marketing and social media, according to Freshfel. 

Fruits and vegetables are great products for which to create online and social media marketing. At any given moment, you can take a look at Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for literally hundreds of thousands of posts. 

“Being part of the ‘online generation’ myself, I personally see great potential for online and social media promotion for fresh produce. Fruits and vegetables are interesting, colorful and fun products, which can be communicated very effectively online,” adds Freshfel’s Daphne van Doorn.

Freshfel itself is tapping into the power of social media with the recent launch of its campaign, alongside European farmers organization Copa Cogeca, last month.

The #FruitVeg4You hashtag raises awareness and encourages an increase in consumption across Europe and will share content created by the organization’s members, as well as specially created content, facts and figures about fruit and vegetables, in addition to interesting articles. “As social media has its momentum now and is here to stay, the aim of the campaign is to reach a wider European audience through this channel. Fruit and vegetable consumption is not where it could be, this our contribution, to encourage more sharing on social media about good promotions, campaigns and activities related to fruit and vegetables,” says Freshfel.

In conclusion, Freshfel says that the consumption of fruit and vegetables is slowly on the rise in EU, so society, as well as the sector, should build on this momentum. 

“There is a rising trend for veggie-inspired lifestyles, as well as other consumer diversification segments such as local, seasonal, organic, fair trade, sustainable, healthy nutrition, quality labels, etc. All these elements could be used to effectively communicate to consumers (online as well as offline) by emphasizing the great assets of fresh fruits and vegetables Fresh produce are colorful, positive and sustainable: fresh, fun and versatile."

by Gaynor Selby 

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