Flexitarians, vegetarians, vegans, meat-free-Mondays or Veggie-Fridays, whatever it is called, veggie trends are here to stay. Consumers have become increasingly interested in experimenting with veggie-inspired diets and this trend is only going to continue. However, is the fruit and vegetable sector doing enough to take advantage of this consumer trend? And what about other consumer trends that could be opportunities for the sector? Freshfel presented an overview of consumption trends during one of the events at the Fruit Logistica.
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. In 2014, the average net consumption in the EU stood at 353 grams, per person, per day. While this still remains below the minimum recommendation of 400 grams by the WHO, overall it is a positive sign that consumption has increased again slightly, which hopefully will continue in the future. To continue this positive development, it is crucial that society, as well as the sector, continue to promote fruits and vegetables and further build on the factors that started to improve the consumption trends.
Nevertheless, even though consumption is on the rise, there are some challenges in reaching the ‘consumer’. The sector needs to take a closer look at consumers, particularly given that there is no standard consumer anymore. According to Euromonitor, consumers have become multidimensional, with more room for changing lifestyles, family and society structures as well as individual preference. Interestingly, there also is an increased awareness and attention for non-traditional consumers and personalised consumption, such as gluten-free, fair trade, organic, vegan, just to name few. Coincidently, it also has become much easier for consumers to act on these preferences, as it’s more widely available and not limited to specialised shops.
One segment of consumer differentiation is the veggie-inspired lifestyle. According to studies from several sources, there is a growing trend for flexitarian and vegetarian trends, related to people as well as the food service sector. Veggie restaurants are on the rise, as well as alternatives for meat (plant based spreads, protein meat replacements, etc.). The focus seems to lie primarily on ‘reduce meat consumption’ or on finding alternatives for meat and less on ‘increase fruit and vegetable consumption’. Therefore, 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.
Apart from the veggie trends, there are other segments of diversification that can be seen as opportunities by our sector, such as organic, which is a niche that will continue to be important for consumer diversification. Along with organic, there are elements such as the local and seasonal assortment trends, as well as EU quality labels on protected origin or designation. Moreover, fruits and vegetables are great when it comes to their environmental footprint compared to other food products. Fruit and vegetables are at the basis of necessary healthy food and are the best for the environment compared to other foods. Furthermore, food and health are becoming closer linked, particularly with the rise of personalised medicine and personalised nutrition. This can also lead to more attention and opportunity for specific health qualities of fruits and vegetables. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, there is quite some potential for the food service sector in providing more veggie inspired ready-meals or supply more veggie meals in restaurants. Finally, an element that could be utilised more for the promotion of fresh produce, is the use of online marketing and social media. Fruits and vegetables are great products for which to create online and social media marketing. Freshfel’s Daphne van Doorn stated: “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, colourful and fun products, which can be communicated very effectively online”.
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 emphasising the great assets of fresh fruits and vegetables Fresh produce are colourful, positive and sustainable: fresh, fun and versatile.