The market researcher said that decreased fruit and vegetable consumption has been fuelled by a misconception that fresh produce is more expensive than processed foods. In fact, the price of fruits and vegetables in Europe and in the US increased less from 2006 to 2011 than prices for food overall – but consumption of fresh produce still fell.
Rabobank analyst Cindy van Rijswick said: "The challenge for the fruits and vegetables industry is to close the gap between what consumers say they want and what they actually do. Surveys have shown that, in principle, consumers are positive-minded about healthy eating, but in practice they are easily swayed by creative marketing of processed food and beverages and exhibit a strong bias for convenience products.”
The analyst said that processed foods often have the edge over fruits and vegetables for their easy availability, taste, marketing, range of products and convenience.
Rabobank added: “Even when consumers do opt for a healthy choice, they will likely select processed foods in the 'health and wellness category' over a fresh option (despite the fact that research has found that two-thirds of US and half of all European products referencing fruit on their packaging contained no or only a trace amounts of fruit).”
For the fresh produce industry, the unbranded, unpackaged nature of its products creates major challenges when it is competing with the food industry’s marketing strategies, the researcher said.
It suggests that producers of fresh products should improve quality and freshness and reduce inconvenience, pointing to the success of pre-cut, pre-washed, pre-packaged produce as one example of effective produce marketing. In addition, those looking to market fruits and vegetables should base their marketing on more than health benefits alone.
“Most consumers are already aware that fruit and vegetables are good for them and governments are the best vehicle for promoting the benefits of a healthy diet. Therefore, the industry should focus on informing consumers about the convenience, taste, enjoyment and versatility of fruits and vegetables,” Rabobank said.