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Financial crisis has sparked UK nutrition crisis, says Euromonitor

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 11-Dec-2012

Fruit consumption has been particularly hard hit
Fruit consumption has been particularly hard hit

Euromonitor says a ‘nutrition crisis’ is underway in the UK as low-income consumers are dropping fresh fruit and vegetables from their diets – with fresh fruit consumption falling 5% in just five years.

Recession has worsened the problem of low fruit and vegetable consumption among the poorest UK households, according to new analyst insight from head of fresh food research at Euromonitor, Anastasia Alieva. The research organisation says that fresh fruit volumes fell 5% from 2006 to 2011, and canned and preserved fruit failed to make up for the decline, with retail volumes falling 10% from 2007 to 2012, despite cheaper prices and longer shelf life compared to fresh fruit.

“In a combined effort, the government and industry players are trying their best to reverse this trend but it may well be a struggle that is lost from the outset,” Alieva said. “The consumers most in need of improving their diets are least motivated to do so, while the types of offerings that could possibly entice them remain unaffordable.”

She cites UK government statistics suggesting fruit prices have increased 34% since 2007, vegetable prices rose 22%, and processed food prices increased 36%. Meanwhile, Euromonitor’s own data show that onion sales – a good indicator of the prevalence of home cooking, since they form the basis of many meals – have remained stagnant.

This fits in with the idea that home cooking is declining in the UK despite the recession, Alieva wrote.

“In contrast, recession led to an increase in the domestic preparation of meals in many other countries.”

Last month, several major food manufacturers pledged to add more fruit and vegetables to ready meals, as part of the UK government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal launched in March 2011.

“It remains to be seen whether this industry commitment can do anything to reverse declining fruit and vegetable consumption in lower-income groups, who have long had by far the lowest intake of fresh produce,” Alieva wrote. “Grocery retailers may be able to tackle the issue of affordability for a proportion of their offerings but boosting consumer purchasing motivation is a much more challenging and complex issue.”

Alieva’s full analysis is available online here .

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