According to a new report from Datamonitor average consumption of fruit and veg in the UK has risen since the five-a-day campaign began in 2002 – from 94kg per person (3.1 servings of 80g per day) to 113 kg in 2007 (3.86 servings per day).
Parallel to this, however, has been a rise in interest in exotic or ‘super’ fruits that are high in antioxidants, like goji, pomegranate, and acai. Manufacturers have boarded the bandwagon with gusto, recognising that incorporating them into products increases their marketing pull and caters to consumer desire for new and exciting tastes.
Mark Whalley, consumer markets analyst at Datamonitor, cited recent consumer research by Marks and Spencer, which indicated that 18 per cent of the retailer’s customers were more inclined to substitute superfruits for ordinary fruit and veg.
But he is concerned that this practice could actually end up having a detrimental effect on diets.
“When you see the word ‘super’ you give it higher priority,” Whalley told FoodNavigator.com. The perception is that, by dint of antioxiants alone, superfruits are better than traditional, every day fruits like apples.
But if consumers eat just superfruits, they risk missing out of the important nutrients that are found in other, more mundane produce. In fact, the five-a-day slogan is accompanied by advice to ensure a broad variety of different fruit and vegetables are consumed.
Moreover, consumers could assume that because they have eaten, say, goji berries today, a consumer does not need to eat the other four servings of fruit and veg.
Just a spoonful of superfruits…
According to Whalley, nowadays consumers appear to want to ‘dose’ themselves with their daily fruit and vegetable needs, rather like a medicine.
“This dosing allows consumers to feel satisfied that they are boosting their health without being inconvenienced by spending large amounts of time planning and preparing nutritious meals,” he said.
Manufacturers are already catering to this desire by drawing attention to the fruit and veg content of products through labelling initiatives, like saying ‘one portion of [x product] is equivalent to [n] servings of fruit and vegetables’.
Superfruits are not so popular in other parts of Europe, such as Spain and Italy, since those countries already have a nature fruit and veg-rich diet – the much vaunted Mediterranean diet.
As consumers have started to hear the message on five-a-day in the UK, they have been “shocked into a quick fix”, said Whalley.
Whalley pointed out that manufacturers’ priority is obviously to get people to buy their products. While leveraging the superfruits trend can help, he does not believe that food companies are setting out to actually advise people to eat superfruits instead of traditional fruits.