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VegPower has indicated a shift in spending habits, with families reducing the number of vegetables they buy

Some 26% of families and 49% of households earning less than £30,000 a year are buying fewer fresh vegetables because of the increase in price of groceries, according to a new survey from VegPower.

A new report from the Food Foundation-led initiative indicated a significant shift in spending habits, with families reducing the number of vegetables they bought. VegPower said its findings were corroborated by 2021 unit sales, which were down by 2.8% on 2020 figures [IRI].

“We know people are really feeling the pinch and many are having to make hard choices,” said the VegPower report, titled Healthfulness, which was launched this week. “Too many families see vegetables as a non-essential item; they’re certainly reluctant to purchase the extra bag that may well be required to achieve a healthier diet.”

The IRI data cited in Veg Power’s report showed inflation was already having an impact on shoppers’ baskets by Q4 2021, as while food value sales went up by 6.8%, volume only rose by 1.6% compared to 2019 levels.

“On this evidence, there is a real risk that vegetables will be forfeited when households are confronted by higher bills at checkout,” the report said.

A February YouGov survey of 2,000 consumers cited in the VegPower report also indicated a change in shopping habits when consumers bought vegetables. Some 58% of families, rising to 64% of those in lower-income households, were choosing to buy fresh veg that were on promotion and/or discounted.

Additionally, the survey found that 26% of families were buying a wider range of frozen vegetables, increasing to 48% in lower income families with children.

While the amount of frozen veg purchased had returned to just slightly higher than pre-pandemic levels at 5.3% of all vegetables sold [IRI], there was significant growth in volume for frozen sweetcorn, frozen mixed vegetables and beans.

Much of this could be attributed to convenience, cited by 48% of families and 62% of lower-income families, but cost is also a factor, the non-profit claimed.

“With most frozen vegetables coming in at 75p-£1.50 per kilo (or half the price or less of their fresh equivalent), frozen may be the key to keeping vegetables on the menu in households struggling with the increased cost of living,” the report suggested.

It comes as Chancellor Rishi Sunak faced criticism yesterday over the perceived lack of support for families struggling with the cost of living crisis in his Spring Statement. 

That followed reports from Iceland boss Richard Walker that food banks were rejecting potatoes and root veg because people “can’t afford the energy to boil them”.