Supermarkets aren’t doing enough to promote fruit & veg, with Brits eating just three of the recommended 5 a day as they fail to find inspiration in the fresh produce aisles.
That was the finding of a major new report published by the NFU today, based on research by the Royal Agricultural University, as well as an industry and government consultation.
Despite growing consumer awareness over the health benefits of fruit & veg, consumption is actually falling in the UK, the report found. UK sales of fruit were 14% lower and vegetables 5% lower in 2014 than in 2007, according to Defra data.
UK fresh produce sales equate to about four of the recommended 5 a day, with consumption estimated at just three portions once in-home food waste is taken into account, the report said. In contrast, nearly three times as much food and drink high in fat and/or sugar is purchased compared with the Eatwell plate daily recommendations.
“Although people understand the reasons why they should eat more fruit & veg, consumption simply isn’t increasing and this has to change”
Meurig Raymond, NFU
Highlighting the importance of fruit & veg to tackling the £5.1bn obesity crisis and diet-related disease, the report argued UK retailers had a “responsibility” to ensure store layouts and labelling were conducive to selling more fresh produce.
Setting out 34 recommendations for the food industry and government based on a wide range of international studies and initiatives, it said supermarkets should improve availability of fresh produce in stores, offer a wider range of fruit & veg formats to tap into convenience and snacking trends and reformulate ready meals to boost fruit & veg content.
“Although people understand the reasons why they should eat more fruit & veg, consumption simply isn’t increasing and this has to change,” said NFU president Meurig Raymond. “We are calling on all parts of the industry and government to work with us and to implement initiatives that will drive consumer purchases.”
Retailers should multi-site fresh produce at least three to four times in every store, the report said, putting fruit & veg alongside lunchtime meal deals, ready meals and at the checkout as well as in the fresh produce aisles. Fresh produce should also be made available in a wider range of formats, with more “snack-ready” fruit & veg products available to shoppers.
“We want retailers to think about fresh produce like they think about convenience foods”
Ali Capper, NFU
“Instead of treating fresh produce as own label, we want retailers to start thinking of it as a brand that can be sited in more than one area of the store and presented in different formats,” said NFU lead on the report and horticulture board chairman Ali Capper. “We want retailers to think about fresh produce like they think about convenience foods.”
In-store signage and labelling should be improved to give shoppers more information and inspiration around fresh produce, the report added, with storage instructions embedded into packaging and shelf labels, floor markers and placards used to highlight healthy options and meal ideas.
“In the UK we are not very focused on giving consumers cues for the myriad of ways they can eat fruit & veg. We are also not good at giving nutritional messages or storage messages,” said Capper.
The report also called for a “programme of reformulation” for ready meals, with fruit & veg content increased by one portion per meal.
Capper said she believed the UK retail sector would be receptive to the recommendations. “We have had some initial conversations with a couple of retailers and so far we’ve had a positive response,” she added. “What supermarkets need is ideas, suggestions and solutions, and that is what this report sets out to deliver.”