Loose vegetables

Vegetable sales have decreased to only 6.3% of retail basket value compared to 7.1% last year, according to new data from Veg Power

Vegetable consumption in the UK has fallen by 7.5% over the past year as consumers react to the cost of living crisis.

New data from Veg Power, a not-for-profit alliance which aims to increase vegetable consumption across the UK, has found vegetable sales have decreased to only 6.2% of retail basket value compared to 6.7% last year [IRI 52 w/e 30 June 2022].

The same organisation also carried out a YouGov survey which found 26% of people said they bought fewer fresh vegetables because of the increase in the price of their groceries, increasing to 49% in lower-income families.

This was further supported by analysis of the 2008 financial crisis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which found a 7.2% drop in vegetables as a share of overall calories, with couples with small children among the worst affected, Veg Power said.

Earlier this year, Veg Power warned that vegetable sales were already starting to fall and that households earning less than £30,000 per year were particularly impacted

Dan Parker, CEO of Veg Power, told The Grocer that in 2008 “on the most part, the nation’s diet wasn’t too bad as people retreated to essentials but veg took an absolute hammering, down 7.5%”.

His concern was that this situation was now repeating itself as “veg is significantly disproportionately affected”, despite costs not rising much faster than other food areas.

Veg Power also found food volume sales in general are down 2.9% compared to the first half of 2019, but spend has grown by 5.7%. 

“I think what’s going to happen in practice is people are going to be taking that second or third portion of veg out of their basket, because it is not seen as being as essential as some other items,” whether those be real essentials like toilet roll or perceived essentials like chocolate biscuits for the children, he added.

He also expressed a worry that “new shopping patterns will become a habit that stays after the cost of living crisis has eased”.

New campaign

In response to the crisis, Veg Power has launched a new campaign called Simply Veg to support parents and carers in getting more veg into family mealtimes “during these challenging economic times”.

With a panel of experts providing advice on how to reduce the impact on families’ budgets, encourage acceptance by children and decrease food waste, Simply Veg would show parents how they can gradually increase more veg into their children’s diets, rather than trying to force immediate and complicated changes, Parker suggested.

“The idea of Simply Veg is the word ‘simply’,” added Parker. “If you talk about incremental changes with parents and keeping it super simple, you are more likely to get traction.”

Veg Power, with the support of grassroots communities, is putting up over 4,000 posters in schools, GP surgeries, public buildings and community sites across the UK.

Parents can also send in questions for experts to answer, and if the question is published they get £50. Veg Power will also soon announce social media partnerships with leading children’s entertainers to support the promotion.

“Vegetables are increasingly being seen as an unaffordable luxury and we are seeing signs of a worrying decline in sales,” said Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation. “Simply Veg is a much-needed platform for supporting struggling families with the advice and guidance they need to keep their children properly nourished, and to avoid the long-term health consequences of a diet without enough vegetables.”