Fruit & Vegetables Inflation

The industry’s long-running Peas Please initiative has failed to prevent sales of vegetables being purchased by UK households falling to its lowest level in half a century, according to analysis of Defra data released by The Food Foundation.

Campaigners said the results showed the impact of the cost of living crisis was making it even harder for families to afford healthier food.

Government figures show vegetable purchases to be stagnant for the past 30 years, but they fell sharply from 182g per person per day in 2020/21 to 154g in 2021-22, according to analysis conducted by the Foundation and its partners for the 2023 Peas Please Progress Report.

The figures cover the retail and out-of-home sector and include vegetables in composite foods as well as those bought whole.

Meanwhile, Food Foundation analysis of Kantar data revealed the volume share of vegetables purchased from retailers fell well below the 20% per basket recommendation in the Eatwell Guide, and with the proportion moving in the wrong direction.

The proportion of the average shopping basket that is composed of vegetables has fallen from 7.2% to 6.8% over the past six years, it found, with the figures worse for those on lower incomes.

Kantar basket data for 2022/23 shows on average for those earning less than £10,000 a year, just 5.9% of their shopping basket consisted of veg, compared to 8.2% for those earning over £70,000 a year.

The Peas Please project, which launched in 2017 with a mission to make it easier for everyone in the UK to eat more veg, has attracted support from 110 organisations, supermarkets, restaurant chains, caterers and manufacturers. It claims to have led to an additional 1.1 billion portions of veg being sold or served.

However, the Food Foundation said the figures were more than outnumbered by the move away from veg elsewhere in the market.

“While Peas Please has shown what industry can do when making specific and targeted commitments to increase sales and servings of veg, across the wider UK market, which includes many more businesses than those that are pledgers, we’ve seen a fall in the amount of veg being bought by UK households,” said Food Foundation senior business and investor manager Rebecca Tobi.

“We urgently need to see businesses stepping up to make eating veg the easy and affordable option, and more support from the government to ensure everyone is able to access and afford a healthy diet.”