A 'concentric circle' effect is taking place in shoppers' minds in the fresh produce aisle, according to Michael Barker

There is a theory doing the rounds in the fresh produce industry these days that a 'concentric circle' effect is taking place in shoppers' minds.

According to the theory, in times of recession consumers will buy foods that are 'closer to them', both in terms of being UK produced and for the fact that they are more likely to understand how to incorporate them into meals.

New figures confirm this: sales of imported tropical fruits such as melons and pineapples have nosedived as consumers opt for simpler produce they perceive to be cheaper. Sales of root crops and potatoes, by contrast, have flourished. The thinking seems to be that staple products are more versatile and offer greater value for money than luxuries.

So it is that, while campaigns by Gregg Wallace and Gordon Ramsay to get Brits eating 'seasonably' and buying UK fruit and veg might have had a lukewarm reception, natural selection - and the economy - are doing the job for them.

Shoppers may well revert to buying more luxuries once the recession is over. But for now, familiarity is breeding success.

See News p5, Focus On Fresh Produce p57