Oranges are back in favour after three years of declining consumption as shoppers take advantage of cheaper prices and promotions.

UK consumers ate 6% more oranges last year, according to TNS figures for the 12 months to November 2008, reversing a three-year downward trend. The fruit was eaten on 627 million occasions during the period.

The price of oranges had fallen over the past year as more fruit became available, said Eurodix citrus buyer Alan Clarke.

"At the moment, the European market is flooded with oranges," he said. "The prices are low due to overproduction - there are certainly more oranges coming out of Spain."

Promotional activity by supermarkets over the past year, particularly on smaller oranges, had also brought consumers back to the category, Clarke said.

Another factor boosting oranges was the shortage of Spanish satsumas, which caused the price of easy peelers to rise early last year and put pressure on demand for clementines and mandarins, said Tom Warner, an account manager at importer MMG Citrus.

The price of oranges was not affected, however, as Valencias were more easily stored than easy-peeler varieties, he said, adding that similar factors were at play this year.

Consumers were also considering oranges better value for money in the credit crunch, he claimed.

Only children and 17 to 24-year-old males had not increased their consumption over the past year, said TNS analyst Emilie Erktan, with those aged over 45 particularly driving growth.

Nearly three quarters (74%) of oranges are eaten for health reasons, up 8% year-on-year, he said, most commonly consumed as a snack. "Older consumers are generally more concerned about health and are more likely to hit their 5-a-day target, while younger adults and children prefer easy-peel alternatives," he added.

The UK orange market is worth £152m at retail.