Blog: Fruit and veg - why don't we eat more?


With the benefits of fruit and vegetables appearing increasingly in the media, the NFU has commissioned a study to better understand consumer behaviour and eating patterns. Lee Abbey, a horticulture adviser at the NFU, considers why people don’t eat more fruit and veg, even though they know it’s good for them:

He writes:

In December last year NFU commissioned a study to understand the reasons why consumers are not connecting with healthy eating messages and buying more British fruit and vegetables, and what should be done by government, retailers and suppliers to bridge this gap.

Through this study, we will identify practical ways of enabling consumers to eat more healthily; from retail store layout, on-pack messaging and reformulation to school and workplace canteen layouts and much more.

Already the NFU recommendations are starting to take shape and we have begun consulting with retailers to get them on board and take these recommendations forward. The response has been really positive. Healthy eating is high on retailers’ agendas and they are crying out for evidence which enables them to implement new strategies. Similarly, with the long-awaited government obesity strategy expected to be published any time now, the NFU will be in prime position to offer solutions to the problems it highlights.

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This week, there was yet more news that consuming fruit and vegetables offers significant health benefits and reduces risks of illness, with the national press reporting on findings that eating your five-a-day during adolescence could reduce the risk of breast cancer by a quarter.

Add this to the plethora of studies that show diets high in fruits and vegetables can reduce obesity, diabetes and many cancers and you would think that our health problems were solved. All we have to do now is eat more fruit and veg.

But we still don’t do it!

The science is forging ahead. Our understanding of the benefits of fruits and vegetables increases rapidly and new reports such as this should be welcomed. But consumers are falling way behind.

Arguably, for the average shopper, the ‘Eureka’ moment happened long ago and no new evidence which tells us to eat more fruit and veg will make any difference. So we want to understand how to help consumers really connect with this message and turn it into new behaviours.

Increasing fruit and veg consumption is great for us all.  It increases consumer health and combats disease. It helps retailers meet their pledges under the public health responsibility deal. And it is great for British growers who will be able to operate in a growing market. So it’s about time we pulled together to make this happen. And that is exactly why the NFU is driving this forward.

Last edited on: 02:02:2016

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  • Posted by: AlexPosted on: 03/02/2016 16:07:34

    Comment: I consider myself a participant in the latest trend of transient shopping. That is, I shop more often and with less brand discretion. I regularly shop in Tesco, Sainsburys, Co-op, Waitrose, Morissons, Marks & Spencer and the odd farm shop. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, but none of them (apart from the farm shops)can claim to adequately meet my demand for British produce, and this is most noticeable in the fruit and veg aisle. I want to buy British, and I want to buy seasonal produce, and I don't really care about price, provided I think the growers are getting their fair share of the margin. Buying British is important to me for a number of reasons. I want to support British farmers, but perhaps more importantly I want to reduce the carbon footprint of the supply chain, improve freshness and quality, and limit the damaging influence of global trade on labour costs in developing nations. If there are no British veg available, I simply don't buy any veg. However, I fear the reason most people do not buy fruit and veg is because they simply can't be bothered. There are time-old arguments proposed such as "it's too expensive", "I don't know how to cook vegetables", "my kids don't like vegetables", and my personal favourite "I don't have time". All of this is rubbish, as we well know. Most people just can't be bothered. However, I can be bothered, and so can lots of others. So please start understanding your market. Stop trying to sell foreign, cheap, low grade muck to people who don't want to buy it. Start selling good quality, seasonal, fresh British produce to people who do want to buy it. It is not the job of the supermarkets or the farming industry to change consumer behaviour, but I applaud their efforts nonetheless. However, both must also take their share of blame for utterly destroying the concept of value in the supply chain. Their is now a generation of young people who think food should be cheap, and will happily spend more on a mobile phone than an entire year's worth of groceries. That is
  • Posted by: Christine OwlettPosted on: 03/02/2016 17:41:14

    Comment: As I see it, a big problem is that many people have poor knife skills, and therefore are unable to tackle the considerable amount of knife work involved in fruit and veg preparation for cooking/eating. The answer is simple - find ways to get around the safety issues of knife usage in schools, and teach people how to use knives properly, including how to sharpen them.
  • Posted by: FrankPosted on: 04/02/2016 15:07:15

    Comment: Answer is simple. fewer people are cooking traditionally. They are zapping the microwave. Anything else is too much trouble for them.

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