Cindy van Rijswick, Rabobank analyst commented: "The challenge for the fruits & vegetables industry is to close the gap between what consumers say they want and what they actually do. Surveys have shown that, in principle, consumers are positive-minded about healthy eating, but in practice they are easily swayed by creative marketing of processed food and beverages and exhibit a strong bias for convenience products".
On a household level there is a clear relationship between income and fruit & vegetable intake, meaning that in a tough economic climate, consumers become more susceptible to fluctuations in price. This impact can be exacerbated by the common misperception among consumers that unhealthy food is cheaper to eat than healthy food. Between 2006 and 2011, in both the EU and US, average consumer prices for fruits & vegetables in fact increased less than prices of the total food category, but consumption levels fell.
Processed foods have become a strong competitor for fruits & vegetables for different reasons: availability, taste, marketing, product range and convenience. Even when consumers do opt for a healthy choice, they will likely select processed foods in the 'health and wellness category' over a fresh option (despite the fact that research has found that two-thirds of US and half of all European products referencing fruit on their packaging contained no or only a trace amounts of fruit). It is extremely difficult for the fresh produce industry to match the sophisticated marketing efforts of processed health foods as most fresh products are sold unpackaged and unbranded.
There are three ways in which the industry must invest/evolve in order to boost consumption levels:
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