In the face of a fruit and vegetable consumption crisis, the Produce for Better Health Foundation is calling for a new era of conscious consumption.
Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, president and CEO of PBH, BB #:157162 said during a March 23 webinar that its recently released State of the Plate research shows Americans are eating fruits and vegetables less frequently, down nearly 10 percent since 2004.
She said conscious consumption means helping consumers start new eating habits, leading to new daily routines that are familiar, and adding more fruits and vegetables to those occasions.
For instance, encouraging consumers to pair fruits and vegetables with already familiar eating times and dishes, like adding fruit to cereal or more veggies to a salad or hamburger.
“High frequency consumers are crushing it here,” Kapsak said.
One eating occasion that is consistently missed by fruits and vegetables is the appetizer. The report showed appetizers account for only 2 percent of eating share for both fruits and vegetables.
“Studies show that when children are fed fruits and vegetables before a meal, they tend to eat more of them during the meal,” she said.
Broken down by age groups, three categories from ages 1 to 13 showed vegetable eating declines in the last five years, while the 31-50 group (usually their parents) also showed a 14.4 percent decline.
“Parents need to have patience and perseverance to encourage fruits and vegetables for their kids,” Kapsak said. “Sometimes, tolerance of it is even enough if kids don’t love it.”
That’s where habits begin to form.
In mid-March, produce marketing leaders addressed ways to improve produce consumption at United Fresh’s BB #:145458 virtual BrandStorm.
Mark Munger, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at 4Earth Farms, BB #:148899, said flavor has to be the top priority because a single bad eating experience can take a consumer away from a category for months.
Cindy Jewell, founder of SC Jewell Inc., BB #:369225 a marketing consultancy, echoed the call for a stronger focus on flavor.
Roger Pepperl recently retired after several decades as the Director of Marketing for Stemilt Growers, LLC BB #:113654, said flavor is the responsibility of both growers and retailers.
He also said marketers need to focus more on consumer lifestyles, and make their products fit those.
While the pandemic has accelerated online grocery shopping, the in-store experience is still the place for the produce department to shine, he said.
POS [point-of-sale] is the strongest marketing point we have,” Pepperl said. “We have to make that compelling, but digitally, we can be stronger because we can control that.”
Munger agreed that the produce department remains the place to excite consumers about the category.