With fresh fruit and vegetable purchases in decline in the UK, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has announced in a new report 34 recommendations for action that it believes can increase consumption, help to reverse the current obesity crisis and combat other diet-related illnesses
Despite high consumer recognition of campaigns such as 5-A-Day and Change for Life, the NFU says Brits are still only eating three portions of fruits and vegetables a day, or 241g in comparison to the recommended 400g.
Furthermore, the organisation notes that fruit purchases have fallen by 14% since 2007, vegetables by 5% and potatoes by 20%; explaining that the ‘food swamping’ of healthy produce and increasing ‘decision fatigue’ among consumers are two of the major stumbling blocks in increasing consumption in the UK.
At the same time, NFU claims the cost of a poor diet is at record high in the UK, with obesity swallowing up £5.1 billion in NHS funds per year, and representing the third-largest social burden globally, after smoking and war and terrorism.
The association is therefore calling on government, retailers, processors, the foodservice sector and fresh produce industry to develop and implement the actions needed to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables.
To achieve that, it’s new Fit for the Future report sets out clear, practical, deliverable and evidence-based actions to enable the food industry to encourage and enable greater consumption.
The 34 ‘Options for Action’ include: multi-siting fruit and veg in more places in the store; redesigning foodservice areas to offer more prominence to fruit and veg, developing fun-shaped fruit and veg for kids; and adding at least one extra piece of veg to every ready meal.
Speaking on the launch of the report, Ali Capper, NFU horticulture board chairman, said there has never been a better time to work together to try and deliver real increases in fruit and vegetable consumption.
“Under the government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal a pledge has been made to do more to create a positive environment that encourages people to consume more fruit and veg,” she explained. “The will of the government and industry to do more is greater than ever. We’re very excited.
“We’ve had initial discussions with the retailers and I feel we’re pushing at an open door. They want facts and evidence and that’s what we’ve tried to provide with this report – the support for the recommendations we’re making.”
Capper explained that Fit for the Future focuses on what is enabling but also constraining consumption, adding that the study aims to turn the ‘why’ into ‘how’ via 34 options for action that offer something for every business.
“Today we live in an ‘obesogenic’ environment – one that encourages obesity,” Capper said. “Non-nutritious foods are swamping healthy foods, with quite aggressive marketing campaigns leading to decision fatigue among consumers.
“We’ve got to do something. When you increase fruit and vegetable consumption it lowers obesity and the risk of diseases like cancer and diabetes, and improves heart health.”
Capper explained that part of challenge is getting industries to emphasise fresh produce where shoppers choose and buy food.
“Today it’s all about food grazing and shelf grazing,” she noted. “There has been an increase the number of shopping trips that consumers make per week. Only 18% of UK households are planning their meals for week ahead, while 31% decide what to eat on the day, so it’s all about impulse purchasing.”
In its report, NFU suggests businesses should look to increase consumption through strategies such as educational programmes right through to product placement and in-store messaging.
For retailers, NFU recommends:
- Multi-sitings of fruit and veg
- Adding one more portion of produce to ready meals
- More fruit and veg snack-ready products
- ‘Chilled checkouts’ at the point of purchase
- Improved on-pack and on-shelf labelling
- Improved product positioning
- Placements next to ready meals
- Floor markers
- Trolley advertisements and placards
- Trolley or basket mirrors
- Product sampling and recipe cards
- Increased staff training and knowledge
- Fruit and veg made more a part of lunchtime meal deals
- Fruit and veg treated as a brand
For foodservice operators, NFU recommends:
- Redesigning layout of foodservice areas (e.g. buffets)
- Repositioning of food products
- More convenience options
- Food labelling in vending machines, buffets and on menus
- Increased range of fruit and veg through menu development and recipe reformulation
- Increased proportion of fruit and veg available to children
- Fun and attractive products for children
For growers and processors, NFU recommends:
- Work with customers to develop demand-led strategy
- Cross-sector marketing and promotion
- New product development
- Raised micronutrient values of produce
- New forms of convenience
- More fruit and veg snacks
- Storage instructions on packaging
- Greater engagement with influential communicators
The full desktop study, which provides the evidence for this report, was commissioned by the NFU at the end of 2015. You can view this here.