National food consumption data compiled by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and based on dietary surveys across Europe suggests considerable scope for growth within the UK fresh fruit and vegetable sector, according to category and shopper management specialist Bridgethorne.

The company was responding to data, which places the UK 15th out of 19 European nations based on average fruit and vegetable intake. The combined average daily fruit and vegetable intake in Europe according to EFSA is 386g. Average consumption in the UK is only 256g per day. The World Health Organisation estimates that in more than half the countries in Europe consumption is lower than 400g per day, and in one third of the countries the average intake is less than 300 g per day.

“Despite the fact that over a number of years there has been a multi-million pound marketing campaign designed to increase our intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, these figures show that this has not succeeded in getting people up to what our average daily intake should be,” explains John Nevens, co-founder of Bridgethorne.

“This could be that insights have not been effectively drawn on what influences us to buy or not buy fresh produce, which means messaging that could affect our buying decisions at the point of purchase are being misplaced,” he says. “If that’s the case, then marketing spend could be misaligned because it is not addressing or influencing shopper behaviour and is failing to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.”

Mintel reported last year that the combined fruit and vegetables market was worth an estimated £15.7 billion in 2013, up 17% on 2008, though price inflation had been integral in fuelling that increase. Faced with higher prices, 16% of adults reported that they had cut back on fruit and vegetables because of the cost.

However, Nevens adds, the gap between fresh produce consumption and the guideline daily average means there could yet be an opportunity for category growth.

“We know that shoppers are more likely to buy fresh fruit and vegetables as they get older, but we also know that younger shoppers’ preference for more ‘convenient’ fruit formats has been behind the increase in new formats that have become available, especially snack packs of fruit and salad vegetables. These play very much into our desire for convenience. However, it is widely recognised that shoppers may simply not know what products could constitute part of their five-a-day. Suppliers that invest in insights that could be used in NPD that taps into our desire for convenience and better educates us how to understand what our daily intake should be, could find that a profitable new niche opens up with mutual benefit for supplier and retailer alike.”

Understanding the point of purchase interface is critical to success. Bridgethorne helps suppliers understand both the products’ & shoppers’ journey to the point of purchase and what motivates their purchasing behaviour. Only insight like that can assist suppliers in developing strategies for shoppers across multiple retail outlets and formats.