Fresh-cut is in and canned is out, U.S. survey finds

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Fresh-cut is in and canned is out, U.S. survey finds

Consumer demand for fresh-cut fruit and vegetables increased significantly last year, according to a recent survey from the Hartman Group commissioned by the Produce Marketing Association (PMA).

The survey took place in September last year with a sample size of 1,302 repondents, finding that 22% of consumers were buying more fresh-cut vegetables compared to 2010. In the 2010 survey this figure was 13%.

A higher percentage of respondents also said they were buying more fresh-cut fruit, with the figure more than doubling from 7% in 2010 to 15% in 2011.

In contrast, fewer respondents were buying more canned vegetables, with a rate of 11% compared to 13% in 2010.

Comparing responses of whether consumers purchased certain goods more or less, the amount of people buying frozen fruit less is 15% higher than those consuming it more, while the percentage was 16% for canned fruits.

Positive results for 'food safety' and 'local'

The survey found that quality distinctions such as 'local', 'fresh', 'seasonal' and 'unique origins' were powerful purchase drivers, while confidence in food safety was strong.

From the same comparison methods used above, Hartman identified key positive trends as 'local', 'fresh', 'boycotting produce from particular countries/areas' and 'DIY/grow your own'.

Food safety was not as high on the agenda as in 2010, with only 32% of respondents saying they had followed food safety issues closely over the last six months, compared to 42% in 2011.

In fact, a lower year-on-year percentage of respondents said they were washing produce thoroughly more before eating it, at 38% compared to 42% in 2010.

However,  73% of respondents said they would be willing to pay more to ensure food safety, making it the top cause that consumers responded to. This was followed by reduction of pesticide usage (67%), supporting local communities (66%), water conservation (61%), pollution reduction (60%) and worker benefits (58%).

The lowest-rated cause for willingness to pay more were organic growing techniques (53%) and hiring legal workers only (53%).

Other popular trends were soils of origin, such as Hawaiian onions and Carnation strawberries from Washington State, as well as unique varietals such as finger limes and heirloom carrots.

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