Europeans are still consuming fewer fruits and vegetables than recommended
The World Health Organization (WHO), recommends a minimum daily consumption of 400g per capita of fruits and vegetables. Freshfel Europe has released its latest Consumption Monitor report which revealed that even though the average fruit and vegetable consumption in the EU grew to 364.6 grams per day per capita in 2021, the economic crisis caused by the war in Ukraine has already curbed that number.
The report provides a comparison of consumption trends in the EU-27 as a whole and in each Member State based on official statistics from EUROSTAT and FAOSTAT.
For the past two decades, Freshfel Europe’s Consumption Monitor has been evaluating the trends of fresh fruit and vegetable production, trade, and consumption in Europe. The report, whose look and structure were revamped this year on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, looks both at the business development and the evolution of the daily diet of fresh produce in Europe.
This year’s edition shows that the average fruit and vegetable consumption in the EU grew to 364,58 g/day/capita in 2021, a 2,19% increase from 2020 and 1,27% above the average of the previous five years. This is still, however, almost 10% below the minimum 400 g/day/capita recommended by the WHO.
In 2021, the EU-27 fresh produce market size reached 74 million tons. This growth is in line with the positive trend that started in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic, where many Europeans changed their eating habits, considering the health benefits of fruits and vegetables.
However, fruit and vegetable consumption has gone under pressure in Europe because of the economic crisis following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in 2022 which is severely impacting consumer purchasing power and limiting their food expenditure.
Philippe Binard, General Delegate of Freshfel Europe said: “In times of crisis, consumers tend to move towards a less healthy diet, which is perceived to be more energy satisfactory and a cheaper food option than fruit and vegetables. The 2022 and early 2023 trends indicate that the post-pandemic consumption growth has been lost, as consumption has declined by more than 10% in many cases. These latest developments, which are not yet incorporated into this year’s Consumption Monitor, will be confirmed in the upcoming editions.”
Freshfel Europe believes that the fruit and vegetable sector should keep building on the momentum of increased consumption based on the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables for the planet, the climate, and the health of the consumers themselves.
Looking ahead, Freshfel is also concerned that, according to a 2019 EUROSTAT survey, 33% of EU consumers consume zero portions of fruit and vegetables each day, and another 55% do not reach the five recommended portions per day.
Additionally, the lowest consumption rates are seen amongst the younger generations and in lower-income households. This is a concerning situation according to Binard, who states that “The younger generations are the consumers of tomorrow, and more efforts must be made to educate and introduce young people to the versatility and qualities of fresh fruits and vegetables”.
Salvo Laudani, President of Freshfel Europe said, “We need to counter the misperception that fruits and vegetables are expensive. The sector needs to reinforce its message to demonstrate that it operates within a sustainable food systems format to deliver affordable, nutritional, and healthy products to move consumers towards a plant diet”.
Boosting consumption and reaching the recommended 400g/day/capita by adding one piece of fruit or vegetables to the daily diet of European consumers would boost the European market size by almost 20% or 15 million tons. For the consumer, a healthy diet that reaches the minimum recommendation remains affordable and can be achieved for less than 2 €/day.