Half UK consumers see the ‘beauty’ in ‘ugly’ fruit and veg, Mintel

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 12th January 2015
Half UK consumers see the ‘beauty’ in ‘ugly’ fruit and veg, Mintel
Half UK consumers see the ‘beauty’ in ‘ugly’ fruit and veg, Mintel

Bent carrots, battered peaches, and blemished apples: it seems when it comes to fruit and veg it’s what’s on the inside that counts, as findings from market research organisation Mintel have shown as many as half (48 per cent) of UK fruit and vegetable buyers agreed that they would buy oddly shaped fruit or vegetables if they were of good quality.

The same research found a lower price would make these products even more attractive, as some 42 per cent of fruit and vegetable buyers say they would buy oddly shaped fruit and vegetables if they were cheaper.

Meanwhile, over half (56 per cent) of UK adults say they feel that food retailers should do more to reduce the amount of food they throw away, while 28 per cent of consumers are concerned about the amount of fruit or vegetables they waste.

“It is clear that consumers are open to ‘ugly’ produce, but where oddly shaped fruit and veg sits with mainstream offerings, it is at risk of going unchosen, even if subconsciously,” said Kiti Soininen, Head of UK Food, Drink & Foodservice Research at Mintel.

“The fact that half of consumers would buy good quality oddly shaped fruit and veg and the recent focus on food waste and the grocers’ role in curbing it shows there is scope to actively use the non-standard quality of produce as a selling point,” Ms Soininen said. “In addition, prices come across as a real consideration for many and by positioning ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables as a tasty, low-cost option should help the grocers to reach this group,” she said.

Marketing of ‘ugly’ fruit and veg in Australia grows

In Australia, the marketing of ‘ugly’ fruit and vegetables has garnered greater support in recent months.

Australian Food News reported in December 2014 that supermarket giant Woolworths had introduced ‘The Odd Bunch’, a collection of fresh fruit and vegetables that might look less than perfect, and are sold at a cheaper price.

The Woolworths campaign came after Sydney grocer Harris Farm launched a similar campaign called ‘Imperfect Picks’, and wholesale food business Spade & Barrow launched home box delivery initiative that also makes use of ‘imperfect’ looking produce. Woolworths was the first supermarket in Australia to launch such an initiative at a national scale.

UK love of fruit and veg continues to increase

Mintel also found that as many as 93 per cent of all UK consumers bought fresh fruits weekly, while 90 per cent bought fresh vegetables.

And it seems Britain’s love of fruit and vegetables continues to grow as 25 per cent of fruit and vegetable shoppers say that compared to a year ago they are cooking at home using fruit and vegetables more often; while one in ten (10 per cent) say they can afford to buy more fresh fruit and vegetables compared to a year ago. Furthermore, whilst there have been questions over the high sugar content in fruit, less than one in 10 (8 per cent) say they have cut back on buying some fruits because of the sugar content.

Indeed, fruit and vegetables remain a major part of the British diet and thanks to a 16 per cent growth between 2009 and 2014 the combined fruit and vegetable market in the UK, including potatoes, stood at an an estimated £16 billion, up from just under £14 billion in 2009. Looking forward, Mintel said that while sales of fruit and vegetables are forecast to rise to just under £19 billion by 2019, it is inflation which is expected to drive this growth.

Factors in fruit and veg purchases

Mintel found that, for UK consumers, good value was vital when it came to stocking the fridge.

Over three in five (62 per cent) Brits who buy fresh fruit and vegetables said that low price was important, followed by the best before date (41 per cent) and whether it was on promotion (38 per cent). Some 35 per cent of UK consumers said they would like to see a greater variety of fruit or vegetables available in ready-to-eat snack formats, for example washed, peeled or chopped.

“Rising prices are expected to remain the main driver of value growth, though the impact of weather on crops continues to create an added element of uncertainty,” Ms Soininen said.

“Until the income squeeze eases significantly, spending on fruit and vegetables as a day-to-day grocery item will remain under scrutiny,” Ms Soininen said. “However, certain added-value areas hold potential, such as ready-to-eat snack formats and initiatives that helps to extend shelf life,” she said.

Eating the recommended number of serves

Mintel’s research also found that overall in the UK, almost half (46 per cent) of fruit and veg buyers said they were trying to eat the recommended five portions of fruit or vegetables per day.

However, despite this, half of UK consumers (50 per cent) agreed that it was difficult to eat as many as five portions a day, a figure which rose to 57 per cent of 25-34 year olds. By contrast, taking on board the recommended five a day seemed less of a task for the nation’s older generation, with 40 per cent of those aged 65 and over saying it is difficult to reach five a day.

Health benefits should be stated on packaging

Mintel also found that more than two thirds (67 per cent) of UK consumers said they thought that the health benefits of fruit and vegetables should be stated on packaging, for example the fact that beetroot is high in potassium and magnesium.

“It is now common across much of packaged fruit and vegetables to highlight the product’s nutrient content on-pack, such as the folate and Vitamin A in a bag of salad,” Ms Soininen said. “Expanding beyond this to communicate relevant health benefits, something not commonly done in this market, should offer products standout given that most people would like to see the health benefits of fruit and vegetables stated on-pack,” she said.