Americans are drinking less fruit juice and preparing simpler one-dish meals, according to an annual report by the Produce for Better Health Foundation. Those trends have made their mark on fruit and vegetable consumption, according to the 2015 State of the Plate report, a Study on America’s Consumption of Fruit & Vegetables.
PBH commissioned The NPD Group to examine current consumption of fruit and vegetables in the United States by age, gender, life cycle, health segmentation, meal and form. The report, issued every five years, provides the industry and health professionals with valuable information on trends and forecasting as well as recommendations.
Despite a drop in consumption of fruit juice and vegetable side dishes, fruit and vegetables are still an important part of the American diet: Vegetables are four of the top five side dishes at dinner in the home, and fruit is second only to candy as a snack.
Per-person fruit and vegetable consumption has dropped 7 percent during the past five years, driven by a 7 percent decline in vegetable consumption and a 14 percent drop in fruit juice consumption. Those figures, the report said, are tied to two significant behaviors: a decline in serving vegetables as side dishes (including side dish salads, which also reduces the use of salad-related vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers), and reduced consumption of fruit juice at breakfast.
However, fruit consumption during this same period dropped by only 2 percent if fruit juice is left out of the equation. “The trends are positive for fresh produce but are particularly discouraging for 100% juice – especially orange juice,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, president and CEO of PBH. “If fruit juice continues to decrease without an equivalent increase in whole fruit consumption, that is fresh, dried, frozen or canned, the shortfall in total fruit consumption will only worsen.”
Younger consumers are eating more fruit compared to 2009. Among 2- to 17-year-olds, there is a 17 percent increase in fruit consumption, excluding juice. Overall vegetable consumption is down, but store-fresh vegetables have grown among children and young adults by 10 percent over the past five years.
“We’ve heard about millennials being more interested in health, and we are, in fact, seeing this play out in their fruit and vegetable consumption,” Pivonka said. “Somewhat surprisingly, 50-year-olds today aren’t eating as much as their counterparts were 10 years ago. Though we don’t fully understand why this is, I suspect it is partly because this segment of the population didn’t learn to eat them as children.”
Adults over 50 still eat the most fruit and vegetables of any demographic, but this group experienced a double-digit decline. Fruit consumption among those over 45 d
eclined by 11 percent and vegetable consumption 12 percent. Conversely, consumers under age 40 are eating more fruit and vegetables than a decade ago.
The report also identified the behavior of singles, seniors and working women households. Both working women and traditional family households are eating more fruit but less fruit juice and vegetables.
Seniors over 65 are only 13 percent of the population, yet they represent 17 percent of all vegetables and 18 percent of all fruit consumed, excluding fruit juice. Singles under 65 represent more of the population than seniors, but they account for the smallest share of consumption of vegetables or fruit.
NPD also grouped the population into segments based on attitudes. Those who say they focus on health accounted for 60 percent to 70 percent of fruit and vegetable portions eaten yet only represent half of the total population.
Consumption of all fruit and vegetables is expected to grow about 4 percent in the next five years, about the same rate as population, meaning per-person consumption will be flat. Looking at fruit and vegetables subsets, however, there is an expected 9 percent growth in fruit (except for juice) and an 8 percent growth in fresh vegetables expected in the next 5 years. Per-person consumption would be 5 and 4 percent respectively.
The PBH report concludes with recommendations to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. It advises that fruit and vegetable marketers partner with companies who prepare and sell the core food groups most often associated with fruit and vegetables, such as beef and poultry protein entrees, salads, and Italian dishes.
It also points out that yogurt, pizza, poultry sandwiches and Mexican food are among the fastest-growing food items and they complement fruit and vegetables nicely. “The health benefits of consuming a variety of fruit and vegetables, varied tastes and textures, and ease of preparation should continue to be emphasized with older consumers as they continue to focus on their overall health and well-being, and their desire to simplify meals,” the report says.
A final recommendation is to focus on the affordability of fruit and vegetables. “Since most fruit and vegetables are consumed in the home, it is important to inform consumers that the price of a home prepared meal is one-third the cost of the average meal way from home. Encourage price-sensitive consumers to eat more meals at home by showcasing how the purchase of ready-made meals, and other convenience items from the supermarket, are less expensive than eating out,” the report concludes.
“The good news is that we are seeing progress and positive forward-looking trends in fruit and vegetable consumption among consumers under age 40, which includes PBH’s target audience of parents with young children. The efforts of many are paying off,” Pivonka said. “The bad news is that consumer groups traditionally most interested in health and who eat the most fruit and vegetables, including those ages 50 and above, are trending downward in their consumption over time.
“Given population trends and demographics, we are expecting a nice increase in fresh vegetable consumption (8 percent by 2018) and a 9 percent increase in fruit (excluding juice) during that same timeframe,” Pivonka said.
The full 2015 State of the Report can be found on the PBHFoundation.org website in the Research section.
About Produce for Better Health Foundation
Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) fruit and vegetable education foundation. Since 1991, PBH has worked to motivate people to eat more fruits and vegetables to improve public health. PBH achieves success through industry and government collaboration, first with the 5 A Day program and now with the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters public health initiative. Fruits & Veggies-More Matters is the nation’s largest public-private, fruit and vegetable nutrition education initiative. To learn more, visit www.PBHFoundation.org and www.FruitsandVeggiesMoreMatters.org. Follow Fruits & Veggies-More Matters on Facebook or Twitter.
PBH is also a member and co-chair with Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) of the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance (NFVA), consisting of government agencies, non-profit organizations, and industry working to collaboratively and synergistically achieve increased nationwide access and demand for all forms of fruits and vegetables for improved public health. To learn more, visit www.NFVA.org.