Manufacturers of food and beverages may be the solution to low intake of fruit and vegetables, according to UK-based global market research organisation Leatherhead Food Research. A new Leatherhead Food Research poll with 1,185 UK consumers found that it was difficult for consumers to achieve the UK Department for Health’s recommended five fruit and vegetables a day. When asked whether they would be able to eat seven a day, nearly half admitted it would be difficult. A fifth of consumers said the price tag for fruit and vegetables prevented them from eating more and at least one in ten were put off by the amount of planning and preparation required to fit fresh fruit and vegetables into their diet. Half the respondents (50 per cent), however, said nothing prevented them from eating more fruit and vegetables, suggesting they believe their fruit and vegetable intake was adequate.
“Many consumers believe they are actually eating enough fruit and vegetables and can’t imagine how they would incorporate more into their diet,” said Emma Gubisch, Strategic Insight Manager at Leatherhead Food Research.
“The ‘five a day’ message has been picked up by consumers as a benchmark — if they believe they are managing to eat roughly five portions a day, then they think they are doing a good job,” Ms Gubisch said. “Seven a day would require a shift in consumer mind-set and behaviour,” she said.
Leatherhead Food Research said it believed food and drink manufacturers were in a strong position to help consumers to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into their diet.
Through membership inquiries and confidential projects, Leatherhead Food Research said it was working with manufacturers and retailers to respond to the call for more fruit and vegetables by revisiting recipes, testing the sensory profiles and nutritional properties of products and advising on what claims can be made on pack.
With the focus moving towards more regulation, Leatherhead Food Research said manufacturers will need to be armed with as much information about the nutritional and sensory profile of their products as possible if they want to make a ‘five a day’ or even a ‘seven a day’ claim. Leatherhead Food Research said those responsible for claims on-pack and in advertising and marketing material should ensure that the product meets the criteria for being a portion of fresh fruit and vegetables in order to claim that a product counts as one of a person’s ‘five a day’.
The Leatherhead Food Research poll comes after a recent study from the University College London (UCL) found that people who ate seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day had a 33 per cent reduced risk of death from diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.
The study, which looked at the impact of a range of health and lifestyle factors on wellbeing, was based on more than 65,000 randomly selected adults who were participating in the Health Survey for England — an annual survey that began in 1991.
One criticism levelled at UCL’s study by food and drink manufacturers and associations, such as the British Frozen Food Federation (BFFF), was that the study only considered the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables, while dismissing the nutritional benefits of processed foods, in particular frozen foods. The Director General of the BFFF was recently quoted in The Grocer emphasising that “research has shown that frozen fruit and vegetables can have equivalent levels of vitamins and nutrients compared to fresh”.