Irish people eating more vegetables but not hitting healthy eating targets
A research study released by the Bord Bia Thinking House has shown that Irish people have increased their daily intake of fruit and vegetables.
Compared to a similar study carried out in 2017, daily consumption of fresh vegetables has increased by 7% to 58%, with fresh fruit consumption up 6% to 51%. This growth is being driven by the 18-34 age group, for whom the health benefits of fresh produce is increasingly important.
However, the study also revealed that people are consuming on average 3.9 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, less than the Healthy Eating Guidelines of up to seven servings. Additionally, while 87% of consumers are eating fresh fruit and vegetables three to four times each week, just over five in 10 people eat fresh produce daily.
"There is a huge opportunity to increase our vegetable intake by including vegetables in meals from morning until night. It could be as simple as grating sweet-tasting carrot into overnight oats, adding spinach to a smoothie or munching on cherry tomatoes at snack time. The sustainability message is resonating more and more with consumers and I think there is a great opportunity to call out the benefits of locally grown fresh produce, both from an environmental and nutritional perspective," says registered dietitian Orla Walsh.
"In Ireland we're spoilt for choice when it comes to what is currently available and nutritionally speaking, our bodies couldn't be any more grateful to receive such nutritious produce. All the in-season fruits and vegetables offer something special. For example, broccoli can provide us with 100% of our vitamin C needs for the day and asparagus provides nearly the reference intake for folic acid. For many of us, eating local produce can help us eat healthily for ourselves, and sustainably for our grand kids future.”
Appearance driving purchase decisions
The research revealed that almost half (49%) of consumers believe the most important in-store factor driving their purchase decision is the appearance of fresh produce. Additionally, 46% claim to manage the amount they buy in order to avoid food waste.
The study also identified a number of barriers to eating fresh fruit and vegetables, including:
1. Habitual shopping and consumption patterns: 46% of people claim to buy the same produce week-on-week and 33% know what they are going to buy before they go shopping. The majority of consumers associate eating fruit and vegetables with certain times of the day, with the evening meal occasion accounting for almost half of all fresh food consumption.
2. Health benefits lack specificity and tangibility: While the five a day message is strongly embedded, and people are claiming to eat more fruit and vegetables, the majority are only managing to consume three to four portions a day.
3. Lack of confidence in cooking and preparing: People want to learn more about cooking with fresh produce, with 28% saying they would buy more fruit and vegetables if they knew how to store it to prolong freshness.