Increasing UK consumption of fruit and vegetables
Changing the way food is represented in the high street, and transforming ready-meals to include more healthy fruit and vegetables, could encourage more people to get their five a day, according to a recent report by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU).
In 2015, the Nation Farmers Union (NFU) commissioned the RAU to complete a desktop study to determine the constraining and the enabling factors that influence UK consumer consumption of fruit and vegetables, with a view to providing recommendations on how such consumption could be increased.
The objectives of the study were to consider:
- The degree of consumer engagement with policy initiatives such as the ‘5-A-DAY’, ‘Change for Life’, and the ‘Eatwell plate’ campaigns, and whether purchasing and consumption of fruit and vegetables has changed over the timeline of the projects
- The factors identified in the literature that are identified as constraining and enabling factors in the consumption of fruit and vegetables
- The potential actions that could be implemented at policy, industry and personal levels to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables in the UK
The team, led by Dr Louise Manning, Senior Lecturer in Food Policy and Management formerly of the RAU and now of Harper Adams University, Dr Josie Kelly, Lecturer at Aston Business School, and Sara Stanner, Science Director at the British Nutrition Foundation, considered the proactive steps that can be taken to facilitate increased consumption of fruit and vegetables. These include:
Choice architecture – which is relevant to community environment, retail store, food service, work place canteen and school canteen layout and managing portion control with a view to influencing choice, promoting convenience and increasing nutrient-rich food availability.
Reformulation - including more F&V in convenience options and other food offerings. Relatively simple changes such as the increased used of F&V in convenience foods could make a significant improvement to the nutrient profile of meals.
Information – reminding people at the point of purchase about their choices, drawing attention to social norms and framing information.
Dr Louise Manning said: “This report highlights that there are practical steps that can be taken at every point in the food supply chain to help consumers to access fruit and vegetable meal and also snack options. We already know we should be preparing, serving, and requesting more fruit and vegetables in supermarkets and restaurants for ourselves and our children. In our hectic lives, knowing simply doesn’t translate into doing. We often see eating as a chore rather than food and the nutrients it contains being what sustains us and our families.
The practical options in this report about changing the way our food is presented in high street, restaurant or school, reformulating ready-meal and convenience meal choices to include more fruit and vegetables, and providing information that is relevant and available at the point of purchase, will all play a part in us taking action.”
This report is unique in that it considers actions for government, food service, retailers, food processors, and the farming sector in an integrated approach.