A research study by the Bord Bia Thinking House has shown that Irish people have increased their daily intake of fruit and vegetables, but their consumption still falls short of healthy eating guidelines.
Compared to a similar study carried out in 2017, daily consumption of fresh vegetables has increased by seven per cent to 58 per cent, with fresh fruit consumption up six per cent to 51 per cent. This growth is being driven by the 18 to 34 age group, for whom the health benefits of fresh produce is increasingly important.
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 per cent of consumers are eating fresh fruit and vegetables three or 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," said registered dietitian, Orla Walsh. "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.
"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 per cent 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 grandkids' future.”
Appearance driving purchase decisions
The research revealed that almost half (49 per cent ) of consumers believe the most important in-store factor driving their purchase decision is the appearance of fresh produce. Additionally, 46 per cent 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 habitual shopping and consumption patterns, lack of specific knowledge on health benefits, and lack of confidence in preparing and cooking fresh produce.
Lorcan Bourke, fresh produce and potato manager with Bord Bia, said: “It is really encouraging to see increased fresh produce consumption coming through in younger age groups. As people continue to embrace the health benefits of eating locally-grown and seasonal fruit and veg, the market in Ireland could significantly increase just to meet current portion guidelines. However, as the research highlights, consumers are continuing to shop and eat fresh produce based on habit and this is holding people back from consuming more fruit and vegetables.
"Covid-19 has made people reconsider their relationship with nutrition, food, and cooking, and as a result many of us are more aware of the immunity boosting and health benefits of fruit and vegetables," he added. "This represents a real opportunity for the horticulture sector and this research will allow us to explore new growth opportunities across all fruit and vegetable categories. The findings have influenced Bord Bia’s new Best in Season campaign and they will also provide the wider industry with cutting edge insight on consumer attitudes to the fresh produce sector.”
Best in Season
To promote the benefits of eating locally grown, in-season, fresh produce, Bord Bia has launched a Best in Season campaign that highlights the taste, texture, and vibrant colours of seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. To further encourage cooking with fresh produce, consumers can find recipe inspiration and a new interactive Best in Season calendar on Bord Bia.ie outlining what produce is in season each month.
What is in season now?
Field vegetables: New season queen potatoes; asparagus; beetroot; cabbage; carrots; cauliflower; mushrooms; pak choi; parsnips; peas; rhubarb; turnip.
Salad vegetables: Celery; courgette; cucumber; lettuces; peppers; radish; scallions; tomatoes.
Fruit: Strawberries; raspberries.
To find out more about what is currently in season, along with some inspiring recipe ideas, visit www.bordbia.ie/bestinseason