Consumption of fresh vegetables in the U.S. has increased by more than 20 percent since 2008, finds a recent report. Fresh fruit consumption is up just over 16 percent. But for people under age 40, that number is more than double. During the same time frame, consumption of processed fruits and vegetables, including frozen produce, has decreased by nearly 11 percent.
Have Americans suddenly developed a taste for fresh produce? Are we finally taking our health seriously? Yes and no, finds the research.
It turns out price, more than taste, health, or convenience, is driving more people to make the switch. In 2008, when the Great Recession hit, produce prices were trending higher, and have since stabilized, cites the report from Wells Fargo.
“Consumers have rationally reacted to much higher prices on the processed side in relation to the fresh side,” Eugenio J. Alemán, senior economist with Wells Fargo, said in an interview. “In relative terms, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables are cheaper today than processed fruits and vegetables are.”
Another recent study found that healthy foods—mainly fresh fruits and vegetables—were actually less expensive than seemingly more value-added processed foods that are often loaded with fillers, stabilizers, preservatives, excess sodium, and sugar.
And research continues to point to the health benefits of eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet. U.S. News & World Report recently lauded the many iterations of the plant-based diet including the Mediterranean, vegan, and vegetarian diets as most healthful over the long-term.
Millennial shoppers, who also want more transparency in their food supply, are driving the shift toward fresh fruit and vegetables. The Wall Street Journal notes that shoppers under age 40 have increased their consumption of fresh produce by 52 percent in the last decade according to report released last year by NPD Group Inc., a market-research firm.
“It’s all about price,” reads the Wells Fargo report, "and health consciousness.”
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