Cranfield University

Providing more lower-grade fruit may not increase consumption


Source: Cranfield University

New research suggests that increasing the availability of lower grade fresh fruit and vegetables may not be the answer to increasing its consumption.

The research by Cranfield University set out to understand what affects fruit and vegetable demand.  Of those surveyed, the research identified that the fresh produce industry perceived that the ‘5-a-day’ message has had little to no impact alone on fruit and vegetable demand.  Results also revealed, through structured interviews, that some suppliers feared that promotions are being overused in the current climate. Whilst no consumer research was carried out as part of this work, some suppliers believed that promotions (often up to 50 - 80% for some categories) are destroying the price structure of the whole fresh produce category and actually making promotions themselves less effective.  It was also believed by those surveyed that multi-buy promotions and changing pack sizes across a range of categories may be confusing consumers and that consumers may be suffering from ‘promotion fatigue’. 

Another key finding from the purchasing data accessed through this research was that employment status has had a significant effect on some fruit and vegetable purchasing (viz. apples, potatoes and strawberries which the study looked at). Those working ‘Under 8 hrs’, ‘Unemployed’ or in ‘Full time Education’ purchased significantly lower amounts of standard and value lines of apples, potatoes and strawberries compared to those in full-time employment or retired groups. However, the purchasing of some lower grade fruit tended to not be as influenced by socioeconomic grouping as expected, suggesting that the presumed link between increasing the availability of specific lower grade fresh produce and purchasing behaviour for certain vulnerable groups may not be fully understood.

Professor Leon A. Terry, Cranfield’s lead researcher on this project, said, “The results of this research have provided some interesting food for thought.  Supplier perception is that it is unclear whether consumers fully understand promotions and indeed the true price of different fruit and vegetable lines as they have little to properly benchmark prices against.  This potential problem represents a real risk and one that needs further consideration. Critically, the report identified that there is an evidence gap in our understanding about the potential impact of consumer attitudes to certain fresh produce types and that the demand drivers are likely to be produce specific”.


This project was funded by Defra.

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For further information please contact: Fiona Siebrits, School of Applied Sciences, Cranfield University. T: +44 (0) 1234 758040

Press and Publications Manager
School of Applied Sciences
Cranfield University
Bedfordshire MK43 0AL

Tel: +44 (0) 1234 758040

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