Fruit and vegetable consumption in Canada may be static, but a survey conducted by the Canadian Produce Marketing Association shows new opportunities as cultures and demographics evolve.
“Fifteen years ago, you would have said we eat meat and potatoes,” said CPMA president Ron Lemaire. “Today, with the changes in eating habits and behaviors, we’re trying mangoes, kiwi, kale and more.”
According to the 2013 Fresh Produce Purchase Benchmark Study, conducted online among 1,999 shoppers and 52 grocers across Canada last spring, three in four consumers say they regularly buy a fruit or vegetable that they weren’t buying five years ago.
The survey also found a huge interest in food among 15- to 35-year-olds, who are greatly influenced by social media, TV and their peers.
At the other end of the spectrum, seniors share the same interest in trying new products and finding the right serving size.
“Seniors have disposal income and they’re willing to spend money to make their lives longer. healthier and more fulfilling,” Lemaire said.
“Produce plays right into that.”
While older people are looking for smaller serving sizes, he said young people are looking for the “right” size so they don’t waste food.
Canada’s changing cultural mosaic is also reflected in the survey results.
According to Statistics Canada, immigrants from the Philippines, India and China are expected to add another one million Canadians every decade.
Lemaire said their desire for familiar foods is already creating a demand for new fruits and vegetables.
“There are going to be winners and losers unless we do our job right,” he said. “If you’re coming from a country that doesn’t consume potatoes, you won’t look for potatoes.”
He said the produce industry needs to educate itself on the range of specialty products available domestically and abroad, and make them available to satisfy this growing demand.
“Part of CPMA’s mandate is to make sure our members have the information they need to build their business,” Lemaire said. “That’s where all of this falls into.”
According to the 2013 Fresh Produce Purchase Benchmark Study. Canadian grocers devote 19% of their floor space to fresh produce, which accounts for an average 21% of all grocery revenue.
Most Canadians shop at least once a week for fresh produce, yet the average Canadian woman eats only 4.3 servings of fruits and vegetables a day and men eat 3.5 servings a day.
The majority of Canadian shoppers (87%) say they buy most of their produce at a local supermarket, 35% shop at a farmers market and 14% buy directly from the producer.
Twenty-five percent of Canadians frequent warehouse club stores, and another 24% shop at produce specialty stores.
While 50% of Canadians say location determines where they shop, 43% of respondents choose a store because of its selection of produce and 32% base their decision on the quality of the produce.
Shoppers under 30 say location is a reason for choosing a grocery store.
Seniors choose a store for its fresh produce and good, friendly service.
Consumers and grocers agree that the health benefits of fresh produce drive sales.
Many Canadians (72%) say they would eat more produce if it was easier to purchase smaller portions, while 40% said they’d purchase more if it was easier to prepare.
By 2031, 30.6% of Canada’s population will belong to a visible minority group.
Sixty-six percent of respondents agree that specialty produce adds variety to their family’s diet.
New Canadians are supporters of fresh produce as well as organics.
First generation Canadians spend more on fresh produce ($44.21) per trip than the average shopper ($38.40). By the third generation, this drops to $36.20.
When it comes to organic produce, about 66% of Canadians say it’s more enviromentally friendly than other produce, yet only 33% buy it.
At the same time, 70% of grocers say sales of fresh organic produce continue to rise.
Forty-six percent of Canadians define organic as being “grown pesticide-, herbicide- and insecticide-free.”
More than 50% of Canadians have grown fruits, vegetables or herbs at home within the past few years.
To help educate its members, CPMA launched an online Produce 101 course, available free to any member who signs up online.
Lemaire said new and longtime members of the produce industry can quickly access basic information on specific commodities as well as tips on handling, storage, preparation and food safety.
“It’s a starting point,” Lemaire said. “As we go forward we’ll be building on it and developing added tools.”