Golden years may not be so golden for fresh produce demand

12/12/2013 02:55:00 PM
Tom Karst

It seems my hunch that today’s seniors love produce more than youngsters is correct.

Looking at the 65 and over population in 2009, 41.3% of that age group ate two or more fruits every day, compared with 30.5% in the 45- to 54- year old bracket,  and 30.8% of 18-to 24-year olds who ate two or more fruits per day.

About 29% of the over-65 population consumed three or more vegetables, compared with only 27.6% of those aged 45- to 54-years and 20.1% of those from 18 to 24 years old.

 That is awesome news.

But will the generalization that older consumers eat more fruits and vegetables continue to hold in decades hence? It might be dangerous to assume so, since those light-eating 18 to 24 year olds eventually will receive an unsolicited AARP membership card. A USDA study from 2009 illustrates this point.

In a report ominously called "Younger Consumers Exhibit Less Demand for Fresh Vegetables," the ERS economists told me about their findings.  From The Packer archives:

 

“Unless something happens to alter how the current young make food choices, they likely will exhibit a lower level of demand for at-home fresh vegetables in their later years than today’s older generations currently exhibit,” the report said.

The study used consumer expenditures data from 1982-2003, said Gary Lucier, economist with the USDA ERS and co-author with USDA economist Hayden Stewart.

Stewart said the study doesn’t necessarily refute the idea that all consumers may eat more fresh vegetables as they grow older, but the data suggest that younger consumers start from a lower base level and remain at every age point behind the generations of cohorts before them.

“We tried to separate the effects of aging from the effects of when you were born,” he said.

“It’s entirely possible that, say, my own demand for fresh vegetables might grow with age to at least some point, and my parents, their kind of fresh vegetable demand-to-age trajectory might move the same way,” he said. “Even for my kids, that is possible.”

Stewart said he could not speculate about whether demand for fresh vegetables will continue to sag for consumers not yet born, but said the trend appears to be convincing.



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