The science is clear: a diet rich in vegetables and fruit can protect you against certain diseases. For example: vegetables and fruit can reduce the risk of suffering a stroke. Therefore, the recommendation is "5 a day", i.e. to eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruit a day. Surveys show, however, that only a fraction of these approximately 650 grams of vegetables and fruit per person per day are actually being consumed. What prevents people from doing this and what can motivate them to buy and eat more vegetables and fruit was the subject of the EU campaign Snack5 - Europe enjoys fruit and vegetables - in a recent study with a total of 1,659 participants in Germany and Austria. Key findings are:
Much potential for more vegetables and fruit in everyday life
Snack5 asked when vegetables and fruit are being eaten. This provides representative data for Germany with regard to age groups and gender, which show potential for getting closer to the recommended five portions of vegetables and fruit.
It shows that vegetables are eaten more frequently at main meals, while fruit is eaten as a snack between meals. While vegetables are mainly eaten at lunch and dinner, they do not play a significant role either at breakfast or as a snack between main meals. Only around 14% of respondents in Germany (16.8% in Austria) will put cucumbers, cocktail tomatoes or other vegetable classics on the breakfast table. Barely 20% of respondents say they snack on vegetables throughout the day, between meals. The picture is different for fruit: for almost 60% of respondents in Germany (68.8% in Austria), this is a popular afternoon snack.
These results suggest two things: first, people should be encouraged in their positive habits. The appetite for vegetables and fruit is obviously there - even if it seems to be distributed differently throughout the day. It is worthwhile to build on this and to motivate people to choose local vegetables and fruits by providing information as well as practical tips. Secondly, the results can also be understood as a wake-up call. If vegetables as a snack or for breakfast are not yet firmly anchored in people's eating habits, there may not only be a lack of information, but a lack of appropriate offerings as well - for example, in communal catering, at the workplace or at school - that could change eating habits.
Many good reasons for vegetables and fruit
It is interesting to find out what motivates people to eat vegetables and fruit. The Snack5 study shows that the reasons are many and varied. The fact that vegetables and fruit taste good ranks first (74% of respondents in Germany, 75% in Austria). This is followed immediately by the effect on health and the fact that they are fresh, unprocessed foods. Other reasons for eating vegetables and fruit, in order of frequency, are: they can be used to cook good quality dishes, add variety to the menu, are good for family health, support regional agriculture, and simply make you feel good about life.
Snack5 also asked about the factors that prevent people from eating more vegetables and fruit in everyday life. The answers are varied: the fact that vegetables and fruit "spoil quickly" is named most frequently as an obstacle (37% in Germany and Austria). In second place comes "high prices." In both countries, fewer than 5% say that vegetables and fruit do not suit their eating style. Significantly more, however, admit that at the moment of purchase they simply do not think about the fact that they could also pick vegetables and fruit, it is not part of their usual routines (19.9% in Germany, 18.7% in Austria). It is precisely these statements that encourage Snack5 to get more people excited about a plant-based diet. After all, very few people rule it out for themselves. It is simply a matter of breaking patterns and making vegetables and fruit a natural part of the daily diet. This task may be challenging, but it is worth the effort, because most people find many reasons to eat more vegetables and fruit.
Regarding snacking, it is important to ask: chicken or egg?
When vegetables and fruit are picked as snacks between meals, it is usually at home, according to more than three-quarters of respondents in Germany. It is striking that vegetables and fruit are much less often considered as a snack when people are out and about (36.3%) or at work ("at the desk, working/learning": 39.2%, "in canteen": 9.3%). Here the question is: what causes this? Are vegetables/fruit not readily chosen on the road or at work because preferences are different? Or is it because it takes more effort to get vegetables and fruit on the road than a pastry or a sausage, which are available at almost every corner? And again on the subject of communal catering: What would the results of the survey look like if more companies had snack vegetables and fruit in their canteens, or in meetings?
Seducing people to enjoy fruits and vegetables
Further results of the study suggest that people would be receptive to such suggestions and offers. For example, when asked what they would like to see when buying vegetables and fruit at the point of sale, almost half of all respondents (48.2% in Germany, 39.6% in Austria) answered "more tasting stands." A more attractive presentation of vegetables/fruit and inspiration in the form of pictures or recipes directly at the PoS would positively influence the purchase decision for 39.1% and 24.3% of respondents in Germany (37.2% and 22.7% in Austria, respectively). So, the following also applies to purchasing: if vegetables and fruit are easy to find, attractive, and available for tasting, people would happily opt for them. The triggers that tempt customers to make spontaneous vegetable and fruit purchases also fit into this picture. "I spontaneously got an appetite for it" was way out in front (with over 75% in Germany and 73.2 % in Austria) or "there was an offer/promotion" and "it was attractively presented."
What matters: freshness, taste, regionality, and seasonality
When buying fruit and vegetables, consumers in Germany are first and foremost looking for freshness and tastiness. In third place, it is not pricing, but regionality and seasonality of the fruit (56% in Germany). In Austria, this aspect is in second place, with 65% of mentions, ahead of "origin" (61%). These results are helpful as well. In addition to the health-promoting benefits of vegetables and fruits from Europe, the "right" arguments are at our fingertips, to persuade consumers to eat a more balanced diet of vegetables and fruit. People are open to precisely these benefits of vegetables and fruit, and they are ready to buy them.
The Snack5 - Europe enjoys fruit and vegetables - campaign is funded by grants from the European Union. More graphics from the study are available at www.snack-5.eu/presse.
For more information: www.snack-5.eu