BRITONS ARE eating fewer vegetables now than four years ago, despite the high profile 5-a-day campaign aimed at boosting consumption.

A report from the Institute of Grocery Distribution found that while fruit consumption has risen by 3.8% since 2000, the nation‘s taste for vegetables has dropped off by 2.1%.

The biggest losers are turnip, swede, cabbage and carrots, while Brussels sprouts and lettuce actually increased in popularity.

Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, said British growers must focus on crops like cherry tomatoes, cucumber and baby carrots.

“It is essential that the industry responds to the changing needs of consumers to present vegetables in a convenient snacking format,” he said.

Terry Jones, head of the NFU‘s food chain unit, agreed: “The key driver for this is consumers who are cash-rich and time-poor, and vegetables take longer to prepare,” he said.

“Producers must try to add some value by getting into the pre-prepared market and look to stop the slump by getting into markets that the consumer wants.

“It is a short supply chain in fruit and vegetables, and people are relatively quick to respond.

“But a 2-3% hiccup on this is neither here nor there when there are huge moves by retailers to rationalise and rebase the supply chain,” he added.

Lincolnshire grower, Nigel Marshall, said that supermarkets were offering such low prices that he had left 500t of cabbages in the ground and would not replant them next year.

“We belonged to two local co-ops that packed and processed vegetables further down the line, and they were doing fine until a major supermarket pulled out,” he said.

One of the co-ops has shut down and the other, Old Leake Growers, is looking for new outlets.

Growth/decline in veg consumption in 2003

 

% Change vs 2001/2002

% Change vs 2000

Carrots

-2.9

-13.2

Tomatoes

-1.0

-2.0

Cauliflower

4.1

-7.3

Lettuce & leafy salad

-3.2

1.7

Cabbage

-4.3

-11.8

Mushrooms

-5.4

-5.4

Turnip & swede

4.3

-17.2

Brussels sprout

6.7

6.7

Total consumption
(736g in 2003-03)

731

752