Eating more fruit and vegetables tops the list of shopper health priorities

Date : 18 February 2021

Natasha Maynard

Nutrition & Scientific Affairs Manager

2020 was a year like no other. Could the pandemic be prompting a fresh focus on fruit and vegetables? Shoppers seem to think so. As we look ahead, I explore five practical actions you can take to help consumers meet their health aspirations and turn positive new behaviours into long term dietary changes.

Health remains high on the list of shopper priorities

Nearly nine in 10 shoppers (86%) are actively trying to improve their diet in some way, with eating more fruit and vegetables cited as the top aspiration1.


Source: IGD ShopperVista (Base: 1,000+ ALL shoppers, Oct ’20)  

From the very start of the first lockdown, consumer behaviour changed in many ways and we’ve been keeping a close eye on how food behaviours continue to evolve.  In our latest Appetite for Change research, it was fascinating to discover that more than three-quarters (83%) of consumers changed how they planned, purchased and prepared their food in the first lockdown and over half (51%) claimed to have eaten more fruit and vegetables.

Sales of green vegetables such as cabbage, spinach and even sprouts surged amongst Tesco shoppers, as lockdown Brits, with more time on their hands, return to scratch cooking2.

Few people eat enough fruit and vegetables

Despite these new habits, most people still fall short of the governments recommendation to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

When we asked people about their fruit and vegetable intake during lockdown, the self-reported average was just 3.4 portions of fruit and vegetables each day3.

At a national level, the latest data suggests 70% of adults are not meeting the 5 A Day target and there has been little change to total fruit and vegetable intakes this decade4.

Barriers to changing diets

Despite the ‘5 A Day’ message perhaps being one of the best-known pieces of dietary advice, we know that significant barriers remain around habit, cost and confidence.

Our Appetite for Change series explores some of the top barriers to healthy sustainable diets. 

We identified cost to be the biggest barrier to change, both before COVID-19 (Nov ’19) and during the pandemic (July ’20), with 38% of consumers thinking healthy and sustainable eating is more expensive5. Other barriers include people liking the taste of their current food (24%), being creatures of habit (23%), lack of convenience (18%) and a lack of familiarity (17%)5.  

In our latest report, we learnt that people hold onto certain beliefs that can act as barriers to making positive changes. For example, four in 10 consumers think vegetables are not exciting and nearly six in 10 avoid buying certain vegetables because they don’t know what to do with them3. This presents a significant opportunity to shift consumers’ mindsets around fruit and vegetables.

Shifting consumers’ mindsets around fruit and vegetables

As we move through 2021 consider how you can support shoppers to make small, achievable changes to their diets using our five behaviour change approaches.


Our Appetite for Change research identified a series of practical actions to help drive behaviour change and encourage consumers to eat more fruit and vegetables.

1. Signposting - Help shoppers understand what counts towards 5 A Day

Almost all fruit and vegetables count towards 5 A Day intake, so providing information on appropriate portion sizes can help shoppers to understand what counts at a glance.

Composite food and drink products containing fruit and vegetables, such as ready-made meals and on-the-go snacks, can also contribute towards 5 A Day intake. Labelling the number of portions in these products can support shoppers to make better choices. Our best practice guide can help with this. But remember not all shoppers will be looking out for health cues, so look to adopt a range of tactics to support shoppers who may be less motivated to change.

2. Placement - Make the healthier choice the easier choice

Most shoppers (91%) claim to take responsibility for their own diet1 but we know people’s will power has limits. Despite good intentions, it’s easier to prioritise immediate enjoyment over longer-term health benefits.

Consider how you can optimise placement, in-store and online, to help normalise healthier options and help people avoid other immediate temptations.

3. Product - Pack in more fruit and veg

With new targets and increasing pressure on food companies to make products healthier, fruit and vegetables can be used as a tasty and often more nutritious alternative to other ingredients.

The good news is that shoppers are increasingly open to reformulation, with more than three quarters (79%) saying they’re happy for food companies to make products healthier provided they’re still as tasty1.

Many brands and retailers have launched new products to meet growing consumer demand for plant-based products. With consumer interest at an all-time high, this may present new opportunities for manufacturers and retailers alike.

4. Influence - Lead the change

Though not always obvious, people are easily influenced by others.

From celebrity influencers to recipe cards, consider how you can use social influences to help lead and normalise change, inspiring others to follow.


This concept recommends simple ingredient swaps to help people liven up family favourites. We tested this intervention, alongside others, in a quantitative online survey with 2,000 UK consumers3 as part of our latest Appetite for Change research. It was the top performing concept, indicating more consumers would consider taking action. 

5. Incentivisation - Incentivise trial of healthier products

With over half of consumers already changing their diets (33%) or considering making changes (24%) to be healthier and more sustainable5, there is a significant opportunity for industry to support better choices and a positive transition.

Cost is a major consideration for shoppers so try not to price healthier products out of reach. Focus on how you can encourage trial of healthier options that may be less familiar to some.

Get in touch

Many brands and retailers have launched new products and initiatives to help people eat more fruit and vegetables. We’d love to hear your story – get in touch and we’ll share the best examples and learnings through our newsletter. 

References

1 IGD ShopperVista (Base: 1,000+ ALL shoppers, Oct ’20)  
2 Source: https://www.tescoplc.com/news/2021/tesco-reports-booming-demand-for-green-vegetables/
3Appetite for Change – How to apply behavioural science shortcuts to encourage fruit and vegetable consumption in the wake of COVID-19
4National Diet and Nutrition Survey, Years 1-9; 2008/09-2016/17
5Appetite for Change – How have consumer attitudes to healthy and sustainable diets changed in the wake of COVID-19?