Healthier and easier

At Nofima Mat’s fruit and vegetables day, the fruit and vegetable sector’s market opportunities, challenges, trends and latest research news were duly presented. The theme for the day was getting across the immediate benefits of ‘5 a Day’.

There is broad agreement that the industry’s potential is good, but also that there are many challenges. The opportunities lie in today’s focus on health and in the increasingly positive attention being given to Nordic food. The most important challenges are the increasing demands of consumers and how to communicate the information and health message. The fruit and vegetables day was held at Nofima Mat on 21 January.

New Nordic food is on the march

The latest surveys from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations show that the Nordic diet is among the healthiest in the world. Interest in Nordic raw materials with pure, natural and real flavours is on the increase, which means the market opportunities for Norwegian producers are on the increase too.

“We have a fantastic starting point – the world’s best diet and good, flavoursome raw materials create a fine basis for value creation,” says Einar Risvik, acting managing director of Nofima Mat. He goes on to emphasise that consumers are making ever greater demands and that this demand for high standards can create added value. As an example, Risvik pointed out the development that has occurred in potatoes in recent years, so as to adapt to what the consumer wants in the way of range, packaging and presentation. Sales of potatoes have grown by two per cent a year in recent years, but value creation has been much higher.

The taste of berries, fruit and vegetables is affected by daylight hours – the longer the days the more flavour. This gives Norwegian vegetables a clear competitive edge. Moreover, the results of the current research project Northern Veg show that growing vegetables in the north, where the climate is cooler, gives a higher vitamin C content in broccoli.

Present the benefits you get here and now

Nutritional physiologists Tine Sundfør and Gunn Helene Arsky, of Synergi Helse and Bama respectively, both emphasised the importance of getting across the message of the immediate health benefits from eating fruit, vegetables and berries.

“Most people are not going to be motivated to eat more fruit and greens to avoid a heart attack in 25 years time. They need immediate benefits, and it is these benefits that must be emphasised when communicating with the consumer. Telling men that a higher intake of fruit, berries and vegetables could help ward off impotence has a much greater effect than scare propaganda about increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” pointed out Tine Sundfør.

Increasing knowledge among consumers has also been central to the development of the Bendit concept.

“We are certain that knowledge, quality and availability are the three factors that drive the consumption of fruit and vegetables,” said Bama’s market director Jan Hammarstrøm.

He also said that Bendit’s success had been much greater than they hoped or believed when they started and that the concept had developed along the way. It started with the sale of just bananas in 2005, added mangos and other types of fruit, then Bendit branded vegetables in 2008 and went on to launch Bendit smoothies last year.

“Bama’s food sales total 5.5 billion NOK, and one billion of this is now Bendit products. We have had a greater volume growth than the fruit and vegetable market generally, which means we have increased market share over recent years, much of this thanks to Bendit,” said Hammarstrøm.

5 a day

Among the speakers, there was broad agreement that, in addition to more information about the immediate benefits, people need to know more about what ‘5 a day’ really means, along with some ideas for how they can get their 5 a day during the course of a normal day’s meals.

Guttorm Rebnes, director of the Norwegian Fruit and Vegetables Marketing Board (OFG), told about a new 5 a day concept, which will put more emphasis on explaining how much 5 a day is and how it can easily be reached in a normal day’s eating.

“The ambition is for all the commercial players to agree on this clear goal for the consumer. We want to challenge all the supermarket chains to play their part by finding their own way of getting their customers to buy what is needed to consume their 5 a day,” said Rebnes.

OFG’s new plans are based on an understanding that consumers genuinely wish to eat healthily, with lots of fruit and vegetables. But because much of their buying is done on impulse, it is the width and choice of the range on offer that will decide how much is bought. The drop in consumption during the financial crisis was also probably not anything deliberate on the part of the consumer, but rather a consequence of people doing more of their shopping in cut price shops, where the temptations are fewer because the range is smaller.

Health means wellbeing and enjoyment

From 2003 to 2007, interest in a healthy diet increased by 12 percentage points, from 44 to 56 per cent. More and more people want their raw materials to be natural, while time pressures have increased demand for healthy fast food.

“It is worth noting that the trend towards health is not just a matter of healthy eating and physical activity. Wellbeing and enjoyment are just as important, and products that manage to satisfy all these needs will be tomorrow’s winners,” concluded Nofima Mat’s head of strategy and analysis Hilde Skotland Mortvedt.

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