According to the MAGRAMA food panel, from 1992 to 1999 fruit consumption fell by 20%, although a recovery is detected in the last period (18% from 1999 to 2002). In this period 4,046.32 million kilograms were accumulated and unsold, which at an estimated average price of €0.25 means that the sector failed to earn at least 1,011.58 million Euros in this period.
The question that undoubtedly arises is why this happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. Any analysis of this must begin by approaching the competition between the different fruits and the evolution of the environment. As in almost all cases in which increased fruit consumption has been suggested, the analysis of the competition is the most important point of view and that which is frequently least considered.
I believe that the most important thing for a product or communication policy to be effective lies in understanding the fact of the choice, which brings us back to awareness of the competition. Today, consumers have more and more choice and it is therefore necessary to know what they have to choose between and why they choose as they so.
Let’s analyse the competition of the plum date: is it the orange or the banana? I wish it were that easy, as both are competitors, but much less than we might think. Let’s look at what happens in a restaurant at the end of the meal. The waiter asks us what we want as a dessert, we ask what there is and he answers, “I have different pies, ice cream, fruit”, the fruit always at the end, becoming another dessert. Look what happens at home when the children don’t want to eat fruit at the end of the meal; their mother says, ….well you have to have a dessert, so here is a yoghurt with strawberries or a crème caramel”. So what is the true competition of fruit? Mightn’t it be the artificial deserts?
To make sure this is the case, consumers have to consider these products substitutes, and therefore generally when the consumption of one increases, the other drops. Let’s see what happened during the time when the fruit fell as analysed above. According to the MAGRAMA food panel in the same period from 1992 to 1995, yogurt consumption increased by 47.91%.
As we can see, comparing what has happened with fruit we can conclude that there has been a movement from the fruit shopping basket to artificial desserts. This is bad for the fruit and vegetable sector and for the health of the Spanish people, and especially our children.
Now the question is why this happened and what can be done to avoid it. We can place the reasons in three areas: product, communication and social environment.
With respect to the product, artificial deserts always have the same quality, smell, taste, appearance and consumers are sure that their consumption experience will always be repeated. In fruit, as it is “made” by nature with man’s intervention, I cannot be certain of the most important thing, its flavour, although its appearance might be very similar from one piece to the next.
As for changes in the social environment, the incorporation of women in the workplace and less availability of time to do the household chores means that comfortable products that are easy to carry, store and consume, such as artificial deserts, have an advantage over fruit, which are generally preserved, transported and stored with greater difficulty and, in many cases, also have to be peeled.
And to complicate the situation is still further, in the area of communication, artificial dessert advertising makes things very difficult for fruit, both in terms of quantity and content. In 2003, artificial dessert investment in the large media advertising, without considering promotions, relational marketing, press offices and other communication actions, or amounted to 257.8 million Euros, a figure which is highly ambitious in comparison with the 9.4 million Euros invested by all fruit in the same large media.
Aside from the advertising investments, what is most important is what the housewife believes, and I think we can conclude that housewives think that a crème caramel and an apple are equally deserts and therefore can substitute each other. They know that fruit is important, which is why they give their children yoghurts… with fruit.
Many promotion campaigns concerning fruit consumption pass this over and say only that the important thing about fruit is health. This is a big mistake. It is necessary, but no longer seems sufficient, for when housewives see fruit promotion campaigns, they remember how important fruit are and this leads them to buy yoghurts with fruit, fruit juice from a concentrate or a product containing juice and liquid yoghurt.
What can be done for fruit in this situation?
In my opinion, three things can be done:
– Consumers must be made to enjoy eating fruit once more, fundamentally by recovering the flavour. If the appearance is good or the better, but let’s not forget that consumers are not stupid and if they do not like something, they do not come back. The health motivation is important, but eating is, more than anything, enjoyment. Let’s not turn fruit into simply an insipid, aroma-less medicine.
– The virtues, properties and characteristics of fruit and vegetables must continuously be communicated through a press office (with a reasonable cost). It will take time to create a fruit consumption culture and the media must join with us in this work.
– Housewives must be re-educated with a massive advertising campaign putting everything in its place, to make them know that a dairy dessert and a fruit are different products, equally necessary but not at all replaceable. Continue working on housewives year after year, campaign after campaign, just as the competition does, “If you dunno what to have for breakfast, Danao, what have you had for breakfast?” with images of a fruit shop under a model’s balcony, which seems to insinuate “if you have had orange juice and fruit, you haven’t had breakfast”. These kinds of campaigns can only be counted with advertising in which people are educated and informed about the difference between fruit and artificial desserts without aggressiveness but clearly. The only problem is that to do this we need no more and no less than union, vision and business character throughout the whole of the Spanish fruit and vegetable sector.
I think that the first thing that has to be done to put everything in its place is to re-educate the “deceived” housewife and then talk about how important it is for us to eat a lot of fruit, four, five or six portions a day.
Maybe it is not pure coincidence that the period in which a recovery is detected in fruit consumption is the period in which the first advertising campaigns are carried out on citric fruit and the Fundación Sabor y Salud (created on 6 May 1999) and the Asociación 5 al día begin their work.