The “vegetables are healthy” message has a limited reach

Are fruits and vegetables healthy? Yes, it has been proven. But not everyone has a message for that. “It’s not the holy grail,” says Coosje Dijkstra, assistant professor at VU University Amsterdam.

In the past four years, twelve companies and four knowledge institutes have conducted research on the health value of fruits and vegetables. With the higher sector project “Value(s) of fruits and vegetables”, they discovered, among other things, that eating fruits and vegetables actually has a positive effect on the human body within hours. In addition, methods have been developed to measure the vegetable content and these substances have been identified in tomatoes and cabbage.

It has long been known that fruits and vegetables are healthy. The sector has been trying to use this knowledge for many years when marketing its products. The idea is that if people eat enough fruits and vegetables, it will save health care costs. To enhance the healthy profile of fruits and vegetables, the sector is looking into possibilities of linking health claims to fruits and vegetables.

But does the message that fruits and vegetables are healthy have the desired effect? Does this make people feel compelled to eat more of it? Dijkstra has its reservations. Study the eating behavior of consumers.

differences between population groups

Dijkstra says the letter’s impact is only limited. According to her, the educated and those with higher incomes are more susceptible to positive messages. In other populations, it appears to be much more difficult to obtain.

As an example, Dijkstra cites a study conducted more than two years ago among teenage girls in disadvantaged neighborhoods in Amsterdam. The report is titled, “McDonald’s is good for my social life.” It is mentioned that these girls, who are almost overweight, know that fruits and vegetables are healthy, but ignore this fact.

I’m alive now

“It’s not worth eating healthy food that isn’t tasty, because I live for now,” is an argument many girls make for eating unhealthy food. It seems that “chicken is life.” And: Why should we buy healthy food that is so expensive and hardly available in the neighborhood. Chili chicken costs €1 and salad €4.

The research also showed that girls buy snacks and sweets in the supermarket several times a week and visit fast food restaurants. ‘kapsalon’ and fried chicken are popular. At McDonald’s, they always sit at the same table, which is where the Wi-Fi is stronger and where they can clearly see who is entering.

According to Dijkstra, people don’t eat fruits and vegetables because they don’t like them, they have to eat them, they think it’s a problem and it’s not available or expensive. The assistant professor says that the healthy aspect of fruits and vegetables is not the main argument for a large part of the population for their consumption. “It’s not the holy grail, it just takes more.”

Make the choice easier

On average, consumers make 200 food choices per day, 70 percent of which are impulsive. “This means if you want to sell more fruits and vegetables, you also have to offer them in greater numbers,” Dijkstra says. Making it easier to automatically select fruits and vegetables on the shop floor, as in the “Go for color lab” project, also boosts sales. During this project, consumers were indirectly encouraged to buy fruits and vegetables at the store.

The Amsterdam researcher advocates for healthy school lunches. Unlike many other European countries, the Netherlands does not have this yet. Practice shows that this makes children eat more fruits and vegetables, especially in the lower classes. So “start giving young” is Dijkstra’s advice.
In the Netherlands there are plans to provide free school lunches in vulnerable neighborhoods. Although it is driven by high inflation at the moment and not because of the health aspect.

low price

The fruit and vegetable market also suffers from this inflation. According to Dijkstra, the decrease in the price of fruits and vegetables and the increase in the price of unhealthy foods have a positive effect on sales. The current decline in monetary value plays more or less into the hands of fruits and vegetables.

The inflation rate for fruits is 5 percent over last year, and for vegetables it is 10 percent. These are the lowest numbers for all foods. Inflation for oil and fats, for example, is 35 percent and inflation for meat is just under 14 percent, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

A lower price of fruits and vegetables is important for consumers in this time of inflation, as the research carried out on behalf of GroentenFruit Huis shows. In 2022, the share of price fighters such as Aldi, Lidl, Bobni and Dirk in sales will rise to 22.5%. Greengrocers wore less.

Less organic fruits and vegetables were sold

According to Wilko van den Berg, market expert at GroentenFruit Huis, the sale of organic fruit and vegetables has decreased. Consumers often shop at various supermarkets to get special offers.
Low price required for fruits and vegetables on the way. The government decided to abolish the value-added tax on it. The Hague is now looking into exactly which products qualify. The zero rate is expected to come into effect in 2024 at the earliest.

According to the Nutrition Center, the consumption rate of fruits and vegetables is 450 grams per day, of which 250 grams are vegetables and 200 grams are fruits. On average, the Dutch eat 300 grams of fruits and vegetables. 16 percent of Dutch adults weigh less than 450 grams. This mainly concerns the group with higher education and people with higher incomes. The average consumption in Europe is 350 grams.

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