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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les Français boudent les produits frais

by Bertrand Tang

The French Are Off Their Greens

Translated Saturday 6 October 2007, by Emma Paulay

Purchasing Habits. Young people, in particular, are buying less fruit, vegetables and fish. An aversion brought about by high prices, limited “larder life” and changes in lifestyle.

Over a quarter of French people declare that they do not buy fruit and fish because they find the prices extortionate, although they acknowledge the good quality of the produce. These are the findings of a study by the Credoc, centre responsible for analysing living conditions, published yesterday for the second edition of the Rungis Meetings (1). The survey of 1013 people carried out between the end of May and the beginning of July analysed the price perception of fresh produce. The results show that 25.6% of French people do not buy fruit due to high prices, 22.4% say the same about vegetables and 27.6% about seafood and fish. Consumers are definitely paying more attention to price than before. Today, 72.7% of French people look at the price of fruit and vegetables “systematically” when shopping, against 54.7% for frozen food.

The gap between “perceived and real” prices

However, despite this, the Credoc assures us that there is a gap between the real price and the perceived price, partly due to the Euro. According to the Credoc (based on INSEE figures) prices actually increased by 1% in 2007, although consumers estimate that they have increased by 2.5%. The other reason put forward for not buying fresh produce is its perishability. People hesitate before buying products which don’t keep. Fruit and vegetables can only generally be kept for up to a week so people tend to buy less”, explains Pascale Hebel, director of Credoc’s consumer department.

Decrease in Purchases

According to the survey, the criteria on which fresh produce purchase are made have not changed: first comes the compliance with hygiene and safety rules and secondly, a competitive price. Between 1999 and 2003, the French ate 16% less fruit, 15% less vegetables and 11% less fish. And this structural decrease in consumption is also linked to a generational issues.. “For example, 40-50 year olds and 60-70 year olds spend over 400 euros per year on fresh fruit, against 50 euros for a 20 year old. This generational decrease is due to a change in eating lifestyles” says the Credoc director. Nevertheless, 90% of French people acknowledge that fruit, vegetables and fish are good for health. Over 40% say it is “important” to eat them often and state that they “like” them. Despite the government messages on nutrition and health (eat 5 fruit and vegetables per day), some are still finding it difficult to put this into practice, especially young people. So, what are the solutions? “We have to readapt to young people and offer more materialistic, pleasure-giving products. We have to get consumers back into the habit of healthy eating. However, it is above all a nutritional education problem and we must instil a taste for fruit and vegetables amongst the younger generations as early as possible”, concludes the Credoc director.

(1) 2nd annual conference of Rungis International Foods Market

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