In fact, the experts agree in pointing out that this crisis has "only accelerated some trends that were already observable", including "a concern for a healthy life", Manuel García, the director of Consum's Customer Service Department sums up. Similarly, Mercadona has stated that, according to their forecasts, around 60% of their customers will maintain the healthy habits they have acquired and their sales of fruit and vegetables have increased by around 15% during this period.
The efforts that both distributors and manufacturers have been making in recent years to adapt to consumers' new habits and that were already beginning to reap benefit, have now proven to be essential. And, in recent years, the sector has faced the challenge of satisfying an increasingly demanding and informed consumer. A customer who has added new variables to their traditional demands (quality, taste, sustainability and health), such as information on the organoleptic qualities of their purchases, their origin or whether they are environment-friendly.
Manufacturers and distributors have, therefore, decided to focus on innovation and on taking advantage of the opportunities that arise from these new consumption trends and patterns, as well as from other relatively recent variables such as the change in household profiles, made up of increasingly fewer members. A fact that, in turn, has brought changes in shopping habits towards smaller sized packs or changes in their meal composition.
To achieve this goal, both have relied on variety. As a consequence, shelves have been gaining depth with the incorporation of new ranges and, above all, with the inclusion of smaller packs that, by extension, are presented in more sustainable packaging. Not forgetting the more traditional products, which continue to be the cornerstone of the section and whose growth has skyrocketed during the lockdown. Therefore, the section has seen the incorporation of a greater number of exotic and tropical varieties, organic and prepared and pre-cooked products that, in addition, are presented in 'mini' or 'on the go' versions -among others -, and in more environmentally friendly packaging.
Likewise, closely related to the awakening of the prevailing environmental awareness is the boom in local and seasonal fresh produce that, with its historical guarantees of freshness and quality, now bears the seal of sustainability since, for example, local transport is less polluting. Finally, alternative services such as freshly-squeezed juice, smoothies and fruit counters are already common in these spheres.
Fresh produce sales soar
Taking as a reference the data provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (corresponding to March 2020), meat, vegetables, legumes, rice and dairy products have experienced a general increase of 15.4% compared to March 2019. This data, as we previously mentioned, corroborates the fact that fresh fruit and vegetable consumption has taken off.
Specifically, fresh vegetables and potatoes experienced an increase in volume of 18.6%, reaching 362,189 t compared to 305,376 t last year. The increase is higher than 20% for onions (23.7%), lettuce/curly endive or endive (35.5%) and peppers (21.8%). Green beans (13.4%), cabbages (18.7%) and tomatoes (11.6%) have also grown significantly. In the case of fruits, they increased by 8.8% (369,006 t compared to the previous 339,129 t), especially in the most basic fruits, such as oranges (10.4%), mandarins (19.6%) and lemons (27.3%) apples (12%) and pears (11%).
In fact, the 12-month mobile MAT from November 2018 to October 2019 presented by the same source, shows that the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables in households stood at 6.6 Mt (+1%). By segment, fruit registered increases of 1.3% in volume (5.4 Mt) and vegetables, 0.5% (2.2 Mt).