Belgian fruit and vegetable consumption is in the doldrums

The annual report by market researchers GfK Benelux commissioned by VLAM shows that Belgians bought almost 6% fewer fruit and vegetables last year than in 2013. The number one spot among the vegetables is still occupied by tomatoes, with apples being the favourite fruit, although Conference pears did noticeably better and strawberries were also popular.

A noticeable drop in spending
In 2014, the average Belgian bought 40.2 kg of fresh vegetables and 47 kg of fresh fruit, spending respectively 88 euro (-4.6%) and 105 euro (almost 7% less than in 2013). Fruit and vegetable spending per capita fell more last year (-5.8%) than the global food market (-0.8%). Such are the most important figures emerging from the survey by market researchers GfK Panel Services Belgium into the purchases for home consumption of 5,000 Belgian families in 2014.
In 2014, the average shop prices for fresh vegetables were 4% lower than in 2013. Fresh fruit was 3.4% cheaper last year, and the volume purchased per capita also fell by 3.4%. These lower average shop prices, coupled with lower purchasing levels, especially for fresh fruit, explain the fall in spending. The fall was bigger in the case of fruit than vegetables, and greater in Wallonia (-9.7%) than in Flanders (-4.4%).

A good year for tomatoes
The average Belgian bought 6.330 kg of tomatoes last year. This means the tomato is still the most popular vegetable in Belgium. The number one in the vegetable basket bucked the market trend to increase by as much as 1% in volume terms and 4% in spending. Within the top ten fresh vegetables, the order remained the same as in 2013, except that cauliflower forced cucumber back out of tenth place; in 2013 it was the other way round. The other climbers in the top ten were leeks, paprika and peppers, which were all much cheaper.
Those experiencing the biggest falls were: red cabbage, white cabbage and Savoy cabbage, mixed soup vegetables, endive, French beans and chicory. Vegetables seeing an increase in their popularity were runner beans, asparagus, oyster mushrooms, rocket, iceberg lettuce, mixed vegetables, sprouts and spinach.

Chicory suffers a big decline
Chicory, at 3.33 kg per Belgian, is in a stable fourth place in the 'popularity poll', but it did lose both buyers and volume (-10%). The higher chicory price restricted the fall in spending to 8%. On the salad shelves, only iceberg lettuce and rocket gained ground. Cabbage lettuce is losing ground year on year, but still holds a 36% share of the market, making it the biggest player in the salad department. Iceberg lettuce is enjoying a real surge and already accounts for 30% of the market.

The trend towards 'more special' tomatoes continues
The average Belgian bought 6.330 kg of tomatoes last year. Back in 2000, the normal (loose) tomatoes still accounted for three quarters of sales in the tomato category. This figure is now just one third. Cluster tomatoes have taken over from loose tomatoes and the trend towards 'more special' tomatoes continues. Cherry tomatoes, in particular, have been gaining greatly in popularity over recent years. They now account for 17% by volume and 33% by value. This means that cherry tomatoes have become the most important segment within tomatoes in value terms.

Apples at number one in the fruit basket
In the fresh fruit top ten, apples remain the leaders at 8.880 kg per capita. But apples slipped more than the market average, losing 3.7% in volume and even 13.5% in spending. Jonagold is the market leader on 43% of the volume. But it is striking that it is mainly the traditional apple varieties (Jonagold and Golden Delicious) which are losing ground to the newer varieties such as Braeburn, Belgica, Kanzi and Pink Lady.
Strawberries were cheaper and tempted more buyers last year, meaning that the volume purchased rose by 9%. This propelled strawberries from the number 10 spot to number 8.

Pears make significant progress
Pears are racing up the table in the top ten (+29% in volume per capita). “After the ban on imports of a whole string of European fresh products imposed by Russia, the Belgians reacted in huge numbers to the call to eat more home-grown fruit, and in particular more pears,” reports VLAM.

Little shift in distribution
We see little change in the distribution of fresh fruit and vegetables in 2014. 'Dis 1' gained ground as the market leader, from a market share of 47% to 48%, followed by hard discount unchanged on 23%. Local supermarkets were in third place, losing ground slightly with a market share of 14%. The public market and the specialist store remained stable with market shares of 5% and 4% respectively.

Source: GfK Panel Services Benelux for VLAM.

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