On their way home from work, Dutch and Swiss consumers are most likely to stop at the supermarket for a bag of already cut vegetables for a quick, healthy, ready-to-eat meal.
For 2008, Rabobank estimates the value of the European fresh-cut fruit and vegetables market at about EUR 3.4 billion, says a new Rabobank report.
First introduced in the 1980s, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables were targeted to restaurants. Washed, peeled, cut, portioned, pre-packaged produce are seen as a timesaver in the fast moving foodservice sector.
Supermarket selection grows
"Although foodservice is not to be ignored, retail is the major distribution channel for fresh-cut fruits and vegetables and offers the strongest growth perspectives for these products in Europe," says Rabobank analyst and report author Cindy van Rijswick.
Since the 1990s, fresh-cut fruits and vegetables have become more commonly available in European supermarkets, showing up first in the UK and France. Gradually, the supermarket selection has expanded from just a bag of lettuce to mixed vegetables, complete salads and complete ready-to-eat meal components.
European market leaders
Consumer emphasis on convenience and healthy living is the key driver for growth in the fresh-cut fruits and vegetables segment. "Per capita, Switzerland and the Netherlands spend more on fresh-cut, pre-packaged fruits and vegetables than the rest of Europe," says Rijswick. "The UK is the market leader in Europe with EUR 1.1 billion in fresh-cut fruits and vegetables sales and exemplifies how the market may develop in continental Europe."
The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy and Spain have already established a market and show strong growth in fresh-cut produce. "Despite being the largest consumer market in Europe, the German market has yet to embrace this market segment. However, German supermarkets are starting to dedicate more shelf space to this category," says Rijswick.
Trends and the economy
In these leaner times, not all European consumers are prepared to pay for convenience and, in the short term, may abandon high priced fresh-cut options for cheaper unprocessed fruits and vegetables.
"Although the fresh-cut fruits and vegetables market is vulnerable to an economic downturn, the general trend of consumers requiring convenient, healthy and flavourful products is not likely to reverse," concludes the report.