According to the consumer research firm’s recently released Fresh Produce: US Retail Market Trends, consumption of fresh produce in the US reached a whopping 106.2 billion in 2016, after growing steadily at 1.3% annually for the past five years.
Much of this growth can be attributed to consumers’ desire for more fresh, novel foods that they perceive as healthier, as well as a rise in produce-centric diets such a flexitarian, paleo, low-carb and raw, according to the report.
In response, marketers are making produce easier to eat in convenient packaging – such as a small bags of baby carrots, pre-made vegetable ‘noodles’ and microwavable ‘steam’ bags with seasoned vegetables inside, Packaged Facts reports. The popularity of fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and ready-to-drink smoothies also is contributing to a boost in produce consumption.
As such, consumption of kale, which many see as an ultimate health food and which often is used to give products a green health-halo, has increased 4.6% to 200 million pounds in 2016 compared to consumption in 2011, according to Packaged Facts.
The leafy green’s compound annual growth rate will slow slightly to 3.7% through 2021 in part because it is maturing and already saturates many diets, creating a large base for increased consumption. But also, likely because consumers are reaching for new options, including brussels sprouts, consumption of which Packaged Facts predicts will grow 10.1% in the coming five years, compared to a 13.8% compound annual growth rate from the past five years. Consumption of collard greens also will remain solid with a predicted compound annual growth rate of 6.3% through 2021, it notes.
Other green veggies that are captivating consumers include broccoli, consumption of which increased 8.3% to 2.6 billion pounds in the past year and cucumbers, which are up 8.7% to 2.5 billion pounds in the past year.
In addition to green veggies, red and orange options also are gaining traction with consumption up 1.2% in the past five years and are predicted to grow 0.8% in the next five, according to the report. It adds, this growth comes in part from continued interest in pumpkins and sweet potatoes as ‘superfoods,’ and sweet potatoes’ starting role in pies and veggie burgers.
The other big winner in the vegetable category are chili peppers, consumption of which is projected to have a compound annual growth rate of 2.4% for the next five years to 2.7 billion pounds in 2021, according to Packaged Facts.
Much of this growth comes from sustained interest in “super-hot” peppers fueled in part by hot pepper challenges, in which people eat Ghost Peppers or Carolina Reapers, the report notes.
At the same time, “less spicy chili peppers such as jalapenos gained more mainstream appeal as an increasing Hispanic population and growing interest in Mexican and South American cuisine took off, especially among Millennials,” it notes.
The growing Hispanic population and its influence on food also has fueled interest in avocados and papayas, the research revealed.