Eating Fresh Fruits and Veggies Is Easy When They’re Relatively Cheap

Sarah Chaney posted in the Wall Street Journal that in the fresh versus processed food wars, fresh fruits and vegetables are winning, thanks in part to their relatively cheap price tags.

Since November 2008, the consumption of fresh fruits has grown 16.2%, while consumption of fresh vegetables is up 20.6%. Consumption of processed fruits and vegetables increased only 9.9% during the same time period, notes Eugenio J. AlemánWells Fargo senior economist, in a new report.

“Consumers have rationally reacted to much higher prices on the processed side in relation to the fresh side,” Mr. Alemán said in an interview. “In relative terms, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables are cheaper today than processed fruits and vegetables are.”

Processed fruits and veggies are in the “freezer aisle,” while fresh are not frozen, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Eat Your Veggies – Prices of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables were on an upward trajectory leading up to the 2008 recession, but have remained relatively stable since. The processed version of these goods carry higher prices today than they did at any time before the recession.

“At some point in time before the Great Recession, pricing policies for the processed fruits and vegetable industry changed considerably with today’s prices matching fresh fruit and fresh vegetables much closer than during the pre-Great Recession years,” the report notes.

To be sure, it’s difficult to distill how much the higher consumption of fresh fruits and veggies has to do with price consciousness versus increased health consciousness. Younger consumers, in particular, have largely shifted to fresh-food consumption. Those under age 40 increased their consumption of fresh vegetables by 52% over the last decade, according to a 2016 report from market-research firm NPD Group Inc.

“It’s all about price…and health consciousness,” the Wells Fargo report says.

Still, Mr. Alemán notes if the price of processed food drops to a certain level, consumers are likely to be less concerned with their health and more concerned with their wallets when making grocery decisions.

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