Helping consumers reduce fruit and vegetable waste

September 2008

This report examines consumer attitudes and behaviour around the storage of fresh fruit and vegetables in the home. The research makes recommendations as to how retailers can help consumers reduce the amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables thrown away in the home through the provision of consistent storage advice.

It is well known in the fresh produce industry that most fruit and vegetables keep longer at low temperatures (and high humidity), and where advice is currently being given to consumers it is largely consistent with this. For example, many pre-packed apples do carry storage advice along the lines of “refrigerate for freshness” or “keep refrigerated”. However, this research has revealed that in some cases this advice is not given on pre-packed produce, in very few cases is any advice given on how to store produce bought loose and little advice is currently available on retail websites.

Consumer research undertaken as part of this project revealed that only 40% of fruit by weight is stored in the fridge and 60% elsewhere (56% in fruit bowl). In comparison, 75% of vegetables were stored in the fridge. As expected, the experimental programme showed that for most products there were major benefits of storing under refrigeration. Additionally, most products benefited from being stored in their original packaging or the loosely-tied perforated polyethylene bags supplied free to consumers by the multiple retailers.

These research findings have highlighted an opportunity for retailers to enable their customers to get more out of their fresh fruit and vegetables, by:

  • Reviewing the advice currently given to customers, on-pack, in-store and on-line.
  • Introducing advice where it is lacking, and making all advice clear and prominent.
  • Complementing this basic storage advice with relevant tips and information (for example, recipes).

The output from this project has been taken up by several major retailers, formed the basis of a successful campaign by Love Food Hate Waste and is helping consumers to use more of the fresh produce they buy, and save money by throwing away less. As a result, the project team has been awarded ‘Innovation of the Year’ at the Re:Fresh awards 2009.