Trends in consumption patterns are principally the study of economics. Economics is the study of how human beings coordinate their wants and desires, given the decision-making mechanisms, social customs, and political realities of the society (Colander, 2008). The trends typically fluctuate based upon the supply and demand of a given product or service. When quantity of a given product or service rises as price rises, and so when the supply of the same so does the price when other things constant (Colander, 2008). Demand on the other hand, dictates that the demand rises as prices falls, and so the demand falls as the prices rise, again, as long as other things remain constant (Colander, 2008). What this means from a consumer’s perspective is that when the price goes down the demand goes up and conversely when the price goes up the demand goes down. Consumers are more likely to purchase a product or use a service when the prices are lower and hold off purchasing when prices are higher. From a manufacturer’s or service provider’s perspective when the prices are higher the supply will increase and as prices decrease so will the supply.
A factor in consumption trends is the wealth of consumers. “The consumption of fruits and vegetables in the United States has increased in the past 20 years along with the nation’s prosperity” (Pollack, 2001). Increased incomes allow the consumers to make decisions to buy products based upon factors other than just cost, such as health concerns and caloric needs. Fruit and vegetable inclusion has long been considered an important part of any healthy diet. Consumers have traditionally made diet decisions based upon several factors like health, availability, and cost.
Fruit and vegetable consumption is most often based upon seasonally available foods. The most affordable produce is those grown locally in a particular season. Imported produce is often priced out of range for many consumers. Food consumption trends, however, change as incomes rise. With higher incomes people can afford more variety in the types of produce included in the diet. “In the United States, fruit and vegetable consumption has grown in the past 20 years. Today, Americans are eating fruits and vegetables that they did not even know existed 20 years ago. Some fruit and vegetables, such as peaches, grapes, asparagus, and melons, have become available in the market during seasons that they are not domestically produced, thanks to improvements in transportation and imports from other countries” (Pollack, 2001). Familiar produce, previously only available in specific seasons, is now available all year round because of the improvements in storage and transportation from other countries. Americans are becoming increasingly interested in healthier lifestyles. This has led to an increased produce preference for fresh and frozen rather than canned.
In the past two decades, American consumers have been looking for increased convenience in selecting fresh produce. Salads and precut vegetables and fruits in a bag that are ready to serve with very little preparation are another improvement to the way Americans eat. Preparing fruits and vegetables used to be a time consuming task that people could not find time to deal with. With the ability to open a bag of salad to add to a meal, people are getting more vegetables in their diets. Popular convenience produce include; prepared salads, cut up fruits and vegetable, dried products, mixtures of fruits packaged together, and prepared trays of fruits and vegetables. The most popular fruits are the one that easiest to eat like bananas, apples and grapes. The number one fruit consumed by Americans is the orange.
The increased convenience, availability, and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is part of the trend toward higher consumption of these produce items. Along with this convenience, availability and variety comes a higher cost. Importing produce from other countries not only increases the availability and expands the variety, but it also adds to the expense. Making the produce more convenient, like pealing, cutting, and packaging also adds expense for handling.
The trend toward increased consumption of fruits and vegetables increases as a country’s income increases.
Interestingly, even though the consumption of fruits and vegetables in the United States has grown over the past 20 years, the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has determined that Americans are still not consuming the recommended serving amounts of fruits and vegetables. This very same survey showed that households with increased incomes are more likely to meet the recommended amount of servings of fruits and vegetables than lower income families. Another interesting factor is that gender also plays a role in the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Men are more likely to meet the daily requirements of vegetables than are women, and conversely women are more likely to meet the requirement for fruit.
Many factors contribute to the trend in fruit and vegetable consumption. Availability and variety are important factors. Americans demand convenience. Even gender can play role. The factor that stands out the most is the increasing wealth of the American public (Pollack, 2001). With the ever changing world and increase in travel, income and tastes, many of the world community is developing newer and different tastes. This, along with rapid economic growth, will expand the potential for the world production and trade of fruit and vegetable products. Much depends on tailoring the products to meet individual demands and tastes.
“The demand for fruits and vegetables has been influenced by income growth, and other supply and demand factors. Consumers can expect a wider variety of produce on the grocery store shelves and lower or more stable prices for the more traditionally consumed commodities as shipping and handling techniques improve, and losses are reduced” (Pollack, 2001). “As the incomes continue to increase in developing countries, the demand for fruit and vegetables are expected to become greater. With increased globalization and the associated changes in lifestyles, demand for produce in developing countries will likely be shaped by the same factors that have affected U.S. demand for these products” (Pollack, 2001). “As in the United States, affordability, availability, health concerns, and convenience will probably influence future consumption of fruit and vegetables across the world” (Pollack, 2001).
Colander, D. C. (2008). Economics Seventh Edition. New York City: McGraw-Hill.
Pollack, S. L. (2001). Consumer Demand for Fruit and Vegetables. Retrieved January 19, 2008, from http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/wrs011/wrs011h.pdf