Opinion

Emerging Trends in the Processed Fruit and Vegetable Market in Europe

Published May 17, 2024
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Europe's processed fruit and vegetable industry is rapidly evolving due to shifting customer preferences, technical improvements, and an increasing emphasis on sustainability. In 2022, revenue generated from processed fruits and vegetables in the EU's was worth EUR 2.51 trillion, demonstrating the sector's dynamism and importance to the EU economy. Consumers increasingly demand organic food devoid of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and seek ready-to-eat and easy-to-prepare options. Manufacturers are developing innovative packaging and processing technologies, such as snack-sized servings and resealable packets, to accommodate this demand. On the other hand, sustainability remains an issue that must be resolved in the coming years. The EU food and beverage industry emits 85 million tons of CO2 annually, with energy consumption playing a key role. Plant-based diets also impact the market as the number of vegetarians and vegans grows. However, the EU's average fruit and vegetable consumption declined to 350 g/day per capita in 2022, 12% below the WHO's recommended minimum. The market's future depends on innovating and addressing the demands of an increasingly health-conscious and ecologically aware European populace.

Figure 1: Import Value of Processed Food Top 6 EU Countries 2019-2023

EU Proccesed Food Import Value

Source: Trdige, TradeMap

The processed fruits and vegetables market in Europe is undergoing rapid changes, driven by shifting consumer preferences, technological advancements, and a growing focus on sustainability. In 2022, revenue generated from processed fruits and vegetables in European Union (EU) reached a EUR 2.51 trillion, a slight decrease from EUR 2.58 trillion the previous year. This figure underscores the sector's dynamism and its crucial role in the EU economy. The primary trend among European consumers is their demand for organic processed fruits and vegetables, free from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. This trend mirrors the overall rise in well-being and environmental consciousness, compelling suppliers to adopt organic farming practices.

The fast-paced lifestyle of European consumers has led to a surge in the popularity of ready-to-eat and easy-to-prepare processed fruit and vegetable products. Manufacturers responded to this demand by introducing innovative packaging and product formats, such as snack-sized servings and resealable packs. These solutions provide the desired convenience without compromising the nutritional value of the products. Aseptic packaging and innovative processing methods, like High Pressure Processing (HPP), are also revolutionizing the industry. These techniques preserve product freshness for extended periods, enabling less processing and aligning with the global shift towards safer food alternatives.

Figure 2: Data of EU Processed Food and Beverage Sector

Source: FoodDrink Europe

Consumers express an increasing concern about the environmental aspects of food choices, thus, increasingly preferring products with sustainable and ethical sourcing. Meanwhile, producers and retailers are continuing to implement eco-friendly solutions in supply chain activities, including but not limited to reduced water usage,carbon emissions, and circular economy design. The following data demonstrates the reasons for concern regarding sustainability in the overall EU processed fruit and vegetable sector:

  • The EU food and drink business generates about 85 metric tons (mt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually. Most of these pollutants are linked to energy use. The electricity grid consumes 62% of its energy as heat and 38% as power.
  • In 2021, the EU lost or discarded approximately 58 million metric tons (mmt) of food, accounting for 16% of the total greenhouse gasses (GHG) emissions from the food sector.

However, in recent years, there has been significant progresses towards creating a sustainable food ecosystem in the Eu, demonstrated by the data below:

  • The EU recycled 40% of plastic packaging waste in 2021, a 7% increase from 2010. Spain, Italy, and Slovenia recycle more than 50% of their packaging trash, followed by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.
  • In 2021, organic farming accounted for over 10% of the EU's agricultural land, significant greater than the previous decade.

Diets based on plant products also influence the market. As the number of consumers with vegetarian and vegan preferences grows, the interest in processed fruits and vegetables used in plant-based meals facilitates this interest. At the same time, the market gives much space for product development and marketing innovations.

According to Freshfel Europe's latest edition of the Consumption Monitor, average fruit and vegetable consumption in the EU fell to 350 grams per day per capita in 2022, a 5% YoY fall from 2021 and about 3% lower than the previous five years' average. This quantity remains more than 12% below the WHO's recommended minimum of 400 grams per day per capita. According to the same report, just six EU nations meet the recommended goal of at least 400 grams of fresh fruits and vegetables/per day/per capita, leaving plenty of room for improvement to increase consumption.

The European processed fruit and vegetable market is witnessing a dynamic shift driven by consumer demand for organic, convenient, and sustainably sourced products. As the market continues to evolve, producers and retailers must stay attuned to these trends and adapt their strategies to meet consumers' changing needs and preferences. The market's future lies in innovating and sustainably meeting the demands of an increasingly health-conscious and environmentally aware European population.

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