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    Fresh Produce is a Natural Value Meal: PMA Study

    Eating healthy needn’t break the bank

    With the new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advising folks to fill half their plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack, a new report from the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association (PMA) finds that fresh produce is not only good for you, but is also a great bargain as well.

    Specifically, it costs U.S. shoppers on average $2.18 to get the recommended nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables – 28 cents for a serving of fruit and 21cents for a serving of vegetables, so finds the PMA study, while the value-conscious consumer can get that nine-serving cost down to 88 cents – positioning fresh produce as the affordable, natural “value meal.”

    The PMA-commissioned study by The Perishables Group provides the produce industry with the facts and figures needed to correct consumer misperceptions about produce prices. Findings published in The Cost of the Recommended Daily Servings of Fresh Produce  further confirm fresh produce is a good buy year-round, while also packing a nutritional punch.

    “We’re thrilled that our industry can help shoppers understand that eating healthfully can be cost-effective, even on a budget, thus driving demand for fresh produce,” said PMA president/CEO Bryan Silbermann. “This study confirms that fresh produce is a good buy year-round and debunks high-profile claims that fresh produce is expensive.”

    This first national study of its kind reviewed retail sales data to calculate average consumer costs across the country and throughout the year to achieve the nine servings per day recommended for an average adult. Researchers determined that consumers buying produce at everyday prices spent a national average of $2.18 per day to purchase five servings of vegetables (2.5 cups) and four servings of fruit (2 cups). Savvy shoppers can do even better: Budget-minded consumers shopping sales and promotions can save nearly 60 percent (spending only 88 cents for nine servings).

    Researchers analyzed point-of-sale sales data for all fresh fruits and vegetables at the store level, by week and by item during third and fourth quarters of 2009 and the first and second quarters of 2010. The study’s findings report on average prices for the total U.S, and east, central, south and west regions. Actual prices could be even lower, researchers report, depending upon where consumers are shopping. These prices were fairly consistent across seasons and regions.

    Many of the most common fruits and vegetables are good buys, according to the study, including six of the top 10 most common fruits appeared in “value shopper” baskets, and nine of the top 10 most common vegetables. Nationally, the least expensive fruit servings were watermelon, bananas, apples, pears and peaches, averaging less than 28 cents per serving. Cabbage, potatoes, eggplant, lettuce/salad, prepared cooking greens, cauliflower, summer squash and carrots rung up less than the average 21 cents per serving for vegetables.

    “This research is a boon for our industry on many levels, giving us a platform to talk to consumers and policy makers about the value of healthful fresh produce,” added Kathy Means, PMA’s VP of government relations and public affairs. “We’ll certainly be using this research in PMA’s work with legislators, regulators, administrators and public health influencers. In fact, USDA recently released research that mirrors PMA’s own. However it covers all forms of fruits and vegetables, not just fresh produce.”

    The PMA report’s detailed information gives produce suppliers and retailers a bounty of new fact-based outreach and promotional opportunities to help consumers shop and prepare meals affordably and healthfully with fresh fruits and vegetables – for example on websites, in social media forums, on packaging, in point-of-sale materials, in store and on ad.

    The full report is available free to members on PMA’s website.

    In related news, a new study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service also confirms just how affordable fruits and vegetables really are, with the recommended amount costing between $2.00 - $2.50 per day.

    Based on Nielsen Homescan data from 2008 to estimate the average retail price per pound and per cup of 153 commonly consumed fresh and processed fruits and vegetables, the USDA/ERS report found that average prices ranged from under 20 cents per cup to over $2 per cup depending on the specific fruit or veggie.

    "We all know how important fruits and vegetables are to a healthy diet, yet most Americans don't eat enough of them," said Elizabeth Pivonka, president/CEO of the Hockessin, Del.-based Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), the nonprofit organization, in partnership with CDC, behind the Fruits & Veggies-More Matters national public health initiative. "Eating fruits and vegetables is a sound investment in long-term health. The notion that they are too expensive is just an excuse for some people. Fruits and vegetables are literally the cheapest form of health insurance you can buy," Pivonka added.

    Among the 153 varieties of fruits and vegetables used in the USDA study were fresh, frozen, canned, dried, and 100 percent juice, all of which count towards filling half your plate each day.

    To learn more about Fruits & Veggies-More Matters and the America's More Matters Pledge, visit www.FruitsAndVeggiesMoreMatters.org.

    For more information on the USDA's Economic Research Service's study, How Much Do Fruits and Vegetables Cost, visit www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib71.

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