Archive for '5+ A Day'

The Role of Fruit & Veg in Society

I have discussed fresh produce pricing on a number of occasions – as those who visit here regularly will have noticed.

Well, I had an epiphany last week.  I think I have the answer to the problem of fresh produce pricing…

I was listening to the segment on National Radio where they rattle through the headlines from the New Zealand newspapers around the regions and one headline caught my ear – enough to make me look up the news item in question from the Dominion Post.

So, what are the issues again?

People need to eat fresh fruit and veg.  But the price of fresh produce is too high for people afford, so their health is at risk.

Growers need to make a living from growing and supplying fresh produce.  But the price of fresh produce is too low for them to do that, so their livelihood (and our food supply) is at risk.

“Somebody” isn’t prepared to pay growers a high enough price for their produce and that “somebody” is being driven by the behaviour of the consumer.

So who is driving this consumer behaviour?  The influences are many and varied, ranging from the mother-in-law, the school, the mommy bloggers, the kids, nutritionists in the media, and so on…

I’m going to stick my neck out here:

the glass ceiling for fresh produce prices exists because people like nutritionists persist with pushing the idea that fruit & veg should be cheap!

Here’s my answer, then.

What needs to happen is that the fresh produce industry takes the nutritionists in hand and makes them understand the commercial realities of growing fruit & vegetables, so that the nutritionists’ ability to influence can be harnessed better to correctly position produce on the consumers’ plate.


Produce Merchants in the middle of …

Well, not nowhere this time, but here are several (and various) produce merchants I spotted while out and about in Beijing.

Produce stalls on campus at Peking University

Beijing greengrocer

Greengrocer on two wheels

Melon delivery truck: straight from farm gate to city = very short supply chain

Supply chain value add: melon on a stick for sale in the Forbidden City

Cavemen and Calculus

I have a team member with a propensity for out of left field utterances.  A recent one got me thinking, especially as it matched a theme I’d been exploring for that presentation at Peking University I mentioned in the previous post.  It went something like this:

“We’re still cavemen trying to live in a 21st century world”

And one of my themes in myPeking speech was about the rate of change in my lifetime, how it is accelerating and methods of learning to cope with the problems this causes.

Whilst I don’t consider myself a caveman, there are times when the rapid rate of change happening everywhere I look does make me wonder if we, homo sapiens, are ready for it from an evolutionary standpoint.  Let’s face it, the human body is not built to withstand travelling above a certain speed.  We are soft flesh over a breakable skeleton.  Yet here we are, able to buy and drive cars that can travel well in excess of that certain speed.

Much of what we do, a caveman would recognise: we live in caves, albeit called houses and with air conditioning; we wear furs, although the clothes we wear come from mammoth stores, as opposed to a woolly mammoth; and we still eat nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables – although what Mrs Cro Magnon’s opinion of supermarkets would be, I dread to think.  So we’re still doing all the same things the cavemen did, we’re just more sophisticated in how we go about it.  We can devise changes in technology far faster than Mother Nature can in humans by evolution, so it’s no wonder the two are increasingly out of step.

How has this rate of change affected our food?
Read more »


I was in Europe in the last week of May to attend the Spring Meeting of the International Federation for Produce Standards Board being held in Rotterdam.  While there, I was able to enjoy a very well organized and fascinating industry tour arranged by IFPS member association Frug I Com, which took in a range of fresh produce sites that included glasshouse, packing and retail operations.

As always, I had my “what’s happening in the nearest supermarket fresh produce department” eye open, and this is what I saw:

This is a wall of panklaar – and a very large and well stocked wall it was.  For non-Dutch speakers, panklaar literally means “ready for the pan” or “immediately useable”.  Basically, it was a dizzying array of prepared fresh produce in various combinations and permutations for the householder to take home and cook with no fuss, no mess and no phone call to mother for instructions required.  Flatmate heaven!  How long before the Europeans have this available via vending machine at the railway station?

And look at what can be done with potatoes:

Anybody could cook well balanced, varied, fresh, nutritious, 5+aDay meals at home with this sort of prepacked produce available at the local supermarket – no excuses.

Thing is, I don’t see this in New Zealand supermarkets.  And I have spent quite some time since taking these photos wondering why I don’t see it.

Is our fresh produce industry not capable of producing this type of pre-prepared, value added packaged product?  We have some very innovative people in our industry, so surely the answer is no.

Is there not the demand for it?  Well, there are some “soup mix” prepacks of prepared and chopped vegetables in NZ supermarkets, so that’s a start.  And with all these chef-led supermarket adverts on the TV these days, how hard would it be to create a market?  Remember Alison Gofton’s Food in a Minute series causing a run on Watties’ frozen pompom potatoes?

Is there not the scale of market to make this possible?  How much does Europe’s much bigger population base make this type of prepack operation feasible, sustainable and worth investing the capital, versus doing it here for only 4 million people?  Would we be only talking about the one or so million urban dwellers here in Auckland?

Questions, questions, questions.

And here’s another one for you thinking fresh produce people out there:

Just exactly when is the NZ fresh produce industry going to be taking up this type of product development?