Photo filière fruits-légumes

Trends and outlook for the fruit and vegetable sector

The quality of what they eat is a sensitive subject for the French. This sentiment is particularly palpable on the fresh fruit and vegetable market. Indeed, while consumers acknowledge the obvious benefits of these foodstuffs, the origin of products and their production methods continue to be a source of worry.

In 2018, virtually the entire French population was conscious of the importance of fruit and vegetables. In fact, 89% said they broadly or totally trusted vegetables, and 86% felt the same about fruit. However, the fruit and vegetable sector still faces many challenges.

Fostering change for more responsible food

Health, wellness, natural living and direct selling channels but also environmental protection and biodiversity are what the French expect from their food. In this respect, labels like AOP, AOC, IGP and Label Rouge which guarantee fruit and vegetables from the terroir and produced in good conditions, remain the leading vectors of reassurance, traceability and food safety.

Inspection actions and initiatives for progress are regularly undertaken to continuously improve their effectiveness. To go even further, the fruit and vegetable sector is now seeking to accelerate the transformation of agricultural and logistical systems in order to trigger a systemic change in production and distribution methods.

Increase consumption of fruit and vegetables among the under 35’s

The consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables is declining in France. Between 2010 and 2016, it dropped by 11% among adults and by 16% among children (CCAF CREDOC 2016 survey). To revitalise this consumption, a number of initiatives have been implemented by various stakeholders (bags of pre-portioned fruit and vegetables sold in mass retail for on-the-go and immediate consumption, the creation of fresh fruit juice stores in city centres, fruit and vegetables more frequently incorporated into canteen menus, etc.).

Furthermore, start-ups offer onlineorders of baskets of fruit and vegetables for office or home delivery. Others, to prevent food waste, advocate “rescuing of a basket of overripe fruit and vegetables” sold at a cut price or, to encourage regular consumption, pre-portioned fruit and vegetables.

To accompany and support this trend, the sector is engaging in collective and inter-professional communications initiatives towards consumers.

Alleviating consumer concerns about chemical treatment

The loss of trust in fruit and vegetables can mainly be explained by the excessive use of pesticides. And yet France applies one of the world’s most stringent crop protection rulebooks with respect to crop practices.

Today, 98.6% of products inspected comply with the legislation in force, with levels below maximum residue limits (MRLs) and 40% without any detectable residues at all. But nevertheless, the French still have in the back of their minds certain chemical products such as kepone, metam sodium, or, even more recently, glyphosate.

To alleviate consumer concerns about these chemical treatments, a range of initiatives have been undertaken by the sector:

  • the introduction of a drive to reduce pesticide reduction in operator training;
  • development of collective research (CTIFL and ANIFELT) on the different methods of combinatorial production that are developing (biocontrol, digitalisation of tools, robotics, etc.);
  • implementation of rules for the use of terms such as “free of pesticide residues” in association with the public authorities.

Reinforcing the appeal of French crop production on the world stage

Companies in the sector suffer from their lack of competitivity on export markets, notably due to high labour costs and their low visibility. The fresh and processed fruit and vegetable sector must continue to innovate in order to reinforce and enhance its competitivity.

It is therefore necessary to encourage the development of fruit and vegetable companies and boost their trade in Europe and around the world. To do so, the sector is continuously working with public bodies and helps these companies to be better promoted through international trade shows and promotional campaigns in various markets in Europe or further afield.

Accelerate technological innovation for a competitive and responsible sector

A substantial investment plan has been launched to rise to the challenges of specialist sectors. Specific equipment to work on the quality and conservation of fruit and vegetables, in particular post-harvest, mechanisation and automation or robotics and biocontrol, are all ways of increasing collaboration with innovative firms and research in these areas. Additionally, the French fruit and vegetable sector is now a prime playground for the use of new technologies, from the field to the consumer (robots to weed or harvest, smart phone applications on products, etc.).

To support all these actions, le CTIFL is reasserting its role as a driver of innovation for the benefit of the fruit and vegetable sector, providing technical and economic expertise and carrying out research and development, training, promotion and information. It also conducts a wide range of activities through its experimentation centres, located at the heart of the main French fruit and vegetable growing regions. As a central player, CTIFL is stepping up to the plate to build the bridge between professionals and consumers.

Sources: Anifelt, CTIFL, FranceAgrimer, Interfel