Comfortable, healthy, safe and sustainable: fresh-cut products are highly appreciated by Italians; however, there are still some prejudices and some wrong behaviors among consumers relating to the category. In a nutshell, this is what emerges from a Bva-Doxa survey, commissioned by the IV Range Group of the Unione Italiana Food and conducted in May 2022 on a sample of 1,000 people, representative of the Italian population. Faced with a series of possible definitions of ‘IV range products’, only 34% choose the correct one. Fruit and vegetables of the IV range are fruit, vegetables and, in general, fresh vegetables, with a high service content, packaged in bags or trays and ready for consumption ‘ – while 11% respond by mistakenly saying that they are “fresh, packaged products, to be rewashed before consumption”, 9% confuse them with frozen foods and 7% with canned vegetables.
Once the correct definition of the IV range category is shared, the results show the great penetration of IV range products in Italian families: almost 3/4 of the interviewees buy them on a regular basis (38% habitually / every week and 36% fairly often / 2-3 times a month). 19% say they buy them occasionally / once a month or less, and only 7% say they never buy them.
But what are the main reasons why Italians choose to buy the IV range? 58% of respondents declared that they purchase IV-range products for convenience and to save time, 34% for portioning, 30% because product waste is avoided, and 26% because they are products that help to have a healthy eating, facilitating the consumption of vegetables. And, in fact, the main advantages that Italians recognize to IV range products are: they are ready to use (for 39% of the sample), they do not have to be cleaned and rewashed (19%), they avoid waste (19%) , are safe from a hygienic point of view and are controlled (13%), label (5%) and origin (5%) can be verified.
Among the IV range products, the undisputed queen is the salad in a bag, purchased by 81% of the sample, followed by bowls, always of salad, (purchased by 40% of the sample), washed and cut fruit (30% ) and soups (29%). As for fresh-cut fruit, 16% say they buy it habitually / every week, 27% quite often / 2-3 times a month; 33% once a month or less, while 24% say they never buy it. Specifically, among the reasons for buying fresh-cut fruit, in addition to practicality and comfort (cited by 61% of the sample), with 32% of the answers, the “possibility to consume exotic fruit comfortably” stands out. 17% of respondents say they buy it because it represents a practical snack for children and 10% use it in the preparation of desserts.
In relation to habits, places and times of consumption, 79% of the sample consumes fresh-cut products at home, 24% in the office / school and 23% away from home. THEthe main moment of consumption is lunch on weekdays (indicated by 59% of the interviewees), followed by dinner on weekdays (53%), lunch on holidays (30%), as between meals (23%) and dinner on holidays (23%). Despite the great appreciation of Italians towards fresh-cut products, there are still erroneous behaviors and false beliefs. When asked “How do you store the product once it has been purchased?”, As many as 63% declare that they transport the IV range product from the point of sale to their home in normal non-refrigerated bags. Only 34% behave correctly, transporting IV range products in cooler bags.
“This data – he declares Andrea Battagliola, president of the IV Gamma Group of Unione Italiana Food – surprised us and confirmed that it is still important to create culture in this category. The IV range products are fresh vegetables and fruit and vegetables which, after harvesting, are subjected to processes aimed at guaranteeing their hygienic safety and enhancement, following good processing practices and maintaining the cold chain. This maintenance must be guaranteed from post-harvest to consumption and every actor in the supply chain, including the consumer, must do his part “.
In relation to the reduction of waste, for 48% of the sample the IV range is better than fresh fruit and vegetables prepared at home. Similarly, in relation to the use of water, 39% are well informed and declare that the IV range guarantees water savings compared to domestic preparation, but there is still one in four Italians who maintains the opposite. “The IV range product, being already cleaned, washed and portioned, is ‘zero waste’. Furthermore, production waste is 100% reused, mainly for animal feed. As far as water is concerned, I would like to give a fact: the industrial washing process consumes about 90% less water than the domestic one, for the same product ”, comments Battagliola.
From a hygienic point of view, 29% of the sample believe that the IV range is better than fresh fruit and vegetables prepared at home. Similarly, from a nutritional point of view, almost one in 5 Italians do not know how nutritious the fourth-range products they consume are: “From a nutritional point of view, fresh-cut vegetables are comparable to those of the first range; It should also be highlighted, in this sense, the fact that, being ready for consumption, IV range products actually encourage the consumption of fruit and vegetables in many people, the quality and safety from the hygienic point of view of IV fruit and vegetables gamma are ensured through thorough washing and drying. Washing, for which the national legislation provides for at least two tanks with continuous water exchange, takes place with drinking water and through advanced technological systems which, unlike domestic washing, guarantee a safe and compliant product. It is for this reason that the Ministry of Health allows the product to be marketed as ‘washed and ready for consumption’ ”, concludes Battagliola.
Finally, the companies operating in the sector enjoy an excellent reputation: the vast majority of Italians recognize them a greater commitment in terms of proposals and service (77%), innovation (71%), transparency (72%), safety ( 67%) and sustainability (66%) compared to 10 years ago.