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Opinion
26/09/2016

Consumers are looking for quality and competitiveness in their fruit and vegetables

Ignacio García Magarzo. General Director of ASEDAS

The consumption of fruits and vegetables is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet, which is fortunately strongly-rooted in Spain. According to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Environment's Food Consumption Panel, 2,663,514 kilos of fresh vegetables and 4,424,410 kilos of fresh fruit were consumed in Spain in 2015. According to the study, "Spending on basic foods in 2015" from EAE Business School, that makes us the second-largest consumer in the world.

Among vegetables, tomatoes play a very important role, with consumption reaching 623.7 million kilos in 2015. As for fruits, citrus fruits were among people's favorite, with consumption amounting to 1,311.5 million kilos. At any rate, seasonality is a factor that Spanish consumers appreciate. In fact, last summer more than 50% of fresh product sales in ASEDAS supermarkets were watermelons, honeydews and stone fruit.

Distribution through supermarkets that are part of ASEDAS add considerable value to the sector, since our companies sell more than 30% of the total fruits and vegetables sold in Spain. For our channel, the selection of fruits and vegetables is strategic, not only because it's one of the most competitive in Spain's food sector (which requires a lot of hard work to meet consumers' demands) but also because it allows us to combine the advantages of tradition—in terms of contact with customers—with the modernity of new sales formats. With 0.9% growth with respect to 2014, the vegetable that has been processed thanks to producers' and processors' innovation capacity is becoming increasingly popular among shoppers, with total consumption reaching 592.7 million kilos in 2015.

Fruit and vegetable consumption habits can be summed up in: quality, comfort and competitive price. The demand for safe, healthy and varied foods responds to new food habits and culinary trends. What's more, selling them at a price that's compatible with all budgets and a few feet from their homes is a challenge all ASEDAS supermarkets share. This is not possible if the focus on customer service is not fully aligned from the source of the food chain. Only by working very closely with all members of the chain, starting with farmers—one of the future pillars of food distribution—can the goal of efficient distribution focused on consumers' true preferences become a reality.

Another key aspect of this work is being capable of conveying real consumption preferences to producers and creating something of value together that attracts customers in terms of the quality of the products, their presentation or convenience for the consumer. In this regard, in recent times fourth range products—mainly salads, sprouts and some vegetables—which are sold chopped in pieces and ready for consumption, have really taken center stage. According to data from IRI for the February 2015 MAT, this category registered a sales volume of 71.7 million kilos and revenues of 407.3 million euros. These figures reflect growth of 5.8% in volume and 10.9% in value in year-on-year terms. Another up-and-coming sector, which is expected to see growth, is the fifth range, i.e. products that are ready for consumption and which, in addition to vegetables, include protein, carbohydrates and other nutrients, such as ham, cheese and pasta.

With a view to closing the circle with all members of the chain, from the consumer to the producer, and ensuring as much as possible the levels of sustainability in supermarket distribution, ASEDAS has signed the Code of Best Commercial Practices in Food Procurement. It has been a joint project with farmers and the food industry which provides greater safety and transparency to meetings with one another, favors mutual understanding and, in particular, protects SMEs and producers. We believe that this code will help strengthen our supermarkets' commitment by offering a complete range of products at very competitive prices to the 5 million consumers who do their shopping in our supermarkets.

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