By Rick Stein, Vice President, Fresh Foods, FMI

cooking produce

I had an ongoing debate with my son when he was young. Green beans weren’t his favorite vegetable, but I kept telling him it’s not that he didn’t like green beans, it’s just that he hadn’t found the way he liked green beans cooked. I remember one Thanksgiving when he ate the green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and onion rings on top. He wanted seconds and then thirds. I said, “So you do like green beans.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted meal preparation back to home kitchens and with that has come culinary experimentation, re-imagination and discovery, even of our preconceived notions about produce.

The Power of Produce 2021 report finds 78% of shoppers have changed their meal preparation with fruits and vegetables. Here’s the breakdown of how produce shoppers are expanding their produce cooking skills:

  • 33% tried to cook different fruits or vegetables.
  • 33% used news spices, sauces or flavors.
  • 32% followed a recipe from a cooking show or website.
  • 29% used new methods (frying, baking, grilling, etc.).
  • 26% used new devices (air fryer, pressure cooker, etc.).
  • 20% tried to prepare in a way a restaurant would.
  • 18% followed a recipe from the grocery store.

Gen Z and Millennial consumers are driving this trend and are more likely to have changed the way they prepare fruits and vegetables. These younger generations are also more likely to use grocery store recipes.

Beyond new cooking skills, it seems more at-home cooking has allowed produce shoppers to work more vegetables and fruits into their everyday meals. For example, shoppers are including more vegetables in their lunch and dinner and more fruit in their breakfast and snacks. Households working from home and experiencing virtual education boost this trend, especially at lunchtime and for snacks. 

My son now has his green bean casserole every holiday and does not remember ever disliking them, but some shoppers are still re-discovering fruits and vegetables or trying to introduce them to a new generation. The willingness to utilize the grocery store for recipes and meal inspiration is an opportunity food retailers should not miss. Inspire at-home chefs looking to add produce to the plate with recipe ideas, produce preparation and convenience techniques and showcase your produce butcher and value-added produce options. With summer on its way, educate consumers on which vegetables or fruits taste great on the grill. Have you ever had Brussels sprouts on the grill or pineapple skewered on the grill? Fruits and vegetables are critical ingredients to all home cooking and retailers need to provide suggestions to play up the role of fruits and vegetables as part of the meal solution.

Download Power of Produce 2021 for insights into consumer produce purchases habits and deep dives on cooking produce and health and well-being.  

Download Power of Produce 2021