Green Light for Vegetables

20 Nov 2015

A key trend in healthy eating in recent years has been the move to increase the fruit and vegetable content of our diets, with a particular focus on children’s consumption levels. While increasing fruit consumption has been less of an issue and some initiatives have seen some success, efforts to increase vegetable consumption have not tended to fare so well. In response to this, cookbooks started to focus on ways to increase vegetable consumption in the diet, often by disguising it in some way in recipes for more popular options. This trend is also now being reflected in the packaged food market. Initiatives in recent years have mainly focused on getting more vegetables into our children’s diets, but there are now signs that this may be broadening out to focus on adults and the whole family.

Vegetables are beginning to appear in diverse products, particularly in the beverage aisle, where vegetable smoothies no longer seem to be products for the niche new-age consumer. In fact, the number of smoothies tracked with vegetables is growing significantly, with just 35 global launches recorded in the first half of 2011 and 170 tracked in the first half of 2015, following several years of strong growth. Innova Market Insights reported a +29% increase in vegetables in 2014 from 2013. The leading vegetables for 2014 were: carrot (37%), vegetables not specified (20%), tomato (17%), beetroot (12%), cucumber (7%), celery (6%) and kale (5%). Children can be very resistant to eating their veggies, and there is now a wide range of children’s meals featuring “hidden vegetables,” where they are pureed and blended with other ingredients, such that their use is not immediately obvious. Some of the smaller specialist baby and children’s food brands have been highly active in this area, including Annabel Karmel in a number of countries and Little Dish in the UK, which introduced a “hidden veg” tomato sauce containing vegetables. This has been sold on its own in a pot as well as used in selected recipes, most recently what is claimed to be the UK’s first “healthy” chilled pizza range aimed at toddlers.

Specialist children’s brand Kidfresh in the US has also adopted the concept for all its recipes, while mainstream frozen foods company Birds Eye launched its Lil Fishes Hoki & Hidden Veggies fish and vegetable nuggets in Australia in the spring of 2015, for example.


But moving away from the children’s market, Orkla of Denmark launched its Pastella Vegetable Pasta range of fresh pasta with a 40% vegetable content in the first half of 2015, featuring Carrot, Broccoli & Peas and Cauliflower options. Claimed as a category innovation, the three styles of pasta feature the taste and texture of standard fresh pasta, but with the high vegetable content. Pastella already claims market leadership in fresh pasta overall in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands and is clearly hoping to further develop its position with this concept.

While fresh pasta with a “hidden” vegetable content may be an innovation, a review of new product activity recorded by Innova Market Insights reveals that the dried pasta market has been seeing this type of launch for some years, led by the US, where ConAgra’s leading pasta brands, including Golden Grain, Mueller and Ronco all feature a range of Hidden Veggie options with the color, texture and taste of standard lines. Muellers, for example, has a range of spaghetti and pasta shapes with added vegetables such as carrots, sweetcorn and squash, making up one full serving of the daily requirement of vegetables per portion.
To accompany pasta, there has also been ongoing activity in hidden vegetables in pasta sauces, particularly using a tomato base with additional vegetables mixed in. In the UK, Mars’ Dolmio and Mizkan’s Ragu (formerly owned by Unilever) both have Smooth Hidden Vegetable options in their glass jars ranges, featuring at least one portion of the recommended 5-a-day in a smooth tomato-based sauce with added vegetables.

Ingredient suppliers have responded to the vegetable trend too and new solutions offer improved taste and quality benefits that should drive consumer acceptance. The industry has been looking for ways to increase vegetable consumption for years and we think we have reached a tipping point and we will start to see new a lot of innovation in this space. Consumers are looking for healthier options so the market is ripe with new opportunities.

Lu Ann Williams, Innova Market Insights

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