Despite the greater awareness of the environmental problem created by plastic, as well as the measures taken by supermarkets to reduce the use of disposable plastic bags, the total volume of packed fruit and salads sold is currently 7,000 tons greater than four years ago.
"The containers fulfill an irreplaceable function," says Ignacio García, director of the Spanish Association of Supermarkets, ASEDAS. "The main reasons, he adds, are three: food safety, preservation and convenience. The consumer not only wants fresh products, but also for them to be ready to eat, and the market is responding."
The big business of chopped vegetables
When talking about packaged vegetables, there are two categories: the one that comes in boxes and the one that is ready to eat. The most common example of the latter are bagged salads, like Florette's, which account for more than 55% of the market in Spain. The rest are vegetables (45%) and fruit (1.5%). Florette and the Citrus Food Group, supplier of Mercadona, are the sector's giants, going from strength to strength.
In 2015, Spain manufactured 99,000 tons of ready to eat fruit and vegetables per year; in 2018, 106,000. And growth is recorded neither in restaurants nor in the exporting sector, but only in supermarkets, where everything is wrapped in plastic.
According to Alimarket, this growth responds to the demand for convenience on the part of consumers. In addition, it cited a study by AECOC, according to which 56% of Spaniards buy ready to eat vegetables due to "lack of time". Moreover, 46% would buy more if there was more supply.
Continuing with the conclusions of the report, they are concerned about the issue of plastic. There is an on-going search for new materials (cardboard, recyclable, etc.), but "in the absence of alternatives," they say that "plastic offers substantial advantages, since in addition to protecting the product, it gives it visibility and allows the consumer to see its freshness."