Fresh fruits and vegetables are a staple of a healthy diet, providing important vitamins, minerals, and fibre. Despite the convenience and cost-effectiveness of frozen produce, many shoppers still prefer to buy fresh. In this article, I explore the reasons why people tend to choose fresh produce over frozen, even though the latter arguable has more advantages.
I believe a major barrier to adopting frozen produce as a preferred option is due to evolution: Our ancestors didn’t have freezers! We are hard wired to recognise images that trigger fight, flight, or find a mate responses in our brains. Even though the chances of being hit by a car are much greater that the odds of us being eaten by a lion, our brains respond faster to an approaching lion image than to an approaching car.
So, when we are out shopping, we naturally gravitate to the more natural displays of fresh produce than to plastic wrapped and hidden frozen alternatives.
One reason why people prefer fresh produce is the perception that it is healthier. According to a study published in the journal Appetite, people tend to believe that fresh produce is more nutritious and natural than frozen produce. This perception may be due to the fact that fresh produce is more recognisable as natural (as consumed by our ancestors), while frozen produce is more commonly associated with processed food. In a particular study I conducted the mere presence of the word ‘processed’ complete turned shoppers off an entire sub-category ion the supermarket.
Another reason people choose fresh produce is because they believe it tastes better. While it is true that frozen produce can be just as flavourful as fresh, many people still prefer the taste of fresh produce. A study found that the sensory qualities of fresh produce were perceived to be superior to those of frozen produce. But this study looked at produce consumed raw as opposed to cooked. When it comes to an apple for example, the fresh version has many advantages including aroma, crunchiness and even ability of holding. But apple pie on the other hand…
Do we need to make the frozen aisles much more experiential in-store so that they can compete with the evolutionally wired multi-sensory triggers offered by fresh fruit and vegetables?
Another factor that may influence people's preference for fresh produce is the social and cultural significance of food. Fresh produce is often associated with traditional cooking and family meals, while frozen produce is seen as more of a convenience food. In many cultures, preparing fresh food is a way of showing love and care for family and friends, which can make it a more attractive option. It is always a challenge to make frozen fruit and veg look anywhere near as enticing as the fresh alternatives.
To support this, research has even identified that crisps are perceived as tastier, fresher, and even more healthy, when there is an image of potatoes on the display.
Despite the many advantages of frozen produce, including cost-effectiveness and convenience, many people have evolved to still prefer fresh produce. The reasons for this are varied and complex, but they include a perception that fresh produce is healthier, tastier, and more natural than frozen produce, as well as the cultural and social significance of food.
In conclusion, while frozen produce has its advantages, many shoppers still prefer fresh produce. This preference is influenced by factors such as evolution, perceptions of health and taste, control over ripeness, and social and cultural significance. Despite the convenience and cost-effectiveness of frozen produce, fresh produce remains a popular choice for many consumers.
Finally, I hypothesize that shoppers simply aren’t hardwired to hunt and gather from freezers. And the products contained within aren’t implicitly recognised as being worthy of hunting for or gathering as much as fresh alternatives.
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