Ethnic Cultures are Driving More Produce Consumption

RobertaCookMany factors have affected food consumption patterns over the last 25 years.

In Tracking Demographics and U.S. Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Patterns, a 2011 report has a list that is lengthy.

Roberta Cook, cooperative extension specialist and lecturer in the Department of Agricultural & Resource Economics at the University of California-Davis, writes about key trends that affect food consumption,  including:

* demand for foods of high and predictable quality offering convenience and variety;

* growing demand for freshness and foods with higher flavor profiles;

* a willingness to experiment both in restaurants and in the home;

* the changing ethnic composition of the population, which has expanded demand for Asian and Hispanic commodities;

* the growth in public knowledge about how diet and health are linked;

* the importance of maintaining physical fitness throughout life;

* the simultaneous trend toward higher rates of obesity;

* an exploding research base on the specific phytonutrients/antioxidants associated with individual fruits and vegetables and their potential protective health benefits;

* a higher public sector profile and policy engagement on U.S. health issues to the benefit of fruits and vegetables, such as MyPlate;

* and growing consumer interest in where and how food is produced.

Cook points out the changing ethnic makeup of the U.S. population is definitely favorable to fresh produce consumption, since Hispanic and Asian Americans consume fruits and vegetables at higher rates than African Americans and whites.

Roberta Cook has a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Michigan State University.  Since 1985 she has been the Cooperative Extension Marketing Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ARE) at University of California, Davis.  She conducts an applied research and industry outreach program focusing on the marketing and international trade of fresh fruits and vegetables, including studies on international competitiveness, industry structure and procurement practices, the N. American fresh tomato industry, and trends in consumer demand and food distribution.She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Ocean Mist Farms and Village Farms, and served for 11 years on the Board of Naturipe Farms. She has served on numerous PBH committees and is a member of the Monsanto Vegetable Seeds Advisory Council. Other board service includes: the PMA Foundation for Industry Talent; Sunkist Growers; the California Kiwifruit Commission; and the American Agricultural Economics Association Foundation. From 1998-2003 she was a member of the ATAC for Fruits and Vegetables of the U.S.D.A. and the U.S.T.R.