With an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey finding just six per cent of Australians are eating the daily recommended intake of vegetables, 2016 Nuffield Scholar Michael Vorrasi sees an opportunity.
After travelling throughout North America, Asia, the United Kingdom and the Middle East as part of his scholarship, Mr Vorrasi believes those willing to embrace new techniques and technologies will excel.
Mr Vorrasi’s family business, DSA Fresh, is now one of Australia’s largest hydroponic leafy vegetable producers, and his awareness of low rates of vegetable consumption motivated him to explore ways to overcome barriers to consumption and the role that value-added vegetables can play.
‘‘People are increasingly time poor and if we are going to grow consumption rates we need to take an innovative approach to the vegetable offering we provide,’’ Mr Vorrasi said.
‘‘The value-added approach is one that looks at the end user and focuses on their needs and demands.’’
With 67 per cent of shoppers purchasing value-added produce, the strategy clearly has a broad appeal.
However, Mr Vorrasi’s research demonstrates that the potential of value-added products goes further, allowing producers to satisfy niche consumer requirements.
‘‘Cauliflower rice is a perfect example,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a niche product that is growing in popularity as consumers seek gluten-free, low calorie alternatives to traditional rice.’’
Consumer desire for increasingly ethical and sustainably produced foods was also explored by Mr Vorrasi, who looked at the ability of value-adding processes to reduce the amount of food waste generated by producers and retailers.
As a result producers are now increasingly seeking innovative ways to use their produce, such as shredding second-grade lettuce for use in fast food outlets.
However, Mr Vorrasi found that for value-adding processes to be successful, they still had to have an understanding of customers’ needs and desires, with unnecessary packaging or alteration unlikely to succeed.
‘‘Producers have to understand what the consumer wants and focus their energies on that, rather than just planting a product and hoping it will sell.
‘‘It’s an exciting time in the vegetable industry, as we see a growing desire amongst the population to increase their vegetable consumption.
‘‘The ability to harness the opportunity will come down to the vegetables we grow and the way we adapt and change in line with consumer preferences.’’