National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

Europeans aren’t pleased about per capita consumption trends, but it is hard to correlate their problems across the Atlantic to those issues that marketers face here in the U.S.

One reason for the disconnect, at least for me, is the variability in the method by which per capita consumption figures are expressed. A summary of the fresh consumption trends in Europe, as described in the ‘Freshfel Consumption Monitor’, shows EU-27 fresh fruit and vegetable consumption was rated at 382 g/capita/day for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Grams per capita per day? Come on, man! How about pounds/per capita/ year?

The report said EU-27 per capita fruit consumption in 2011 stood at 197.08 g/capita/day on average, 3% higher than 2010. Per capita vegetable consumption in 2011 was rated at 185.52 g/capita/day for the EU-27, up 2% compared with 2010.

Despite the slight uptick in consumption, the Freshfel release said the long term trend is not terribly encouraging, with more concerted public/private efforts to drive consumption needed.

If the metric numbers are jarring, talk of “public-private” partnerships to drive consumption is at least soothingly familiar.

 For an up-to-date summary of U.S. food consumption trends, go to this USDA web page.

 From that USDA report:

TheFood Availability data show that food consumption patterns have changed considerably since 1970. In 2010, each American had available to consume, on average, 56 pounds more commercially grown vegetables than in 1970; 58 pounds more grain products; 21 pounds more fruit; 12 pounds more caloric sweeteners; 37 pounds more poultry and 4 pounds more fish and shellfish (boneless, trimmed equivalent); 22 pounds more cheese; and 28 pounds more added fats and oils. Each American, on average, also had available to consume 30 pounds less red meat, 63 fewer eggs, 10 gallons less coffee, and 11 gallons less milk.

TK: Wow, that’s an effective word picture, in a measurement I can relate to – pounds per year. Nice and simple. And my, we are not backing away from the table, are we?

Meanwhile, for a long  list of U.S., per capita spreadsheets for individual fruit and vegetable commodities, go here.

U.S. readers who are befuddled with the lack of a common measuring stick for global per capita consumption can go here to an Food and Agricultural Organization site. This web page is the only site I found to compare fruit and vegetable consumption patterns between countries.

 From there readers can download country by country, commodity-specific per capita consumption figures. And, not surprisingly, the FAO database allows viewers to request the information in terms of either kilograms/per capita/year or g/capita/day.

 There they go again, with the kilograms and grams; it’s almost like the rest of the world is waiting for us to adopt the metric system. I'll give you my 12-inch ruler when you take it from my cold, dead hands.