The message on the health benefits of fruit and vegetables is reaching shoppers, according to new research that indicates that 44% of people believe their diet is always healthy because they eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day; however, many shoppers are avoiding vegetables because they see them as too difficult to prepare.

According to the latest research from food and grocery think tank IGD, people are eating more fruit, with consumption rising by 3.8% since the launch of the five-a-day campaign; however, vegetable consumption has declined by 2.1%.

Over a third of people who do not eat vegetables say it is because they require too much effort, according to the research. And 41% of lunches included fruit in 2004 whereas only 33% included salad. In fact, consumption of salads has declined by 3% since 2001. Mushroom consumption has fallen by 5% since 2001, while cabbage consumption has declined by more than 60% since 1983.

More people are now eating fresh fruit for breakfast, with bananas particularly popular: over a third of all bananas eaten in home are eaten at breakfast and feature at 8% of breakfasts. Fruits that don't require peeling or preparation like grapes, soft fruits and stoned fruits are growing in popularity. Citrus fruit consumption has increased by nearly 20% since 2001. Apples are the only fruit to have seen a decline in consumption (-2%) since 2001.

"Shoppers want convenient foods. The food industry has been responding by providing diced, chopped, shredded and peeled vegetables and fruit that are ready to eat and cook. What people want is to be able to grab something and eat on the go. This will be the next challenge and will be an important approach for targeting lunch and increasingly breakfast occasions," said Joanne Denney-Finch, IGD chief executive.

"Consumers tell us that they want products that meet their health, taste and convenience needs.  I believe there is already an abundance of products that do this, not least fresh fruit in its basic form. The opportunity therefore lies in the marketing, in particular ensuring that the offer is in the right format, in the right place to fit in with today's lifestyles," she added.

To find out more about IGD's Food Consumption 2005 report, click here.