Frozen vs. Fresh: What are Consumers Choosing?

By Hari Yellina
Pic supplied

If you choose frozen fruit and veggies over fresh, you may discover that you have a little extra money in your bank account after your next supermarket trip. In recent months, the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables has risen dramatically. They were up 17% in February compared to the same month a year ago, owing to higher prices for tomatoes, broccoli, and iceberg lettuce. Inflation in fruits and vegetables reached 18 percent in March before falling to 9.4 percent in April. Frozen fruit and vegetables, on the other hand, are available all year and are not affected by seasonal variations. For the previous 20 years, the price of a kilogramme of frozen veggies has remained between $3 and $4, according to Stats NZ’s Food Price Index.

Fresh corn cobs were not available. A 500g package of frozen blueberries from Countdown cost $7, and a 1kg bag cost $12.50. Fresh blueberries were unavailable, however 1kg of dried blueberries cost $58.90. A 1kg bag of frozen mixed vegetables and a 1kg bag of peas were both $2.19 at New World. For the same bag, Pak ‘n Save was $10 cheaper. Because it was in season, it was cheaper to buy a fresh head of broccoli for $2.29. In July of last year, though, 1kg of broccoli cost more than $11 when it was out of season.

According to Gel Mathel Lim, project lead for Love Food Hate Waste, frozen fruit and vegetables are often cheaper than fresh, especially during the winter when bad weather and low temperatures can drive up the price of produce. “The lower cost is typically due to the ability to harvest, store, and transport frozen fruit and vegetables on a greater scale, with less time pressure to get the goods to shop shelves than fresh fruit and vegetables,” she explained. She added that using frozen rather than fresh food reduced food waste, saving consumers money in the long term. Frozen fruit and vegetables are just as good as fresh and “far cheaper,” according to registered dietitian Claire Turnbull. “Frozen fruit and vegetables come in such a wide variety these days that there’s something for everyone.”

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