Comparing the availability, price, variety and quality of fruits and vegetables across retail outlets and by area-level socio-economic position

Anna Millichamp, Danielle Gallegos
Public Health Nutrition 2013, 16 (1): 171-8

OBJECTIVE: To explore whether area-level socio-economic position or the form of retail stream (conventional v. farmers' market) is associated with differences in the price, availability, variety and quality of a range of fresh fruit and vegetables.

DESIGN: A multi-site cross-sectional pilot study of farmers' markets, supermarkets and independent fruit and vegetable retailers. Each was surveyed to assess the price, availability, variety and quality of fifteen fruit and eighteen vegetable items.

SETTING: Retail outlets were located in south-east Queensland.

SUBJECTS: Fifteen retail outlets were surveyed (five of each retail stream).

RESULTS: Average basket prices were not significantly different across the socio-economic spectrum, but prices in low socio-economic areas were cheapest. Availability, variety and quality did not differ significantly across levels of socio-economic position; however, the areas with the most socio-economic disadvantage scored poorest for quality and variety. Supermarkets had significantly better fruit and vegetable availability than farmers' markets, although price, variety and quality scores were not different across retail streams. Results demonstrate a trend to fruit and vegetable prices being more expensive at farmers' markets, with the price of the fruit basket being significantly greater at the organic farmers' market compared with the non-organic farmers' markets.

CONCLUSIONS: Neither area-level socio-economic position nor the form of retail stream was significantly associated with differences in the availability, price, variety and quality of fruit and vegetables, except for availability which was higher in supermarkets than farmers' markets. Further research is needed to determine what role farmers' markets can play in affecting fruit and vegetable intake.

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