Production of Fourth Range Products
In the lasts years fourth range fruit and vegetable products have shown to be largely appreciated, compared to the general decrease of consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables: according to ACNielsen data between 2002 and 2007 the average annual increase of fourth range products was above 20%, while it decreased the following year, till flipping only in 2008, when compared to 2007 there was a decrease of 2% in volume and 4% in value.
In 2008 the whole market of fourth range products was around 90,000 tons, with a turnover of about 700 million euros. Italy is second major producer of fourth range products, immediately after Great Britain, in the main European markets ranking list.
Nowadays there is not any official information about the areas used for the production of fourth range products in Italy: anyway, according to the information provided by Aop Uno Lombardia, the area used for the production of fourth range products is of about 6500 hectares, above all in greenhouses, with an average of 5-6 cycle a year on this area.
Main vegetables which form fourth range products are usually
single and mixed salads, arugula and radicchio, parsley, minestrone soup, mixed herbs, chard, chicory, puntarelle, cobs, rocket in bunches, loose rocket, celery heart, escarole heart, courgette flowers, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peeled and sliced potatoes, onion cubes, sliced champignons mushrooms, sliced peaches, mangos, melons and oranges.
Moreover, the fourth range fruit and vegetable product offered to the consumer can be of one variety (arugula) of more varieties (mixed salads), ready for raw consumption of to be cooked (spinach, herbs, vegetable side dishces, minestrone soup with legumes).
Some kind of vegetables, can also be offered to consumers without the skin (citrus fruits, pears, apples, pineapples, carrots, ecc.), sliced ( slice, round un cubes), in single trays also with mini-forks and dressing to be consumed with.
Fourth range market, however, is represented for 86% by salads, among which the major varieties are mixed crunchy salads (34%), while single variety products, such as lettuce, valerian and arugula, represent together 35% of total sales of fourth range fruit and vegetable products.
Around 86% of sales of fourth range products in 2009 was through hypermarkets, while the rest through hard-discount and free services: even for the sale of fourth range products we can see a more and more large increase in the importance of hypermarkets and hard-discount (starting form 2008) at the detriment of supermarkets, which from 2005 till today passed form 58% to 49% of sales.
Countries, such as Great Britain and the USA made great progress in developing these fresh packaged products: Kip Winter-Cox, leader company at a world level for the processing of vegetables and Beth Padera presented real experiences in the English and US markets. Kip Winter-Cox presented the current situation in Great Britain, where fourth range products have a great penetration in the food market (a total value of 4 billion euros as to consumption).
The quantities of fourth range products consumed in the USA compared to Europe are quite different: if an American consumes about 30 Kg of fourth range products, the European average is around 3 Kg per capita a year.
Even in the same Europe there are clear differences: in the UK people consume about 12 Kg per capita a year, in France 6Kg per capita a year, while in Italy about 4 Kg per capita a year.
Other countries where the consumption of fourth range fruits and vegetable are lower are Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany; Eastern European countries are developing a lot in this field, an aspect that is no undervalued by international companies.
Despite the strong success of frouth range products, Italian law does not define this specific range of fruit and vegetable products, referring instead to national laws regarding
hygiene quality control of 4th range products il (pL. n. 283 of 30/04/1962 and D.P.R. n. 327 of 26/03/1980).