The fruit and vegetable processing industry is gradually growing at a strong growth rate thanks to a rising consumer demand for fresh and healthy products that are easily available and need minimum preparation time, according to a new study from Market Research Hub (MRH), Albany, N.Y.

The report, titled "Vegetables - U.S. - May 2017," analyzes the overall U.S. market of fruits and vegetables, along with consumer's behavior, and is a result of qualitative and quantitative research techniques that aim to drill down the exact factors driving growth, restraining growth and creating new opportunities for growth.

Per the findings of the study, the vegetable category has experienced stable growth over the past few decades, driven primarily by fresh vegetables and fresh-cut salad. Health concerns are the prime factor, as consumers look for healthier and more nutritious options. In line with growing health awareness and changing demographics, demand for fruits and vegetables is expected to increase in the long term.

U.S. fruit and vegetable production is a major business enterprise, and mostly focuses on processed fruits and vegetables. Currently, this segment continues to make up a significant share of total fruit and vegetable consumption. Several types of processing such as drying, canning, freezing and preparation of jams, juices and jellies augment the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Research finds that vegetable sales grew 13% from 2011-16. As technology improves and consumer incomes increase, it’s possible for processors to provide fresh produce year-round. Factors such as income, aging of a population, market promotion and consumer awareness of the importance of produce also contribute to increased fruit and vegetable consumption.

American consumers now expect fresh tomatoes, strawberries and sweet corn every month of the year. In addition, a strong demand remains for processed fruits and vegetables. As per the research study findings, consumers indicate more interest in vegetables that are fresh, nutritious and natural. Due to this, the vegetables category is estimated to experience steady growth into 2021, heavily driven by fresh produce.