Only 1 in 3 people achieve the 5-A-Day goal and some still manage only one portion a day or less. It’s clear we need to move beyond basic educational messages and onto tangible action to support and enable people to boost their intake of fruits and vegetables.
Experience shows this is easier said than done. Retailers in particular have already done a lot and offered a variety of incentives to consumers to put extra fruit and vegetables in their baskets – from colourful displays at the front of the store to seasonal recipes and price promotions. But to realise the full public health benefits it’s clear we need to do more and this is why we’ve put so much effort into developing this new Responsibility Deal pledge.
People who eat more fruit and vegetables are less likely to suffer from heart disease and some cancers. Fruit and vegetables are at the heart of a healthy diet – they add fibre and a range of micronutrients to improve nutritional quality. And with relatively few calories in every bite, it’s hard to over eat on broccoli – so adding more veg adds bulk on the plate and reduces the risk of overeating and weight gain, helping in the fight against obesity.
I am delighted that we now have 17 major companies coming forward to make commitments to do even more “to create a positive environment that supports and enables people to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables”.
The aspiration is that working together we can reshape the food environment so that consumers have a wider range of fruit and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned and dried to choose from. We will see more vegetables as an integral part of pre-prepared product ranges and a raft of new incentives to taste, try at home and continue to purchase as a regular part of their weekly shop or when eating out. In essence it’s about changing social norms around fruit and vegetables – making them centre-stage not a sideshow.
As with other Responsibility Deal pledges, the promise of broad, collective action, across the industry from retailers, manufacturers and caterers offers a real opportunity to make a step change. Some manufacturers have committed to adding more veg to current products (the ‘health by stealth’ approach) or introduce new ranges with more vegetables as an integral part of the product such as Mars’ Dolmio pasta sauces and Tesco’s Eat, Live, Enjoy range.
Retailers have committed to a raft of new initiatives to make fresh produce more available and more desirable than ever before. ALDI will increase the amount of store space dedicated to fresh produce and LIDL will rebrand its entire fruit and vegetable range making it more appealing, particularly for children – with fun characters and jokes on kids packs.
Morrisons will revamp the produce department in more stores by introducing new layouts, extended choice and exciting innovations – based on their experience they expect this could boost sales of fruit and veg by an average of 14 per cent, helping many more customers on their way to 5-a-day. And Waitrose is training hundreds of staff to become fruit and vegetable specialists – to boost its fresh produce offering in store and give advice to customers.
Some of the major contract caterers, Brakes, CH & Co and 3663 will be working to boost the opportunities to make fruit and vegetables an integral part of meals away from home. But it’s not just fresh produce, frozen and canned options are also playing a role with convenient, low cost options such as the pledges from the British Frozen Food Federation, Iceland and General Mills’ Green Giant.
Over the summer we held an interesting workshop with experts in behaviour change to try to identify new approaches and I’m pleased to see Subway’s creative Famous Fans campaign promoting extra salad items as part of their Low Fat Sub range. And the Co-operative Food are targeting customers who are not buying fruit and vegetables with money-off coupons in a bid to change customer behaviour. In the New Year I hope to see other businesses translating some of the behavioural insights that are emerging from consumer research to develop innovative strategies to influence people’s shopping habits.
As with all our pledges, this announcement is just the start of what needs to be a sustained campaign. Companies signing up today are among some of the most progressive, forward looking businesses who want to support their customers to put their healthy eating resolutions into action. We need many more companies to join our efforts and we will be continuing to press for further action. I’m convinced there are far more opportunities to reformulate composite dishes, to consider placement opportunities in store and to make vegetables an integral part of the standard price of a meal out. This is a real win-win opportunity – good for business and good for customers.
This Responsibility Deal pledge to boost fruit and vegetable consumption sits alongside work by the Change4Life programme to motivate and enthuse consumers to choose a healthier diet. It’s vital that we focus particular attention on encouraging those who currently consume very little to boost their intake. Research shows that fruit and veg intake ‘tracks’ through childhood and adolescence, so healthy school lunches with at least two portions of fruit or vegetables are really important to give children the opportunity to experience fruit and vegetables from an early age, and to see other children and adults around them enjoying these foods.
I’m particularly pleased to announce these fruit and vegetable commitments, because the Food Network pledges now cover each of the key elements to help us achieve dietary recommendations – less salt, fewer calories (primarily from less fat and sugar) and more fruit and vegetables to boost fibre and micronutrients. Taken together they are a big step towards transforming the diet of the nation.
Next year we will be reinforcing this work with a pledge specifically focused on reducing saturated fat and discussions to frame a new pledge relating to the promotion of food, designed to tip the balance of promotions in favour of healthier options.