Anne Heughan, ex-Global External Affairs Director at Unilever and RSPH Trustee, reveals how a new initiative is mobilising support for encouraging the increased consumption of vegetables.
In October last year, the UK had its first vegetable summit. In fact not just one summit, but three (in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh) on a landmark day which began a journey to drive up veg consumption across the country.
The summits were part of a nationwide initiative called Peas Please run by the Food Foundation which is all about making it easier to eat veg and bringing a wide range of food system actors together to achieve this.
Forty trailblazing businesses led the way and made pledges in line with the Peas Please commitments framework to take action. Many of those businesses are major UK companies including Mars Food, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Coop, Lidl and Nestle.
The initiative which runs to 2020 is welcoming new pledgers all the time, and will be celebrating progress every year when the annual progress report will be published.
Why veg? First, because low veg consumption is a major public health challenge. In fact the global burden of disease initiative tells us that in the UK alone 20,000 deaths a year could be prevented if we could tackle low consumption of veg and pulses.
Second, if we can drive up veg in meals we are likely to reduce meat consumption – which brings with it numerous opportunities for reducing the carbon footprint of our food system. Third, it’s a uniting and positive message – it brings together all parts of the supply chain from producers to advertisers.
And finally, the trends are going in the wrong direction – the Food Foundation's Veg Facts report shows that consumption in the UK is the same as it was in the 1970s.
But do people really want to eat more veg? Good question. Certainly the evidence suggests that if we can make it easier to eat it, people will eat more, but veg doesn’t have a great image. It’s something you have to eat because your mum tells you to. It’s the butt end of a lot of food jokes and if you were a brand manager, you’d think the brand needs a relaunch. So Peas Please is trying to tackle that too.
Starting with a competition for ad agencies to design an ad aimed at kids to get them eating more veg, Peas Please has drawn in some incredible expertise from the ad industry – Sir John Hegarty, Dan Parker from Living Loud, LONDON advertising, plus support from some of our favourite food campaigners – Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall to launch the idea of an advertising fund for veg.
The Veg Power fund is attracting contributions from businesses across the food industry and is now launching as a crowdfund to get more involved. It will start by testing out a range of marketing and digital approaches aimed at helping kids and their parents eat more veg.
Peas Please and Veg Power are drawing in a huge amount of good will, major influencers in the food world and considerable interest from government. This is definitely a band wagon to be on!
If you want to get involved, please email the Food Foundation.