Tesco: ‘We must give back to the communities we serve’

Tesco has had a difficult year with profit warnings, accounting scandals and falling market share. That makes it all the more important for the supermarket to give something back to the communities it serves, said its community director Greg Sage.

Speaking to Marketing Week he said that Tesco has always “prioritised” its community relations and the latest issues haven’t impacted that or the supermarket’s ability to “give something back”.

“We want to play an active role in the communities we serve… Giving something back to the communities and developing relationships in the communities.

“This is a priority for Tesco. We have a long track record in supporting communities,” he added.

Sage is responsible for Tesco’s latest community initiative, the “Eat Happy Project”, which replaced its “Computers for Schools” scheme. While that was very successful in its day, said Sage, what Tesco found from talking to customers and teachers was that the need now was around helping children learn more about food and where it comes from.

The first part of the project was the “Farm to Fork” scheme, which launched in March, offered primary school pupils educational trails around factories, farms and supermarkets, offering practical demonstrations on where food comes from and how it is made. The scheme is now live in more than 700 Tesco stores and at 150 supplier sites and has taken more than 500,000 children on trails.

It was then expanded to classrooms through a tie-up with Google’s Connected Classrooms service, which uses Google Hangouts and was developed by digital agency Zone. Tesco has also run cooking classes in stores during the summer holidays and has just signed a deal with the Scouts to bring the trails to cubs and beavers from January.

The aim, said Sage, is to help children have a healthier relationship with food and reduce childhood obesity. That fits in with the first of its three “big ambitions”, which encourages consumers to lead healthier lives.

Response to the scheme has been positive, said Sage, with 91% of teachers rating the trails as at least “very good” in feedback. Tesco is also tracking if the programme leads to behaviour change, although Sage said it is too early to tell yet what impact it has had.

“We started with primary schools because that is where eating habits are formed. The younger you start the better chance people have of developing good eating habits. We are tracking that behaviour change we cannot solve it single handedly. We are part of solution and have a role to play,” he said.

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