Jamie Oliver on why his partnership with Tesco is more than ‘jazz hands’

The celebrity chef has teamed up with the nation’s biggest supermarket to change perceptions around healthy eating and make it more achievable for customers.

Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is partnering with Tesco to help customers make better food choices and get Britain eating healthier meals.

As part of the partnership, Oliver will front its ‘Helpful little swaps’ campaign in-store, which shows customers healthier alternatives that offer reduced levels of sugar, salt and fat, while also being more affordable. According to the supermarket giant, a basket of helpful little swaps will cost 12% less than a regular basket.

Oliver will also support Tesco’s work to help colleagues and customers cook meals from scratch, with a series of recipes and cooking tips available in Tesco stores and online.

But while he is undoubtedly a big name ambassador, he says he doesn’t just want to be the “jazz hands” of the new campaign and insists it’s about working hard to get the message across.

“This is not just a customer-facing initiative, we are very much going to be looking at Tesco’s colleagues. There are 300,000 people who work for Tesco, that’s not a small amount of people,” he said this morning (10 September) at an event to unveil the partnership.

“And this is not a conventional ‘jazz hands, I’m doing the adverts and the entire front-facing thing’, for me this feels much more grown up. There’s a lot to gain and I think this will be changing the recipe industry.”

The partnership follows a recent survey of more than 2,000 people that reveals seven out of 10 families say supermarkets should do more to help people make healthier choices, with almost 70% also saying they would like more practical advice and inspiration on healthier alternatives.

Oliver, with support from Tesco’s chief customer officer Alessandra Bellini, says he is trying to remove the misconception that eating healthy means you need to have a bigger budget, while also ensuring the brand avoids being viewed as “preachy”.

“What we are trying to do together is find ways to help our customers shift their behaviours. Not change their behaviours, not preach and not tell them what to do but to make it easier,” Bellini said.

“We start with our colleagues. What do they need to do? What do they need help with? And how can we do that for our customers as well? We will discover what won’t work and what will work and we just need to adapt for the long term.”

The move comes seven years after Oliver quit as the face of rival supermarket Sainsbury’s where he was brand ambassador for 11 years.

The year after joining, Oliver was credited with driving Sainsbury’s profits: of the £535m profit made by Sainsbury’s in 2001, £153m was attributed directly to Oliver’s ads. He also helped trigger a 900% increase in the sale of ingredients used to make prawn curry after his first ad aired in 2000.

What we are trying to do together is find ways to help our customers shift their behaviours.

Alessandra Bellini, Tesco

When asked what success would look like for the Tesco partnership, Oliver says both he and the retailer would be holding themselves accountable, reviewing their progress each year to see if they’ve achieved their promise.

“We’ve either gotten more people buying fruit, veg, nuts and seeds or we haven’t. We are either effective or we’re not. Reviewing ourselves will allow us to interrogate whether I’m the problem or [Tesco is] the problem, or maybe we’re not listening hard enough,” he explains.

“There are just a few ways to measure success. The first is that you’ll know it is [successful] because you feel it. You will know if this is working if it affects you. Tesco has been doing the ‘healthy swaps’ for some time now and we know it works.”

He is also calling on all departments of the businesses to get involved in tackling a problem that is “symbolic of our time”.

The first set of recipes by Oliver will be available in Tesco stores this month featuring a vegetarian noodle stir fry and a quesadilla bake. The campaign will run in-store, online and across social media.

“In moments like right now where we feel like we can’t make a difference, I’m telling you we can. You might not be able to control your town, your city or your street, but you can control your home,” Oliver said.

Alessandra Bellini will be appearing on the Customer Experience stage at The Festival of Marketing 11 October. For more information and to buy tickets go to festivalofmarketing.com

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