The pledges (see box) will see food manufacturers such as General Mills and Mars add more fruit and vegetables to ready-meals, while supermarkets including Tesco and M&S have vowed to give healthier options more prominence on shelves. This includes fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juiced products, as well as fruit and vegetables in pre-prepared food, such as ready-meals.
The plan, launched by public health minister Anna Soubry today (15 November), marks the latest phase of the government’s Responsibility Deal with the UK’s food industry and aims to encourage people to get their five-day.
Food brands to commit to new pledges include: The Co-operative Food, Mars and Tesco, Aldi, Sainsbury’s, M&S, Waitrose and General Mills.
The Department of Health says the deal, which was launched in 2011 to tackle rising obesity rates in the UK, has “already achieved real progress” in helping people cut the calories and salt in their diet.
Soubry adds: “This pledge is part of a wider government plan to encourage everyone to eat their 5-a-day, which includes our £10 million investment in the Change4Life campaign, and the 2.1 million children who receive a free piece of fruit or vegetable in school everyday under our scheme.”
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), which represents the interests of the UK’s food and non-alcoholic drinks industries, hailed the latest updates and urged other brands to sign up to the pledge.
Melanie Leech, director general of the FDF, says :“Alongside other sectors in the food industry, we encourage manufacturers to sign up to this pledge and contribute to helping consumers towards greater fruit and vegetable consumption. This can be achieved by reformulating composite products to increase fruit and vegetable content, providing recipe suggestions on product packs or company websites, or developing new fruit and vegetable based products, for example.”
The pledges were also welcomed by the UK retail industry. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) says the initiatives show that retailers recognise “how important it is to use innovative products, prominent promotions and competitive pricing to encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables.
Andrew Opie, food director at the BRC, adds: “Retailers are supporting this pledge. I hope this public commitment nails the myth that eating healthily is expensive. Customers have never had better access to affordable fresh food.”
Campaign group the Children’s Food Campaign says it is difficult to tell how some of the pledges will lead to long-lasting behaviour change and urged health ministers to clamp down on marketing that encourages unhealthy eating.
Malcolm Clark, campaigns co-ordinator for the organisation, says: “Moves to help us get closer to eating our recommended 5-a-day are always welcome. It is hard to see how short term voucher schemes can lead to long-lasting behaviour change. And by not taking a tougher stance on protecting children from the marketing of unhealthy food and drink, the government continues to let our most prominent food manufacturers and retailers off the hook.
“We’re looking for the government to develop sticks to go with the publicity “carrots” it is handing out to companies involved in this initiative.”
The pledges are the first to be announced since former culture, media and sport minister Jeremy Hunt replaced Andrew Lansley as health secreatry in September.
The pledges include:
- Aldi will increase the amount of store space dedicated to fresh produce and feature their discounted ‘Super 6’ fruit and vegetable lines in their promotional activities including TV advertising.
- The Co-operative Food will target customers who are not buying fruit and vegetables with money-off coupons on fresh, frozen and canned produce.
- Iceland will offer coupon deals on fruit and vegetables, boost its activty on online and on social media as well as introduce new fruit and vegetable products.
- Lidl will rebrand its entire fruit and vegetable range making it more appealing – particularly for children – with fun characters and jokes on kids’ packs.
- Subway will launch a new campaign fronted by elite athletes Louis Smith and Anthony Ogogo to promote their choice of a Low Fat Sub.
- Mars Food UK will introduce 5 new products next year to its Dolmio Sauce range, which will contribute to 1 of your 5 a day per serving.
- M&S will reformulate further products to increase fruit and vegetable content, and continue to expand its product range.
- Tesco will launch new, healthy ranges that include a minimum of one portion of fruit and vegetables. It will also include fruit snack packs in meal deals and add new brands to canned vegetable range. The retailer willl also move frozen fruit into th dessert section.