Anyone working in the agri-food sector will be aware of the threat facing the nation’s health through poor diet. We’re simply eating too much of the wrong foods. It’s a growing problem that sadly often starts early in life.
Over the years there have been numerous high-profile, consumer-facing campaigns addressing the issue of healthy eating. Frequently, their remit includes trying to encourage kids to consume more of the right foods – no mean feat.
Therefore, as we head towards the season of Brussel Sprouts, it seems fitting that the 15th episode of the AFCC podcast, focuses on the hugely successful Veg Power initiative.
Catherine hosted an ‘in conversation’ session with the initiative’s founder, Dan Parker and welcomed back Jack Ward from the British Growers Association. They looked at how this compelling concept grew from a low-key, charitable scheme into a major, multi-channel campaign with a breadth of cross-industry support. The Veg Power’s programme of activity is having a positive impact throughout the supply chain from Britain’s growers and into the mouths of youngsters.
Taking a fresh approach to an age-old problem
Any parents among you will know encouraging your kids to eat their veggies can be a battle. As Dan highlighted it’s unfortunately become a cultural problem:
“They’re being taught that vegetables are disgusting by the world around us. So they’re eating a narrower range of vegetables and a smaller volume of vegetables than their parents.”
The decline in the consumption of veg is not only bad for the nation’s health but also poses a long-term risk to the profitability of our horticultural sector.
Knowing your audience
The simple truth is kids refuse to eat veg because they think they’re boring. It’s led to vegetables becoming currency at mealtimes, with parents concerned about food waste and stress around the dinner table.
Previous international campaigns to promote consumption have failed, by failing to address the issue in a way that engages with the target audience.
Working with advertising guru, Sir John Hegarty, and the creators of the John Lewis Christmas ads, Adam & Eve, the creative approach Veg Power has taken turns traditional thinking on its head in seeking to change children’s attitudes.
One of the most striking aspects of the campaign’s overwhelming commercial success is that based on the startlingly simple premise - ‘Eat them to defeat them.’
This empowering call to action embraces the imaginative principle that vegetables are evil and need to be beaten. By discover the enemy’s weakness, children can overcome the ‘baddies’.
‘Eat them to defeat them’ immerses primary age kids in a compelling narrative. It’s all about role play and interaction where parents are placed on the same side as their offspring.
As Dan explains the only thing that matters to primary aged children is:
“How much fun am I having right now?”
The power of endorsement
A not for profit enterprise, Veg Power is supported by some heavy-weight celebrity campaigners such as Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall.
One aspect of the initiative’s broad appeal is that eating more veg is part of the solution to a range of important, topical issues – climate change, childhood obesity, Covid-19 and the Brexit challenges faced by producers.
And it’s a message that no one’s going to argue against. This has made Veg Power enormously attractive to high profile supporters – from mainstream celebrities and retailers through to global entertainment brands. Not to mention helping to secure £11m of free media space through its charitable purpose. Something a trade board led initiative would never be able to achieve.
During the past two years, the founders of Veg Power have lived and breathed their mission. An essential aspect has been engaging with influential individuals and organisations. It’s a tenacious approach that is paying dividends, with companies queuing up to endorse the campaign.
Changing perceptions through the right media channels
Early on, the initiative’s founders recognised that to communicate their message effectively they needed to use advertising and traditional marketing channels to challenge existing perceptions.
As well as crowd funding, Veg Power were fortunate to secure support from ITV. The broadcaster provided the necessary backing to deliver the widespread awareness needed to make the campaign a success.
Involvement throughout the supply chain
Maintaining momentum is essential to changing consumer attitudes in the long term and Veg Power remains committed to driving big cultural, behavioural change.
Much of their activity is founded on developing lasting partnerships. Today, there are 2,000 organisations involved in supporting the initiative from retailers, growers and schools. These relationships are now being formalised through a membership scheme where businesses pledge their ongoing support. This move will enable Veg Power to become operationally sustainable and keep up their good work.
The latest element of the initiative seeks to educate and inspire people to eat more seasonal veg. The UK is currently heavily dependent on imported veg and there is an opportunity to really influence consumer behaviour and grow vegetable production in the UK.
Through their multi-facetted approach, Veg Power are delivering tangible results in terms of growth in sales. It’s such an important campaign that’s really turning the dial. It’s not just good for our kids’ health, it’s also good for the business health of our British growers.
We look forward to watching their journey as they transform our attitudes towards veg.
Veg Power Facts and Figures
- 46 million - TV campaign reach
- 77 million – reach of posters
- 250,000 activity books distributed
- 1,500 schools involved in the programme
- 25% reduction in school waste
- 52% of parents reported an increase in veg consumption
- Sales increase of £63m in just 18 months
- 517m additional children’s veg portions