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FS operators drives initiative with 90m more veg portions served

Major UK food businesses have helped serve 90 million additional portions of vegetables over two years as part of the Peas Please initiative.

Impact made by Autograph Interserve, BaxterStorey, Greggs, Sainsbury’s and Tesco proves that driving change in consumption is possible, and poses a challenge to other businesses in the food industry to follow suit and make 2020 the year to prioritise veg.

Eighty percent of adults and children and 95% of teenagers in the UK do not eat enough vegetables, but meeting government health guidelines for intake could help save 20,000 lives each year in the UK, with poor diets now the leading cause of premature death globally.

A new report from the Peas Please project, which works to make vegetables more appealing, accessible and affordable for everyone in the UK, show cases ‘Veg Pledges’ made by 63 contract caterers, high street chains, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, public food procurers, broadcasters and 22 Veg Cities among others. The report highlights the need for more food businesses, particularly large retailers, to promote their customers’ health by selling more vegetables.

Tesco sold 28 million additional portions of veg this year through their ready meals, and Sainsbury’s launched a new Little Ones range that sold 4.8 million portions of vegetables. Autograph Interserve served two portions of veg with every meal delivered in schools, and BaxterStorey successfully increased the overall percentage of vegetables offered in their meals by 15%. They are now aiming to increase this to 25% by June 2020. Greggs has served an additional 9.4 million portions of vegetables to date.

While some pledgers have demonstrated that change is possible by achieving their ambitious targets for veg sales and procurement, the gap to bridge for vegetable consumption in the UK remains a significant one.

When it comes to the how much veg is found in the average shopping basket, data from Kantar World Panel shows a slight decrease year on year: the percentage of the basket made up by veg has fallen from 7.3% to 7.1% over the last three years.

The fact that the same data for Peas Please Pledger retailers only (rather than the sector as a whole) is very slightly up on the preceding year is encouraging, but demonstrates the scale of the challenge considering that 20% of our shopping basket needs to be veg if we are to meet government health guidance for consumption.

January has also seen the launch of Veg Power’s #EatThemToDefeatThem evaluation report. “This report is just the beginning of our journey,” said Baroness Rosie Boycott, Veg Power Chair. “One campaign is not going to change the world. But the positive results we have seen already are nothing short of an extraordinary start.”

The campaign was seen by 38 million people on ITV and sales data from econometrics specialist Pearl Metrics and data analyst Nielsen show there was a 2.3% uplift in vegetable sales during the. This helped generate an extra 17.7 million unit sales of vegetables with a retail value of £16.2m.

In addition, Childwise and YouGov suggests that attitudes and behaviour among children and their parents have started to change. A YouGov survey of 1,000 children and their parents showed the advert was liked by 64% of children aged between 6-11years. 43% of kids who saw the ad said they wanted to eat more vegetables that week.6

The campaign returns this year, expanding its reach to include ITV, C4, Sky and Five with a bigger and more enhanced school programme

Peas Please aims to deliver meaningful change in the food system by 2023 by making it easier for everyone, particularly those on low incomes, to eat more veg.

The initiative is co-ordinated by five partner organisations in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, including The Food Foundation, and aims to bring together businesses and brands from across the food system to secure commitments to improve the availability, affordability and quality of the veg offered in supermarkets, shops, schools, pubs, fast food outlets and beyond.

For every one of the five-a-day eaten, the risk of mortality decreases by 5%. Eating more veg could prevent diet-related illnesses like heart disease, cancer and Type 2 diabetes, and significantly reduce the subsequent financial burden on the NHS.

In 2019, Peas Please received £1.6m in funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to deliver meaningful change in the food system by 2023 by making it easier for everyone, particularly those on low incomes, to eat more veg. Support from the National Lottery Community Fund means that Peas Please has the resources to continue to work towards more than a billion portions.

Anna Taylor, Executive Director of the Food Foundation, said, “Selling 90 million additional portions of veg in two years is proof that it’s possible to make a real impact when businesses take the challenge seriously.

'The Veg Power advertising campaign has shown us how to increase demand for vegetables, and our Peas Please pledgers have done an impressive job of upping the supply.

'But we’re still frighteningly far off eating the five a day minimum, and we’re facing a public health crisis. Food businesses across the UK must keep up with consumer needs: it’s time to show leadership and creativity in making veg an appealing, affordable and convenient choice.”