London Produce Show and Conference steps up to host major vegetable consumption summit

Peas Please - veg facts cover shot

Peas Please is seeking pledges from the entire UK vegetable supply chain

The London Produce Show and Conference 2017 will play host to a ground-breaking summit that looks to take action on the UK’s vegetable consumption crisis once and for all by changing the food environment and food system in the UK

The Food Foundation, Nourish Scotland and WWF-UK have come together to identify the biggest food-system barriers to vegetable consumption and unite stakeholders to dismantle them.

The three organisations launched their Peas Please – Making a Pledge for More Veg Campaign simultaneously in London, Cardiff and Glasgow on November 7 highlighting the “five peas in a pod” vital to raising vegetable intake namely: pleasure, producers, prices, products and placement.

Following a two-day vegetable retreat held in Birmingham earlier in the autumn which brought together 30 different people from along the supply chain as well as other stakeholders, the objective is simple: to bring together growers, retailers, fast-food and restaurant chains, caterers, processors and government departments with a common goal of making it easier for everyone to eat vegetables. 

Veg Facts

“We have convened leaders across the food system to consider which aspects of the supply chain could benefit most from changes in policy and practice and to agree the scope of change needed,” the organisations state in Veg Facts, their briefing document unveiled at the launch. “Together we will weigh up the merits of different changes in terms of their feasibility and potential impact, and work to secure wider commitment to these changes. This will lead to a major summit on June 7, 2017 where government and business leaders will be asked to commit to act.”

Peas Please - Jim Prevor
Jim Prevor announces LPS17 will host the vegetable summit

Jim Prevor, president and editor-in-chief of Phoenix Media Network Inc, which runs The London Produce Show and Conference is delighted to be part of the initiative. “Just telling people what they ought to do does not work very successfully,” he believes, referring to different projects aimed at lifting fresh produce uptake. While there are lots of individual success stories, these can often be at the expense of other products, for example while kale consumption has exploded, that of spinach has declined, he highlights.

Prevor thinks that what is needed is a “cultural and culinary shift” so that rather than consumers eating steak with a salad or serving of vegetables on the side, a stir fry of vegetables with a relatively smaller amount of protein essentially to add flavour will be required.

“This takes time and it needs government and non-government effort to make these kind of shifts. We are really honoured and happy that we can be part of it and hold this summit at The London Produce Show and Conference next year,” he says.

Peas Please - Rosie Boycott
Rosie Boycott, Food Foundation trustee

The unveiling of the campaign is only the beginning, Rosie Boycott, chair of the London Food Board and Food Foundation trustee is keen to point out. “We have to figure out a way to get kids to eat more veg,” she says. “Five-a-day hasn’t worked. The space [used to grow] veg in the UK has declined by 26% in the last 30 years. Veg Facts a very valuable report and it is the start of a very important process.”

The report starts from the premise that we all know that vegetables are good for us and that in the UK we all need to be eating at least one more portion a day, although many of us, are eating hardly any at all. It analyses how much we eat, how much we should eat and the ways we eat it, including the fact that children get more of their vegetables at school and nursery than they do at home.

The report also asks if vegetables are unaffordable for some and if it is easy for people to eat vegetables if they want to as well as looking at whether we produce enough in the UK and if consumers actually want to eat vegetables.

Peas Please - Anna Taylor
Anna Taylor, Food Foundation executive director

Five Peas

Anna Taylor, Food Foundation executive director highlights some of the challenges of the five Ps:

Products:
Only 1.2% of advertising spend on food in the UK is spent on vegetables.
We are eating more food on the go so convenience is a massive challenge.
How can we get more vegetables in ready meals?
How do we make vegetables more attractive?

Placement:
One in three nurseries are not serving vegetables daily.
Many fast-food outlets have a very limited vegetable offer.

Price:
The number one reason people give for their food choices is price according to Defra statistics.
People perceive vegetables to be expensive but our report shows that it is 2.5 times cheaper to get 1,000 calories from highly processed foods than it is to get those calories from vegetables.
We have a significant number of people in the UK living on extremely tight budgets.

Pleasure:
How do we get to the point where vegetables as seen as desirable and attractive?
We have managed to make Cadbury’s Creme Eggs seasonal, but we don’t have any of that buzz when it comes to the real seasonal offer.
What has come out of the report is the need for a connection with our food; making it something children want to eat.

Producers:
Horticulture benefits least from the Common Agricultural Policy subsidies.
We have shifted in our tastes to more exotic vegetables.
Some 30 years ago, 83% of our vegetables were grown in the UK. Now it is 58%.

“The combination of higher food prices and pressure on UK horticulture production, in a situation where our children are already eating much too little veg, threatens to make our children’s diets even worse than they already are,” says Taylor.

“The government now has an opportunity to re-think agricultural subsidies as we leave the European Union, and link them directly to supporting the public good. Scaling up investment in horticulture would be an excellent place to start. If we ate the amount of veg we should it would provide an opportunity for British growers to produce an additional 1.5 million tonnes of veg, creating employment opportunities and generating growth.”

The National Farmers Union is on board with the initiative and horticulture adviser Lee Abbey was at the veg retreat and at the launch. “Despite numerous government and industry initiatives to improve consumer diets, fruit and veg consumption simply hasn’t risen," Abbey laments. "Much more has to be done to make fruit and veg available whenever and wherever we buy our food and in the right format to satisfy today’s shopping habits. We need to build a supply chain that is fit for the future and works collaboratively from the supplier right through to the retailer. Consumers want to eat more fruit and veg and everyone in the food supply chain has a responsibility to enable them to do so.”

Meanwhile, Laura Sandys, chair of the Food Foundation and a former MP wants to see “a major facelift” for vegetables’ image in the UK: “The best brains in advertising [are] needed to make it a super desirable treat," she says.

Academia is behind the project too with Professor Corinna Hawkes, director of the centre for food policy at City, University of London emphasising the importance of supply chain involvement in the project. “We need a dialogue with the supply chain,” she believes. “It’s about finding out what are the constraints for you to making vegetables more affordable, more available, more appealing…It’s about listening and learning from the supply chain.”

Get involved

Peas Please is seeking pledges to get involved with the campaign, which you can do here.

Any businesses interested in finding out more about sponsorship opportunities should get in touch here.

You can find out more about The London Produce Show and Conference sponsorship, exhibiting and visiting opportunities here. 

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