Unique alliance to advertise vegetables in primetime on national TV and in stores

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“The world of veg is full of vibrant colours and exciting and diverse tastes and textures, and we want everyone – especially children – to love them more and eat them more,” says Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

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Jo Ralling called ITV's initiative "the ‘Super Bowl ad’ for veg, and they’re doing it for free!'

Launching in 2019, vegetables will be advertised on national UK television channel ITV, with the inspirational messaging anticipated to follow through into the stores of six leading UK food retailers. The move marks an unprecedented effort to change the way the UK thinks and feels about vegetables, with the aim of inspiring the public, especially children, to eat more.

The major deal will see the Food Foundation’s Veg Power movement receive a multi-million pound injection from ITV’s Feel Good drive in the form of free advertising during primetime UK entertainment and drama television programmes across all ITV channels. The advert will reach more than two-thirds of households with children, according to ITV.

“After negotiating with ITV for the last few months, we’ve announced what I think is an unprecedented and extraordinary deal,” confirmed Jo Ralling, Head of Communications at think tank Food Foundation.

“ITV has agreed to give us £2 million-worth of free advertising space. What’s really extraordinary is they’re going to give us all those big, huge entertainment and drama shows,” she added. “It’s the ‘Super Bowl ad’ for veg, and they’re doing it for free!” 

To get the advert off the ground in time for January 2019, the Food Foundation has approached all the major UK food retailers for support.

So far, Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have committed to equally fund the production of the advert, with the idea being to replicate the messaging in their retail stores.

Ralling is confident further UK grocery retailers will jump on board too.

“We’ll get more,” she affirmed. “We’re waiting to hear from a couple. I think they will replicate the campaign in stores — whatever the creative idea is. The idea is that someone will watch the TV, see the ad, be with their kids, and when they go in stores they’ll see the same thing.”

Research from the Food Foundation indicates that 80 per cent of adults and 95.5 per cent of children aged 11-16 are not eating enough vegetables. Meanwhile, 98 per cent of food advertising budgets are spent on promoting unhealthy products, according to the Food Foundation.

Veg Power’s deal with ITV is what many in the UK fresh produce business thought was nigh on impossible — to raise the millions of pounds needed in order to compete with major food and drink brands.

“We have done it,” exclaimed Ralling. “ITV, so far, has been an amazing partner. They want to do the right thing. They recognise there’s a massive crisis, and they actually want to do something. What I’m excited about is their ambition.”

Indeed, ITV launched its Feel Good campaign in June 2018 to inspire the nation to eat better and move more. By advertising vegetable consumption across its channels, Carolyn McCall, CEO at ITV, believes the initiative has the potential to make a significant step-change.

“We know that the power of TV can be used to shape culture and this new advertising campaign will really amplify the message that we all need to eat more veg by broadcasting to millions of viewers during ITV’s biggest programmes,” she explained.

“Working with Veg Power, adam&eveDBB and the major food retailers means this campaign will have a real impact on the health of the nation,” McCall stated.

Message will be inspirational, not healthy

One of the UK’s leading advertising agencies, adam&eveDDB, will create the ground-breaking advert for free. Also providing complimentary services is Taylor Herring, which will be ITV and Veg Power’s partner PR agency for the project. 

The newly created vegetable advert will be first to air during the advertising break on ITV channels, meaning the pressure is on to create an “amazing” creative idea.

“It has to be an iconic ad that people remember,” Ralling declared, suggesting it should be akin to “the John Lewis Christmas advert for vegetables."

As for the message, some may be surprised to learn that health will not be the focus.

“It’s about inspiring people, kids to love veg,” stated Ralling. “It’s not about the health message. I’m not sure that really works; I think people know that vegetables are good for you.

“We are going to do something that’s bold and brave and colourful and make kids feel excited about eating veg. We’re trying to do something that’s different and that people will remember.

“We’ve got celebrity chef supporters; Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who have massive reach, and Veg Power has 80 other celebrity chefs and supporters, and we’ll use their social reach. I hope it benefits many, many people [in the fresh produce industry]. I really hope we can shift the dial and get the world eating more [veg].” 

Fearnley-Whittingstall, who has been a staunch supported of the Veg Power campaign since its inception, described the news as “fantastic”.

“The world of veg is full of vibrant colours and exciting and diverse tastes and textures, and we want everyone – especially children – to love them more and eat them more,” he said. “If they do, it will make a huge difference to the health of the nation and the lives of our kids.”

Further announcements

The Food Foundation made further major announcements during The Veg Summit at City Hall in London.

“In the first eight months of Peas Please, we achieved an extra 4.8 million portions of veg [being sold] in the food system,” explained Ralling. “It’s been a huge success.”

In doing so, Peas Please has directly reached 752,000 people and 68,000 children, according to the Food Foundation.

The achievement comes on the back of receiving pledges from growers to caterers and retailers to help people eat more veg, including efforts such as putting an extra portion of vegetables into meals, making veg more prominent in stores and developing more veg products. 

On Monday, 15 new pledgers came on board — including Aldi, Asda and Waitrose  bringing to 41 the total number of pledgers. Within the retail sector, Peas Please now has the backing of eight retailers, who make up 80 per cent of the UK grocery market, the Food Foundation said.

Julie Ashfield, Managing Director of Buying at Aldi UK, noted that working with Peas Please gives the discounter the opportunity to help customers increase their consumption of fresh vegetables. 

“Our new store layout dedicates more space for fresh produce,” she pointed out. “We will also continue our work on developing recipe ideas to share with and inspire customers.”

For Waitrose, Nutrition Manager Moira Howie said the retailer believes there are “few things more important than the food we eat.”

“That's why we're committed to encouraging shoppers to incorporate a rainbow of veg into their and their family’s diets — through inspiring products, recipes and events,” she explained.

With the Peas Please campaign extended until 2022, the organisation is keen to get as many new pledgers on board as possible.

“Going into Year 2, we are setting some heady targets,” Ralling revealed. “We’re going to be reaching out to many, many more organisations from schools to caterers, etc.”

The Veg Summit 2018 also marked the publication of the first Peas Please Progress report. The document details action taken by Peas Please pledgers since they first committed to supporting veg intake a year ago and examines the opportunities for effecting meaningful change in the next few years.

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