Making healthy eating easier: Tesco and Jamie Oliver promote healthy diets

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Tesco and Jamie Oliver promote healthy eating campaign
Tesco and Jamie Oliver promote healthy eating campaign
UK supermarket group Tesco has joined forces with celebrity chef and health campaigner Jamie Oliver to promote ‘helpful little swaps’ that aim to get UK consumers picking healthier alternatives.

Announcing the tie-up, Tesco said it wants to help “make it easier​” for people in the UK to “eat well and live healthier lives​”.

This month, Oliver will front Tesco’s ‘helpful little swaps’ in store, where healthier alternatives offer lower levels of salt, sugar or fat. Importantly, Tesco said it is making these healthier alternatives cheaper too: a basket of ‘helpful little swaps’ will cost 12% less than a regular shopping basket, the company claimed.

The move follows a survey of more than 2,000 people, which found seven out of ten respondents think supermarkets should ‘do more’ to help people make healthier choices. Almost 70% said they would like more practical advice and inspiration on how to eat better.

Oliver said the results were further evidence that “Britain wants to know how to enjoy more of the good stuff, in easy fun and delicious ways”.

“This makes this partnership one of the most exciting opportunities to actually get Britain eating and celebrating more of their five fruit and veg a day.”

‘Raising the bar’

Oliver praised Tesco for the initiative – which follows on from a number of other programmes at the retailer designed to boost healthy choices or tackle its environmental impact.

“I'm incredibly excited to be collaborating with Britain's biggest and most progressive supermarket. Over the past few years, under new leadership, Tesco has consistently raised the bar when it comes to so many important initiatives: from food waste, to leading on industry reformulation and helping kids eat more fruit with its brilliant Free Fruit for Kids in-store programme,”​ Oliver suggested.

Through its Little Helps Plan, Tesco has publicly committed to aiding customers make healthier food choices and support colleagues to live healthier lives. Tesco’s efforts include raising awareness and visibility of healthier choices in-store; removing cost barriers to healthy eating by ensuring that customers pay the same price or less for the healthier version; increasing the consumption of fruit and vegetables; and reformulating its own label lines “as long as there is no impact on taste or quality”.

In July 2016, Tesco became the first retailer in the UK to provide free fruit to children in stores. The supermarket was also the first to remove sweets and chocolate from next to the checkout across all of its formats and the first retailer to bring all its own brand products below the threshold for the soft drinks levy.

Oliver will create a series of healthier recipes and tips that will be available in store and online.

“I’m going to work really hard to respond to the different seasons and what the customer is asking for, by creating exciting meals, short-cuts and tips that get people really fired up to cook. Tesco’s part is to make it easier and more affordable,"​ Oliver said. 

“Jamie’s passion and skill to inspire a nation to cook, coupled with our experience and reach in providing millions of customers and colleagues with healthy, quality, affordable ingredients will be a great combination to help people take simple steps to leading healthier lives. This is a natural step in our ongoing work to make healthier eating a little easier,”​ Alessandra Bellini, chief customer officer for Tesco, added.

Tesco said many of the ingredients from the recipes will be reduced in price and placed together for convenience for customers. There will also be a focus on British fruit and vegetables, the company said.

Hopes for 'achievable' programme

The initiative has been welcomed by health campaigners. Living Loud fonder Dan Parker said that "any move to promote healthier alternatives and home cooking"​ should be viewed as being positive. 

Praising Tesco's work on healthy eating, Parker continued: "Tesco have done great work in this area... free fruit, first to reformulate their soft drinks, also so very strong initiatives amongst the many staff."

However, he told FOodNavigator that concern remains over whether the cooking ideas and ingredients required will be accessible for people living in poverty. "I just hope they are achievable for people on lower income or who may have less time, cooking skills or access to equipment... It would be wonderful for Tesco and Jamie to help people discover meals they can produce for under £1.50 per person in less than 30 minutes."

Last week, The Food Foundation produced a report that found lower income households in the UK are priced out of a healthy diet​. The think tank found the families of four million children living cannot afford the diet recommended by the UK government's Eatwell plate.

The socioeconomic dimensions of the issue are reflected in obesity statistics. Over one third of 10- and 11-year-olds in the UK are either obese (20%) or overweight (14%), according to National Health Service (NHS) data. In England, childhood obesity rates in the most deprived areas are double those in the least deprived areas. 

While Parker praised the action Tesco has already taken, he also stressed that more can be done, particularly though price promotion mechanisms. "We'd also like them to adopt a health promotions policy which ensures that they do not use volume driving promotions for HFSS products, such as buy one get one free, but stick to simple price discounts and that they pledge to make more of their promotions for vegetables, fruit and other healthy choices."

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