A Unique Collaboration to Turbo-Boost Veg

Michael Barker

Michael Barker is a horticultural journalist with more than 15 years of experience covering the fruit, vegetable and flower sectors. He was editor of leading industry publication Fresh Produce Journal from 2010-2019 and is a former fresh foods editor at The Grocer and news editor at Grower magazine. He currently writes for a range of food industry publications, as well as chairing events and speaking at industry conferences across the UK and wider world. Michael is also a novelist and podcaster, and an independent member of the AHDB Board for Horticulture.

This is a defining moment for the UK vegetable industry, which has the chance to create a prosperous future for itself and boost the health of the nation.

It would be easy, in the thick of the Covid storm, to think only about survival, navigating the choppy days and weeks without thought for what comes next. But as American businessman Warren Buffett famously said after the 2008 financial crisis sent the world’s markets into meltdown, that was the perfect time to be investing. Out of crisis, he argued, comes bountiful opportunity.

Nobody denies the fresh produce sector is facing a tough time. Covid-19, labour shortages, Brexit – there’s no shortage of issues keeping industry minds occupied. But scratch below the surface and you see this is a glass more than half full. Never before has healthy eating been more prominent in the public’s mind. An accelerating trend towards plant-based eating for environmental and health reasons is giving a huge boost to vegetable use within meals, while the increased risks of Covid to the obese has got people scrutinising their diets like never before.

Add to that a National Food Strategy that aims to sustainably grow the domestic food production sector and a Childhood Obesity Strategy that is clamping down on the promotion of calorie-laden food and drink, and you’ve got the stars aligning to turbocharge production and consumption of home-grown vegetables.

Veg Power aims to capitalise on this once-in-a-generation opportunity by bringing together all the different players across the supply chain for a multi-faceted campaign ranging from high-profile TV advertising to schools activity and a Seasonal Vegetables initiative. A wider influencer network, richer educational programme and extended social media work will all be part of the mix.

Of course, there have been campaigns to promote fresh produce and healthy eating before, so why is this any different? It comes down to scale, ambition and unity. Veg Power is a first-of-its-kind initiative in the way it is uniting growers, wholesalers, processors, caterers, retailers and all those with an interest in the future of the vegetable industry. It is truly a whole-sector alliance. Secondly, through its groundbreaking Eat Them To Defeat Them advertising campaign, it has already shown what is possible: over £10m of coverage secured, resulting in 46m people seeing the ads. Quite simply, it is giving vegetables a platform to compete with the huge FMCG brands in a way nobody thought was possible. And this is just the start.

This work has already increased sales by no less than £63m, equivalent to some 517m children’s portions. The entire supply chain benefits from this activity, which is why Veg Power is calling for everyone to take a stake in its future by becoming a Member and helping achieve the ultimate ambition of an additional £173m in sales and an extra portion of veg consumed daily by every child. Growers will see increased demand for their produce and be given confidence to invest, leading them in turn to buy more seed from breeders and infrastructure for their operations, while wholesalers, caterers and retailers will enjoy significantly higher sales. Everyone’s a winner.

The value of these goals cannot be underestimated. If the UK population started eating 7-a-Day, at the same domestic-to-import ratio as today UK horticultural production would need to increase by 84.3% to meet demand, creating £1.18bn in value to the British economy. It’s ambitious, but so it should be.

Veg Power has achieved an enormous amount, but to become sustainable and self-sufficient it needs the industry’s backing. Only by operating at a larger scale can it continue to deliver the extraordinary value it has already shown is possible. In return for their support and in addition to growing the sector’s value, Veg Power offers special events, market insight reports and branding opportunities that are exclusive to members, representing a valuable return on their investment.

There’s a sobering statistic that as many as a third of 5-10-year-olds and a quarter of 11-16s fail to get a single portion of vegetables every day. At a time when the nation’s health has never been more precarious, this mission is vital, and everyone can play a part in ensuring it is successful. Let’s unite and make a difference.

 

The power of marketing - Eat Them To Defeat Them in numbers:

46m – people saw the Eat Them To Defeat Them ads

£8m – of donated media space

750,000 – rewards charts and sticker packs given out

2.3% – uplift in vegetable sales following the campaign

650,000 – kids reported eating more vegetables

To find out more, contact us here.

About the author

Michael Barker

Michael Barker is a horticultural journalist with more than 15 years of experience covering the fruit, vegetable and flower sectors. He was editor of leading industry publication Fresh Produce Journal from 2010-2019 and is a former fresh foods editor at The Grocer and news editor at Grower magazine. He currently writes for a range of food industry publications, as well as chairing events and speaking at industry conferences across the UK and wider world. Michael is also a novelist and podcaster, and an independent member of the AHDB Board for Horticulture.

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