The initiative identifies how industry and government can help increase consumption of fruit, veg and potatoes, and the Co-op Group’s coupons, which have been issued at tills throughout July, give members 50p off fresh produce.
“We were very interested in the findings within the NFU’s Fit for the Future report as they fall very much in line with our own objectives to offer healthier products to our customers,” said Adele Balmforth, the Group’s category trading manager for produce.
“For example, we have an active strategy on prepared veg to ensure pack sizes are more convenient and that cooking times are as quick as possible and clearly marked on all packaging. Another key focus for us is healthy lunchtime options and our salad range is up 25%.”
Ms Balmforth said that although the Co-op Group recognised it has more to do, “the Fit For The Future principles fit with our strategy and complement our plans”.
She added that the Group is considering including ‘usage tips’ on the new smart coupons, linked to seasonally available produce to encourage redemption and continued purchasing.
The Fit for the Future report, published in April, highlights how “numerous studies have shown that when individuals increase their fruit and vegetable consumption, this can result in lower mortality rates,” and how eating fruit and vegetables is critical to combating obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and many other diet related illnesses.
A study in ten countries concluded there was a relationship between a lower national body mass index (BMI) and a higher percentage of shelf space allocated to fruit and vegetable products, added the report.
Despite this, fruit purchases have fallen by 14% since 2007, vegetables by 5% and fresh potatoes by 20%.
To combat this decline, the report highlights practical actions retailers can take, including multi-site fruit and veg positioning throughout stores, ‘chilled’checkouts and improved shelf labelling.
The Co-operative Group is trialling the use of chilled units beside checkouts to encourage healthy impulse purchases, and highlighting on packs where products contribute towards 5-a-day.
“We are also using point of sale information on shelves to help make it easier for consumers to quickly identify healthier products,” added Ms Balmforth.
The Co-op has seen a 15% uplift in fresh produce sales over the past year and credits this to its ‘Fresh, Quality, Always’ strategy.
“We are delighted the Co-op has taken such a proactive approach to encourage increased sales of fruit and veg, alongside their willingness to engage with us on Fit for the Future,” said Lee Abbey, NFU horticulture and potatoes adviser.
“Fit for the Future is a long term initiative but we’ve been overwhelmed with the response we’ve had so far. In the coming weeks and months we’ll continue to meet with retailers, food service providers, caterers, producers and government departments to explore the opportunities to increase sales of fruit, veg and potatoes, thereby delivering commercial growth to the sector, while at the same time executing our moral obligations to improve consumer health.”
This summer Lincolnshire Co-operative is giving its young members free fruit every day over the school holidays.
The organisation has 250,000 adult members and 2,700 junior members, and expects to give out 3,500 snack bags of pineapple or water melon or a banana, pears or apples before 5 September.
Anyone aged 5-15 can apply to for a Fruitastic card by visiting junior.lincolnshire.coop and becoming a member. Junior members also get access to offers for family days out, competitions, games and activities.