P.10 5 A DAY stairs

The UK government has given its 5 A Day logo and Eatwell Guide a facelift, with Public Health England (PHE) advising that a healthy diet must now include “at least” five fruit and veg portions a day, rather than five itself being the target.

Has the 13-year-old scheme been a failure up to now, though? As Dieter Lloyd, of food marketing consultancy Pam Lloyd PR, notes: “Great awareness doesn’t equal great adoption. You have 90 per cent awareness of the scheme, and, depending on who you read, anything from 19-33 per cent actually eating 5 A Day.”

Therefore, should the government be doing even more to boost fresh produce consumption? And will the changes actually make a blind bit of difference? While Lloyd believes that the government is probably doing the best job that it can, he notes:

“There’s a pressing need for dietary change based on PHE and NHS figures for child and adult obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Government finances have been tight for almost a decade, and there is probably even less available to spend now on sharing the 5 A Day message.”

Tom Amery, MD of The Watercress Company and The Wasabi Company, reckons the scheme’s exposure to the public isn’t as big as the government would’ve hoped, and he thinks this problem will remain: “The media have created a public mistrust in data, as often they publish conflicting stories within one week, and the more random the stories, the more likely the public will choose to disregard the message,” he adds.

Added to that, people don’t always like being dictated to by a ‘nanny state’, feeding into a grey area. As Lloyd says: “Where does personal responsibility end and government support for a healthier nation begin or overlap?”

In his mind, several things need to happen for the scheme to get better returns. He believes that PHE needs to stipulate what can and can’t carry the new logo, with one label being used across all qualifying fruit and veg, and he thinks that PHE needs to enforce removal of the logo where it is confusing or irrelevant. On top of that, Lloyd wants to see PHE “pick a message and stick to it”, and for it to choose “high profile channels and invest further”.

He also raises the question about whether funding could have been better used in subsiding fruit and veg prices, pointing out that: “A 24 multipack of crisps is 12.5p per pack today versus a 15p banana, a 15-20p Granny Smith, and so on.”

Amery also thinks consumers don’t benefit from a one-size-fits-all approach. He calls it the “generic mistake”, and suggests that consumers need to tailor their diets with lifestyle choices.

There are precedents for a more concrete form of government intervention: the smoking ban, and making motorcyclists wear crash helmets are two examples of legislation where the evidence became too much to ignore, but, as Lloyd notes, “it took decades for the government to act.”

With Chancellor George ‘sugar tax’ Osborne recently cutting £1.1 billion from the NHS’s capital budget, surely there is at the very least a pressing financial incentive for the government to make actions speak louder than logos to help the health service?
As for produce firms and retailers, with the slate wiped for a fresh crack at things, you’d think now’s the time to take a uniform approach to adopting this distinguishing badge of honour.

But as Amery – who has marketed watercress in its own right for a decade – says: “A logo alone does not pass on the message; it has to be endorsed by a range of participants and contributors. The sooner you create a clear marketing strategy the better.”

PHE will likely claim it’s all about the long game, but you’d like to think that even in 20 years’ time we’ll be at the stage where it’s 19-33 per cent of Brits not getting their 5 A Day.