I’ve been in this game for nearly 20 years now. It’s been incredible to work in the food industry for all that time, and I’ve learnt so much. But some lessons have been harder to learn than others.
For instance, over the past 40 years we’ve seen a huge rise in cheap, convenient, multi-buy products that are high in unhealthy fat, salt and sugar, and we’re only just waking up to the consequences. It’s no coincidence that, while junk food is the most promoted, most easily available option, we’re facing an obesity crisis that borders on an epidemic.
In the UK, one in three children starts secondary school overweight or obese. And 85 per cent of these kids are set to stay like that for the rest of their lives. More than four million people in the UK have type-2 diabetes, and the NHS is at breaking point, spending a ludicrous amount of money on the impact of rubbish food and diet related disease – more than £5 billion a year!
This absolutely isn’t about shaming individuals or blaming anyone; it’s about a society-wide normalisation of junk food. Kids are bombarded, day-in, day-out, with adverts for food and drink products high in unhealthy fats, sugar and salt. They’re online, on TV, on bus tickets and computer games and all over the streets – they’re everywhere. Kids are being hunted down by junk food brands and specifically targeted with adverts for cheap, easily accessible, unhealthy food. The food industry is making money, and the taxpayer is left to pick up the medical bills.
We have to make it easier for all of us to make healthier choices. That means stopping companies from deliberately promoting junk to children. So I’m calling for a 9pm watershed on junk food advertising on TV. And for proper controls on what adverts kids see online, in the street and on public transport. Right now, there’s nothing decent in place to protect kids from seeing these adverts – apart from literally covering their eyes!
We need to change advertising culture and encourage big brands to promote the benefits of proper healthy living.
I’ve made enough food adverts in my time to know what sells – they need to be short and they need to be memorable. Here’s my idea of what a healthy TV ad break could look like:
Really Live Well For Less (Sainsbury’s)
All seasonal veg is half-price this week! And it’s buy one, get one free on all sustainable fish.
Happy Meals Mean Healthy Meals (McDonald’s)
NEW Happy Meal toys are now only available with the healthy Happy Meal choices at McDonald’s. Why not try our new Carrot and Cucumber Crunchie Dippers served with McHoumous dipping sauce?
You won! (Coke Zero)
Coke Zero announces its sugar-free sponsorship of the 2022 World Cup featuring the 2018 Golden Boot winner, Harry Kane.
That’s fruity! (McVitie’s)
Introducing the all-new snack for kids. Our That’s Fruity flapjack is packed with real fruit and oats — and, at only 99 calories and with no added sugar, it’s a brilliant after-school snack.
Power up (Veg Power)
Have you discovered the amazing powers of fresh veg? Get your Veg Power Points with five portions of vegetables every day!
Incredible Granny Smith
Our favourite super-apple Granny Smith teams up with Mr Incredible to keep hunger at bay.
These kind of adverts might be hard to imagine now, but the current crisis needs a monumental change of attitude. Because at the moment, we’re basically looking at a slow-motion disaster happening in front of our eyes. We can’t keep selling junk food that’s cheaper, and more accessible, than fresh fruit and veg. And guys, if we get this right, this could be a really key moment in our fight against childhood obesity.
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