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Food and Drink’s ‘Silly Season’

Snippets of Newspaper Articles regarding obesity epidemic and sugar tax

Last weekend signaled most Britons’ decision to ditch their well-intended, early year abstinence.  But even if you skipped the sobriety of a dry January, you can’t have missed this month’s gluttonous portion of health and well-being coverage.

With annual regularity we are served up a remedial news cycle to Christmas’s epic indulgence.  Take TV Chef Tom Kerridge, omnipresent with the launch of his diet book ‘Lose Weight For Good’ (powered by the fact he’s lost the equivalent of an average adult in weight).  The NHS’s struggles again take centre stage, with our national treasure reportedly haemorrhaging 33,000 nurses a year.  Parents are failing to spot obesity in their children.  And even Donald Trump has been ‘fat shamed’ – the Leader of the Free World chastised for his love of diet fizzy drinks and fried chicken.  Turn the clock back 12 months and Hawaiian Airlines was causing controversy due to its decision to weigh passengers, we were told children’s rotting teeth were costing the NHS £35 million a year, and you couldn’t move without seeing fitness coach Joe Wicks’s recipe book (or chiselled torso).  However, this year the health and wellbeing conversation won’t be cut shorter than a poorly observed Dry January.  And naturally, the food and drinks industry is set to be a firm fixture in the dialogue.

Sainsbury’s ex-CEO Justin King once infamously claimed that “there is no such thing as unhealthy products”.  Well the government has now decided it fundamentally disagrees with Mr King, or it at least doesn’t trust the general public to consume responsibly.  In April the Sugar Tax comes into play, with fizzy drinks feeling the full force.  Coca-Cola reportedly plan to use smaller bottles and sell at a higher price, while people in Scotland are stockpiling Irn Bru prior to a pre-emptive recipe change.  But you can’t help but wonder how long until the effects of the Sugar Tax escape the soft drink aisle and pervade the rest of the supermarket, as we continue to battle the growing obesity epidemic.

It’s a tough line for brands to tread.  For those in the firing line, change the product, extend the range, or communicate differently?  And out of the spotlight, how does healthy become habit?  There’s lots to consider both sides, because if brands can support the retail health agenda then there are arguably more opportunities to embrace than pitfalls to fear.

Our perspective, as always, is to start with the consumer, then craft the experience.  The Marketing Store’s ‘Weetabuddies’ campaign for Weetabix enters its fourth year in 2018, a sales promotion that has evolved into a true brand experience.  The Weetabuddies have outlasted three brand straplines, delivering some of the company’s highest sales volumes and brand equity scores, and have secured more store displays than you could shake a shelf-barker at.  All on the premise of ensuring consumers don’t feel like the healthy choice is the compromised choice.

A group of five Weetabix Weetabuddies

We also launched Carlsberg’s ‘0.0%’ offering across Europe, as the low-alcohol and non-alcoholic category continues to gather pace.  Deciding not to sell alcohol-free product to beer drinkers who are driving or having to work later, the true potential of 0.0% was to create and lead a new category for a new type of drink – not quite beer, not quite a soft drink. One that could disrupt society’s norms and open new consumption opportunities.

Consumers want choice, but choice that seems free of control.  And as McDonald’s global retail agency, with a rich FMCG heritage, we would like to think we’re pretty well positioned to evolve brands’ experience for changing consumer behaviours.

Food for thought eh?