Peach Report

Will chains grasp the health challenge?

8 July, 2010

by Peter Martin

Health and the environment remain strong undercurrents in consumer decision-making despite the recession, with popular chains like McDonalds and Nando’s plugging into the themes with their latest campaigns,writes Peter Martin

There is evidence that concerns about healthy eating and being “green” have dropped down the public’s priority lists during the downturn, but they remain important undercurrents, underpinning their buying choices.

Nando’s lastest promotion plays on the “grilled not fried” theme, while McDonald’s continues to build on it’s links with British farming and the countryside in its latest TV commercial. See Nando's plays up healthy image and McDonald’s emphasises farming credentials

This comes as the Government is pulling back from the previous administration’s aggressive approach to cut obesity. It is cutting funding to the much publicised Change4Life programme, instead calling on the wider food industry to take up the challenge and work more co-operatively to create a healthier eating climate. See Government to cut Change4Life health funding

Health secretary Andrew Lansley wants less lecturing and more “nudging” of the public.

Will the eating-out market respond? There is every chance it will – because it can make commercial sense. Customers may be looking for more “little indulgences” in these tougher times, but they also like the idea of choice.

Banning burger takeaways from high streets has never been the answer as customers more often react negatively to forceful “official” actions. They don’t like being told what to do. More gentle persuasion now seems to be on the menu.

There are critics that will accuse chains of cynically using the health label to mask some less than healthy products, but consumers may be more likely to get the message if the biggest (and their favourite) high street brands keep talking about health (and “green” and sustainable) issues. That is also more likely to reach the sections of the community that needs to get the message – and we’re not talking about the already converted, middle classes. That group already gets it.

• On a slightly different tack, but one will appeal to those supporting the "localist" agenda, Lincolnshire-based small brewer Tom Wood's has launched a mobile bottling operation help other craft brewers get their beers into bottle - and wider distribution. See Bottling solution for craft brewers