Sharon Bligh, director of Health & Wellness at The Consumer Goods Forum, explains how FMCGs are going beyond cutting sugar to collaborating with local authorities to promote health and wellness.

Health and wellness initiatives are becoming increasingly important across the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) sector. The World Health Organization estimates that over 41 million children across the globe are obese. In the UK, Public Health England’s (PHE) Change4Life campaign is calling on food manufacturers to cut calories by 20% before 2024.

PHE is also introducing stricter guidelines on advertising unhealthy food and drink, updating its scoring system for programmes where more than a quarter of viewers are children. In response to this governmental pressure, many major food companies have adopted sugar-reduction programmes and product reformulation schemes. A recent example is Kellogg’s, which announced that it would be cutting sugar in children’s cereals by up to 40%, as well as ending its iconic Ricicles brand and stopping on-packet promotions aimed at kids on its Frosties boxes.

Product reformulation and sugar-reduction programmes are certainly important parts of health and wellness strategies, but we also need to consider the importance of spreading awareness of consuming a nutritious, balanced diet.

Kellogg's is stopping on-packet promotions on its Frosties brand. (Credit: Sukiyashi/Shutterstock)

Focusing too much on the products and not enough on communicating the advantages of a healthy lifestyle could mean that health and wellness schemes fail to have the desired impact, especially in disadvantaged local communities where multiple factors influence purchasing decisions. A recently published report by The Consumer Goods Forum’s Health & Wellness Pillar reveals that over the last year, the biggest players in FMCG have focused their attention on community-based initiatives, increasing emphasis from altering product portfolios towards engendering cultural change in relation to buying decisions.

Before we delve into the figures in more detail, what exactly do we mean by “community-based initiatives”? We are primarily talking about projects that involve organizing activities to promote a healthy lifestyle in local areas and establishing in-store campaigns, engaging with consumers as they shop.

Businesses understand that they need to communicate the benefits of opting for the healthier choices

By acting together, retailers and manufacturers can drive a shift towards healthier baskets and behaviours and become a convening power for stakeholders and public health authorities to learn and create impact at scale. As part of the CGF’s Collaboration for Healthier Lives initiative, local health authorities have collaborated with FMCG giants and retailers on projects in Japan, Colombia and the USA.

Initial signs suggest that these projects have already led to some success, and plans are underway to launch similar initiatives in Costa Rica, Turkey, France and the UK. We encourage an innovative approach to health and wellness, and aim to encourage corporations to set up new business models that drive behavioural change.

Sharon Bligh: 'What is good for the consumer is good for business.'

Our Health & Wellness report, which surveyed 83 members of The Consumer Goods Forum generating a combined $3.1trn in revenues, found that 85% of consumer goods companies have formed partnerships with community stakeholders, while nearly six in 10 (58%) have been involved in food bank programmes, distributing 180 million meals and donating over 77,400 tonnes of food. These businesses understand that it is simply not enough to make changes to their product configuration; they need to communicate the benefits of opting for the healthier choices in their portfolios.

Of course, we are not suggesting that sugar-reduction schemes and product reformulation should not form part of a corporate health and wellness strategy. On the contrary, we’ve been encouraged by industry progress on the issue. Our report discovered that just under nine in 10 companies (88%) had introduced products supporting healthier diets and lifestyles, while there was a 12% rise in the number of businesses cutting sugar and salt from their portfolios over the last year.

There is a real business case for encouraging healthier purchasing decisions

We’re expecting product reformulation to be a continued focus this year, as governments across the world step up legislative and fiscal efforts to drive behavioural change. We’ve already seen the UK sugar tax drive major drinks manufacturers such as AG Barr, Britvic and CCEP to dramatically cut the volume of sugar in their portfolios.

Across the FMCG industry, action is being taken to combat obesity and encourage consumers to make healthier choices. Ultimately, there is a real business case for encouraging healthier purchasing decisions. What is good for the consumer is good for business. Consumer goods companies are recognizing the immense potential of community-based initiatives to deliver meaningful cultural change.

Expect to see a continued focus on going out into local communities over the next year, as more businesses participate in our Collaboration for Healthier Lives initiative. We are certainly anticipating further in-depth discussions on community-based engagement at our global and sustainable retail summits this year, as we work towards supporting the UN’s goals for sustainable development, in particular SDG 2 (end hunger and improve nutrition), SDG 3 (healthy lives and wellbeing) and SDG 17 (strengthen local partnerships).

Main picture credit: gpointstudio/Shutterstock


Health  FMCG  WHO  food companies  SDGs  Consumer Goods Forum  Change4Life  sugar tax  SDG2 

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