Pioneering new programme launches to accelerate health promotion across the food industry

Eight of the UK’s leading food businesses and platforms have joined the inaugural Bite Back 2030 Food Systems Accelerator, each pledging to make changes to their future strategy to better promote child health.

Tesco, KFC, Deliveroo, Costa Coffee, Innocent, Danone, the Jamie Oliver Group and school caterers, Compass Group have been announced as the first participants on the new programme, which will see change plans developed to future-proof their business and drive a renewed focus on improving the healthfulness of our food system in the UK. 

Coordinated by the youth-led charity Bite Back 2030, the programme will take pairs of senior executives from each business through exploratory workshops to identify, develop and deliver innovative solutions that better protect child health and have a positive impact on tackling childhood obesity.

Taking a pioneering approach to inspiring corporate change, young people from within Bite Back’s movement will be paired with each business, enabling industry leaders to better understand first-hand what younger generations of consumers want from their products and the kinds of health innovations needed for a more sustainable future. As young campaigners, they are determined to use their voice and experiences of the food system to inspire positive changes in the corporate sector. 

Together, young people and businesses will create a vision and practical interventions that will help achieve national, ambitious targets for the health of the nation. With one in three 11 to 12 year olds currently at risk of developing food-related illness, and the Government pushing ahead with new regulations on advertising products high in sugar, salt and fat, the emphasis is on industry to lead from the front and create future food systems that protect the health of children and young people.

James Toop, chief executive of Bite Back 2030, said: “Every child has the right to access affordable and nutritious food, so I am pleased that these eight organisations are stepping up and committing to leading the change. Collectively, they represent the shopping and eating habits of the nation, so it’s incredibly exciting that Bite Back’s tenacious young campaigners will be working with them collaboratively to shape future food systems.”

The initiative has been part-funded by the Rothschild Foundation, with senior executives set to receive support from expert facilitators Leaders’ Quest, and innovation and evaluation specialists from Nesta

The Covid-19 pandemic has further highlighted health inequalities across the UK and there has been renewed focus on the role of the food industry in tackling rising rates of childhood obesity and food-related illness. 

Emily Yanchuk, co-chair of Bite Back 2030’s National Youth Board, said: “I’m looking forward to taking part in the programme and sharing views from other young people about the types of changes we want to see to protect our health. On our streets and screens we’re faced with a flood of unhealthy food options, so this is a great opportunity to work with some of the biggest brands to make positive changes and showcase the importance and power that our voice holds. The health of our generation is at stake!”

Changes developed by each of the corporate participants through the programme will be announced at a summit later in the year, and it is hoped that the initiative will become an annual moment in the diaries of many more food businesses.

Jenny Packwood, chief corporate affairs and sustainability officer at KFC, said: “This is a really exciting programme that we’re thrilled to be part of.  We have a role to play in influencing the food choices available to young people, and this programme is a way of working with young people directly to shape our future plans. We’ve been working for years to reformulate our products and add lighter options to our range, but to be able to do this in partnership with young people and Bite Back will be even more powerful.”

Oonagh Turnbull, head of health campaigns at Tesco, said: “At Tesco, we believe passionately that healthy food choices should be accessible to everyone – whoever they are, wherever they live, whatever their budget. We’re proud to be on the journey with Bite Back, working together to help support the health of families and young people across the UK.”

Cathy Port, head of food and beverage for Costa Coffee, UK&I, said: “We’re delighted to be a part of this programme, working with others in the industry and importantly, young people from within Bite Back, to help inform our food and beverage strategy. As the Nation’s Favourite Coffee Shop, with the biggest footprint, we have a responsibility to families to continue to make positive steps to help provide choice across our menu, providing transparent nutritional information – so everyone can make an informed choice about what they’re consuming. We look forward to hearing lots of new and innovative ideas from everyone!”

Paul Bedford, director of policy at Deliveroo, said: “Deliveroo’s outlook on health is simple – we want to provide the right information and a greater selection of healthier choices on our platform, as well as improved navigation to help find them. Working with Bite Back 2030 will put a spotlight on the healthier options and help us explore new ways to make healthy eating as easy as possible.” 

Cath Elliston, head of campaigns at the Jamie Oliver Group, said: “Young people rightfully expect the businesses they support to lead the way on the issues that are important to them. We’re really looking forward to working with Bite Back and some of the UK’s major food brands to improve child health and explore the opportunities for the future of food.”

Giuseppe Battaini R&I & IPRO director at Danone UK & Ireland, said: “There’s no denying the scale of our country’s obesity and malnutrition crisis. As a food industry, we need to act urgently to address these challenges and inspire healthy habits among UK consumers. Health is at the heart of everything we do at Danone, and has been ever since we began over a century ago. That’s why we’re thrilled to be part of the Food Systems Accelerator – we’re looking forward to hearing from young people who are just as passionate about health as we are and collaborating with others across our industry to drive real change.”

Emilie Stephenson, head of UK force for good at innocent, said: “At innocent, our purpose from day one has been to help ‘people live well and die old’, notably by offering natural, tasty food and drinks. In the UK, 9 in 10 children aren’t eating enough fruit and veg, and our products are one way of helping this issue. However, with the FSA programme we are able to look wider than our business and have the opportunity to make even bigger changes to society. Collaborating with different brands on these issues is the only way forward and needless to say we are hugely excited.”

Lisa Priestley, business director at Chartwells, said: “Our primary purpose is to fuel the learning of future generations with nutritious and delicious food. Giving a voice to young people to help shape and drive this agenda is fundamental to continually innovating our offer and operations in pursuit of this goal. We’re delighted to be partnering with Bite Back to further enhance our focus in this area.”