Health drive shifts gear

SGF programme eyes more categories

Healthy living: school kids gets some nutritional lessons at Greens of Markinch

HEALTH has never been higher on the agenda with government, media and even soft drinks and confectionery manufacturers paying increasing attention to diet related illness.

For retailers, the SGF Healthy Living programme has been at the forefront of this issue since 2004 and – with its successes in expanding fruit and vegetable provision in Scotland clear to see – programme director Ross Kerr now has his sights set on increasing healthy option availability in just about every category in store.

“We’re looking at all the categories,” said Ross.

“We are moving beyond fruit and veg. It’s been the focus for some years and I believe when you go into stores now you get a good range. The better independents have an excellent range.

“Now the job is to get beyond that. We’ve got to look at the sugar content in cereals, then you go on to bread, and you can look at pasta.

“Simple things like soup, there are soups with too much sugar and salt in them.

“It’s about getting round to retailers and showing them where the healthier options are.”

With Scottish berry season kicking off this month, the time is certainly ripe for the Healthy Living programme to be plugging healthy options.

Ross said his four development managers will be visiting stores across the country helping retailers to tap into the opportunity locally sourced berries provide, while looking at other areas in store that could benefit from some health related signposting.

“Our job is to try and get as much in-store signposting from the retailer as we can and encourage them to display these sorts of products.

“There’s no doubt about it, you just need to watch the news or pick up the paper – the message to the consumer is ‘when you are going into the shop you should be picking up healthier options’.” he said.

That message is one that’s got through to shoppers according to Ross and, health benefits to one side, he reckons there’s a commercial opportunity there for those who embrace healthier options across categories.

“It’s one of those things in a consumer’s mind when they go out. They understand that they should be eating healthy, it’s at the back of their mind,” he said.

Retailers looking for a proof of concept might want to take a look at the supermarkets where dedicated sections for a whole variety of dietary requirements have sprung up over recent years.

If the big four can do it, Ross reckons there’s no reason c-stores can’t too and while the team can’t visit every shop in Scotland the SGF Healthy Living Programme will be producing plenty of resources for retailers.

Our job is to try and get as much signposting and encourage retailers to display these sorts of products.

Ross said he would encourage all c-store retailers to download the programme’s Gold Standard guide – available at the SGF’s website – which offers advice on ranging and merchandising healthier options, as well as the programme’s produce guide which provides information on nutrition for determining a product’s health credentials across categories.

Retailers aren’t the only ones Ross is encouraging to shift focus to healthier options; the SGF Healthy Living programme is also engaging with the symbol groups to try and improve access to healthier promotions.

And while Ross’ plan for further improving healthy food provision is an ambitious one, the programme director reckons the continued support from the Scottish Government is proof its been working so far.

“The Scottish Government has yet again sponsored the Healthy Living Programme, they’re obviously seeing results so it’s up to us now to devise ways of getting into other products,” he said.