Tesco has signed up celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to front its healthy eating initiative, seven years after he quit as the face of rival supermarket Sainsbury’s.
Oliver has been at the forefront of the health lobby’s call for tougher regulation on the food and drink industry in the war on obesity. The retailer said he would help it come up with new ranges of healthy food that would be less expensive than unhealthier alternatives.
The chef will head up a new phase of Tesco’s ‘helpful little swaps’ campaign this month, which will offer products with reduced levels of sugar, salt and fat. Tesco promised they would cost 12% less than a regular basket.
Oliver will also come up with a series of recipes aimed at encouraging customers to cook healthier meals from scratch.
A series of healthier recipes and tips will be in store and online with a focus on British fruit, it added.
Tesco sees the landing of Oliver as a major coup, though he is a divisive figure in the industry, having been an avid supporter of the sugar tax. He also campaigned for a clampdown on junk food advertising.
His arrival also comes with the government poised to launch a ban on promotions of HFSS goods in store. Oliver has held a series of talks with ministers, urging them to regulate the industry more tightly. He is said to have been instrumental in the latest Obesity Plan launched by Theresa May.
Tesco has also often clashed with suppliers in the debate on obesity, having been the first to support the campaign launched by Action on Sugar and removing a raft of sugary fizzy drinks from its aisles prior to the soft drinks levy coming in earlier this year.
Also this year it launched a joint effort to fight obesity with Cancer Research UK, Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation, though Tesco boss Dave Lewis has always strongly denied it would ever “choice edit” the food it sells.
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Tesco marked Oliver’s arrival with the results of a survey of more than 2,000 people that found seven out of 10 families said they thought supermarkets should do more to help people make healthier choices, with almost 70% also saying they would like more practical advice and inspiration on healthier alternatives.
The first set of his recipes, which will be in store later this month, include Veggie Noodle Stir Fry, Fish Finger Sarnie; Mighty Mushroom and Kale Frittata and Veggie Quesadilla Bake.
He said: “I’m incredibly excited to be collaborating with Britain’s biggest and most progressive supermarket. Over the past few years, under new leadership, Tesco has consistently raised the bar when it comes to so many important initiatives: from food waste, to leading on industry reformulation and helping kids eat more fruit with its brilliant Free Fruit for Kids in-store programme.
“These survey results back up what I hear from my audience every single day – Britain wants to know how to enjoy more of the good stuff, in easy, fun and delicious ways. This makes this partnership one of the most exciting opportunities to actually get Britain eating and celebrating more of their five fruit & veg a day. I’m going to work really hard to respond to the different seasons and what the customer is asking for, by creating exciting meals, short-cuts and tips that get people really fired up to cook. Tesco’s part is to make it easier and more affordable.”
Alessandra Bellini, Tesco’s chief customer officer, added: “Jamie’s passion and skill to inspire a nation to cook, coupled with our experience and reach in providing millions of customers and colleagues with healthy, quality, affordable ingredients will be a great combination to help people take simple steps to leading healthier lives. This is a natural step in our ongoing work to make healthier eating a little easier.
“Tesco will have its third health event in store this month and we are excited to have Jamie fronting up the helpful little swaps, encouraging customers to buy products lower in fat, salt and sugar, as well as tasty, healthy recipes to try.
“Together we want to make a real difference to our customers’ and colleagues’ health.”
Oliver spent 11 years as the face of Sainsbury’s in a lucrative deal worth more than £1m a year.