On 15th March, Peas Please hosted a Pledgers Conference in Birmingham to discuss the implementation of Peas Please pledges and build a common vision for the direction of travel of the initiative. This document provides a summary of the discussions and contains links to the various presentations made on the day.
Peas Please – our journey together so far
To start the day, the Peas Please team and members of the Strategy Board took attendees through the journey of Peas Please’s first 18 months of life, covering the early stages of the project, the lead up to the 2017 Veg Summits, and the different strands of the campaign that have emerged from the Summit, including #VegPower. We also watched a video about the Veg Summits. See the full presentation here.
Our trailblazers and our food system
We then asked pledgers to locate their pledges in a schematic map of the food system, to create a picture of how different pledges contribute to change across the system.
Attendees were also invited to consider the full list of pledges made at the 2017 Veg Summits and share their views on ‘missing pledges’: parts of the food system which Peas Please should target to reach our target audiences and drive systemic change. The following gaps in pledgers were highlighted: lower-end retailers, the take-away sector, and the large (out of home) high street chains.
The end of the journey
In this session we will shared our vision for a future where veg is convenient, appealing, and normal. We also looked at aggregate portion numbers (current consumption vs. Eatwell Guide consumption levels) to demonstrate the scale of change needed to achieve the recommendations and to discuss possible targets for the Peas Please initiative. The Peas Please team presented the rationale for a cumulative target of 5 billion portions by 2020 and invited views from attendees. After a brief discussion, about half of attendees supported the idea of Peas Please adopting a quantitative target. See the full presentation here.
Taking the first steps
We heard from 3 of our pledgers about how they are implementing their Peas Please pledge and pushing the veg agenda more broadly:
As a voluntary initiative, the credibility of Peas Please is closely linked to the accountability of the project, and therefore of the pledges. In 2018 we will start monitoring progress made by our veg trailblazers (those who made pledges at the 2017 Summit). In this session, we shared our monitoring and evaluation plans and invited feedback from attendees. See the full presentation here.
The big picture for veg: trends, innovation and the business case
For the last sessions of the day we broke out into groups for four parallel workshops, facilitated by a pledger or Strategy Board member, that offered attendees opportunities to explore some big issues, trends, and questions around veg:
- More veg on the menu
Facilitated by Baxter Storey and the Sustainable Restaurant Association
Baxter Storey shared the success of their Peas Please pledge to increase the focus on veg in the meals they provide in PWC’s office canteens. There seems to be a strong case for veg pledges in workplace food: increasing veg on the menu has generally found to be cost neutral, it fits well with companies’ increased focus on staff health and wellbeing, as well as other corporate environmental and social responsibility commitments, and more employees staying in house is beneficial for the host company.
In the ‘High Street’ Out of Home sector, the SRA explained that the main challenge lies with the fragmentation of the sector. They also noted the importance of ‘normalising veg’: sales of vegetarian dishes, when moved from a vegetarian section on the menu into the mains, go up by 30%. In some cases increasing interesting veg offers have helped differentiate the brand and helped to save restaurants.
It was highlighted that although the direction of travel in OOH is generally good there are some definite gaps, such as in takeaways, where more work is needed on product development and innovation, and upskilling. It was suggested that the best way into the takeaway sector may be through working with the aggregates, e.g. Just Eat, who have the potential to promote veg through their ordering platforms.
- The sustainable business case for veg
Facilitated by WWF UK and PWC
In this workshop attendees discussed some of the internal considerations and drivers which influenced the adoption and implementation of pledges. For all the businesses present, Peas Please was complementing or supporting other organisational values, commitments and opportunities.
Participants also commented on the wider influences. Veg is ‘a profitable, stable category with growth potential’ while the cost differentials between meat and veg may widen further due to turbulence and uncertainty. The ‘flexitarian/eat less meat’ agenda is part of a ‘megatrend’ pointing to veg. Public Health England’s calorie reduction programme also provides an opportunity to promote veg with a positive emotional message. The Sustainable Development Goals are being integrated into business plans, and in some ways companies are ahead of governments on this agenda.
In conclusion, Peas Please was found to connect strongly with Corporate Social Responsibility programmes while also linking into other organisational commitments such as customer health; have the potential to help with margins, but it is not driven by margins; and resonate strongly with customer preferences and trends.
- Food waste and packaging
Facilitated by WRAP UK
WRAP shared some statistics about food waste and plastics:
- About 21% of veg purchased to eat at home is wasted (refers to avoidable waste)
- About 8.5% of veg purchased to eat out is wasted (refers to avoidable waste)
- 17% of plastic waste comes from the food
The group then discussed the use of plastic packaging for vegetables. It was noted that the pressure for plastic free aisles needs to be balanced with concerns about increased food waste as a result of decreasing packaging. The following points were made about the need for packaging of fresh veg:
- Consumer perception of some veg needing packaging influences sales, so for example cauliflower sales went down when packaging was removed and went up again when reinstated, but people are happy to purchase loose carrots
- Packaging is also used to deliver information about the product and storage
- Pre-prepared veg can be really important for certain population groups e.g. those with a disability
Attendees suggested solutions around biodegradable plastics, using different types of packaging that are better reusable and/or recyclable, and innovating for more intelligent packaging. Food waste reduction was also discussed, with key suggestions including an increased focus on frozen veg, tailored portion size, and community fridges.
- Tackling inequalities in veg consumption
Facilitated by Birmingham City Council
Persistent inequalities remain with regard to veg. In this workshop we heard about the innovative work in Birmingham around the Healthy Start Scheme and discussed its implications for the Peas Please initiative. See Birmingham’s presentation about their work on Healthy Start vouchers here.
Their key aims are to increase the number of eligible beneficiaries who register into the scheme, increase HS use in children aged over 2, and increase the number and range of retailers accepting HS.
Some aspects of their work which sparked discussion included
- the fact that retail outlets did not have any sign advertising HS so Birmingham Council and the Association of Convenience Stores are working together to create promotional materials for retailers to use; and
- the idea to work with fruit and veg market stallholders to encourage them to accept HS, develop signage for the stalls, and to create a program where stalls offer a veg box worth the value of a voucher (£3.10).