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Are you ready to Swap?

I have to admit to being slightly cynical about Change 4 Life’s latest healthy eating initiative, Smart Swaps.

Largely funded by major food brands and retailers, the thrust of the TV advertised campaign seems to be to encourage consumers to buy potentially premium-priced alternatives, which are lower in fat, salt and sugar.

I thought I would sign up to the campaign online to see what my Smart Swap pack would contain, and, as someone with a sizeable weekly food shopping bill, I was particularly interested to see what money-off vouchers I would get.

On Saturday the pack arrived. It had some very jolly fridge magnets and a neat ready-reckoner which highlights healthy alternatives to the products which are likely to feature in your regular shop. But I was a bit disappointed with the vouchers which totalled £2.40, £1 of which was redeemable on a new brand of ‘cheddar style cheese’, which uses skimmed milk.

The other vouchers included 30p off Uncle Ben’s Rice Time, an inexpensive snack pot that is low in fat with no artificial flavours – so not bad for you, but not exactly nutritious either. And there was 25p off Pepsi Max, ‘with none of the sugar but more of the taste’.  Fizzy drinks high in artificial sweeteners can hardly be deemed healthy, but perhaps Change 4 Life is trying to be realistic – recognising that families are not going to give up their fizzy drinks altogether and so encouraging damage limitation.

The limited ambitions of the Change 4 Life campaign seem to reflect the enormity of the Government’s task when it comes to fighting the obesity crisis. Smart Swaps highlights the basic incompatability of healthy eating with our highly evolved and profitable food manufacturing industry – where cheap is bad, not good.

Foods bulked out with products like sugar are always going to be cheaper to produce. If consumers want to eat foods that are more wholesome and packed with the good stuff, they will ultimately have to pay more at the checkout. That’s the reality.

In the coming years manufacturers will be under pressure to step up the marketing of foods which are ‘healthy alternatives’ in order to maintain market share. Seen in this light, is Smart Swaps a step towards trying to educate consumers that they will ultimately have to pay more for less?



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