Greggs boss: Making consumer choices healthier

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Whiteside: 'Consumers won't be dictated to'
Whiteside: 'Consumers won't be dictated to'

Related tags: Bakers

Making food as healthy as possible without sacrificing taste and texture is key to improving the nation’s diet, according to Greggs chief executive Roger Whiteside.

The head of the high street bakery chain said there was no use in trying to force a consumer to eat healthier products, so the obvious solution was to make what they chose healthier instead.

Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference on Wednesday 8 January, Whiteside said: “I’m not sitting here, as head of the main sausage roll seller in the UK, advocating that people eat more sausage rolls – that’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to win 100% market share of the sausage roll market by having the best sausage roll at the lowest price etc.

“My commitment is to try and make those sausage rolls and doughnuts that we sell as good as they can be. To achieve that unfortunately means, typically, making commercially suboptimal decisions, because you know if you didn’t do those things that make​ [the product] better, they’d sell even better. If you made them bigger, more full of sugar, fat and salt they would sell in higher quantities.”

Authentic but less sugar

The key was to create products that were as authentic as possible, while managing to remove unneeded sugars and fats, he added.

Whiteside pointed out that forcing consumers into a healthier choice didn’t work and that the right path was to make healthy options as accessible as possible.

“Consumers won’t be dictated to,”​ he continued. “Unless the healthy choice is as accessible, as convenient as the choice we’re asking them to make less of, they won’t make it.

“You have to have it alongside that other choice. If you argue, ‘well okay, let’s get rid of all the pasty shops’, there won’t be a chain of healthy shops to replace it – there isn’t the demand for it. That’s why there isn’t a national chain of healthy shops now.”

Normalising healthy foods

Far from segregating healthy foods from the fast food section, the goal should be to normalise the presence of healthy foods on the shelf or in shops.

“That has been our commitment and that’s why we have tried to establish demand for healthy choices alongside demand for the unhealthy choice,”​ Whiteside added.

Meanwhile, repeated calls for a food sector council and criticism of the Government’s stance on maintaining standards in future trade deals were key takeaways from today’s politics briefing at the Oxford Farming Conference.

Related topics: Bakery, Operations

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