Under the initiative ‘Veg Pledges’ were made by 25 Veg Cities and 70 contract caterers, high street chains, retailers, wholesalers, manufacturers, public food procurers and broadcasters.
The report finds that the numbers do however paint a picture of a food system hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, with 27% of organisations that are part of the scheme unable to report back this year due to capacity issues (the majority from the Out of Home sector, highlighting the ongoing challenges faced by this sector).
Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation said: “Peas Please continues to show that it is in fact possible to move the food system in favour of healthier diets, but the pace is way too slow.
“The fact that veg as a percentage share of retail shopping baskets has actually fallen slightly over the past 12 months is something the retailers should be examining closely.
“We need more transparent and ambitious targets to increase sales of veg, particularly in the retail sector, and a strengthening of relevant horticultural and food policies if we are to achieve our goals.”
She said that despite Covid-19 disruption across the food sector, the Peas Please initiative had continued to deliver on its mission, with 72.1m additional portions of veg being sold or served this year.
“This demonstrates remarkable progress in the right direction, despite the rate of increase slowing slightly as a result of the pandemic [approximately 13m fewer additional portions were reported compared to last year].”
Retail grocery sales data provided by Kantar show that the proportion of veg in a consumer’s shopping basket remains low (7%), despite overall grocery sales increasing by 13.7% in the 12 weeks leading up to mid-June.
Were retailers to be in line with the government’s Eatwell Guide, 20% of the shopping basket should be made up of veg.
“The absence of an uplift in the percentage share of retail shopping baskets that are veg this year, despite the closure of the Out of Home sector, is a concerning indictment of the current situation in the UK. We are simply not selling, serving, or eating enough vegetables,” she added.
Simon Kenton-Lake, policyand project officer at Nourish Scotland said: "This year's report shows how Covid-19 has caused some food sectors to stall against their targets of increasing veg sales, with more work required of us all.
“The Peas Please partnership is supporting businesses to do more to remove barriers to accessing veg, and with major events like COP26 (the UN's climate change conference), due to be held in Glasgow next year, there are huge opportunities to have the important conversations about reshaping our food systems, not only to increase access to veg in the UK but to become more sustainable and equitable throughout the world.”