Plain speaking

Tim Young - 10 February 2011

A comment from the floor in the last session that we need a ‘plain food campaign’ struck me as a fantastic idea. Lots of the debate was around the complexity of the organic message, and getting that across to people – what’s organic about? What is a healthy diet? What are consumers interested in?
All great questions, and all ones you can spend a life-time answering – and yet when you boil it down, advising people how to eat a good, healthy diet isn’t that difficult. Michael Pollan did it in seven words; eat food, mainly plants, not too much. The new ‘why I love organic’ campaign also does really well at communicating why people should choose organic; perhaps they could be combined with the Pollan approach into a plain food campaign that can be used by us in the Soil Association as well as in retailers and by licensees? There’s definite food for thought here. . .

Tim is editor of the Soil Association's Living Earth magazine, and has written on food, health and consumer issues for the last ten years. When not at work Tim is normally being run ragged by his two young sons. In 2009 Tim started trying to grow vegetables, and last year he took on an allotment. Two years later he is still trying to grow vegetables, and is very hopeful that one day soon he will have some success.

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organic multivitamins
20 June 2011 15:37

Right.. we should always eat a proper and organic food.

Ed Dowding
11 February 2011 18:13

A Potts-Dawson & Hugh Fairly-Longname to head it up on C4?

Tim Young
11 February 2011 16:10

Thanks for the comments guys, really appreciated. A few quick responses if I may. @Hattie - good spot, it was a typo (which I've now corrected), but equally I agree: any plain food campaign should be the equivalent of an elevator pitch for better food. @Graeme - you're not wrong, but I do think the whyiloveorganic campaign is a good example of how it's possible, with a bit of thought, to make things simpler; our message is often complicated because we choose to make it that way. @Ed - great idea, let's get a pitch together. @Mike - I think the idea of the 'plain food campaign' was in the context of 'plain english' - ie expressing ourselves in easy to understand language, not necessarily limiting ourselves to meat and two veg. But the name doesn't matter I suppose, and as @Steve suggests perhaps the 'natural food campaign' would be a better name in any case. And finally @Tess, while I'd like to see it, we may be waiting a while for those on-pack messages about cheap chicken!

11 February 2011 14:50

Tim's blog says you need a "lift time" to answer the questions people may ask. A typo for "life time"? But a lift time is how you need to think - given a short ride in a lift with someone what could you say to answer one of those questions, to get the idea across and engage someone's interest? Focuses the mind...

11 February 2011 11:06

plain food campaign great but we need to have a cosistent simple message. i don't think we , the soil association, is at all clear about what its message is. it is all too mixed up. after i don;t know how many years there are plenty of our customers out there who don't know that organic animals are free range. That is a failure on our part not theirs.

10 February 2011 21:10

Michael Pollan's 7 words are great,.the problem with them as a public campaign leader is that the public don't know what "food" is. Linking to organic to "natural food" as was suggested during the conf may be a path. I love Ed's idea... public service food education broadcasts. Add making The Omnivore’s Dilemma required reading.

Ed Dowding
10 February 2011 16:26

Create a 10 minutes slot before / after the soaps and have popular heros cooking a simple, healthy meal in less than 10 minutes. One simple shop at the beginning of the week. Some nights they'd cook excess of something to use in tomorrow night's dinner. At the end of the week, every thing you bought would have been used, or roll into the following week. A chef I know has already prepped the book, "The instant noodle challenge: better meals in under 7 minutes" (or something like that.. I can't quite remember.)

10 February 2011 16:07

Plain food sounds just too boring. In reality, real food, properly prepared and presented, can out perform any trendy junk on appearance, taste and, as a bonus, health and environmental benefits. What we need is a trendy appropriately trained/talented chef to demo this on TV. But then again, what medium would want to do anything so subversive?

10 February 2011 15:09

Yes! I agree Tim. 'You are what you eat' may be an over-used phrase but it's absolutely true. A 'plain food campaign' led by the Soil Association sounds brilliant - perhaps we could start by reminding people that when they eat intensively farmed chickens, they should consider what those poor chickens have been fed. Yuck. And wouldn't it be great if, just as packets of cigarettes have big bold health messages emblazoned on them, cheaply produced chicken could have 'This chicken led a painful, miserable life' in big red letters on the packaging. Might make your average shopper think twice.

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