New Report from the  Food Foundation


On Wednesday 11th  November,  a new report – “PLATING UP PROGRESS 2020: - Pathways for a healthy, just and sustainable food system during a global pandemic” – was launched by  independent charity, The Food Foundation. 

In light of  the report’s finding,  the  Food Foundation  is calling  on food businesses to set targets  for shifting revenue towards producing and selling healthier and more sustainable food.  The  Food Foundation is urging for reporting on these  targets to be made mandatory by policy makers  and for investors to include performance against these  targets as part of their engagement and investment strategy.  

  • new report from the Food Foundation  that analyses the performance of supermarkets, caterers and restaurants against key metrics finds a significant number do  not have any health  or  sustainability  sales  targets.  
  • The interactive  Plating Up Progressdashboard  allows users to compare food businesses against each other on key health and sustainability metrics.   
  • Only 4 of  the 11 supermarkets  have  set  targets to  report on percentage sale of healthier options, fruit and veg or plant-based products.  Of the major restaurants and caterers analysed, only 20% have published targets or data  on  either  the percentage  of food sales that are  healthy or  increases in fruit and veg sales.  
  • The  Plating Up Progress  2020 report  looks at the impact of the pandemic on the industry and lays down some key actions for  food businesses,  investors,  and government  towards both economic recovery and sustainability  post-Covid.  
  • The assessment highlights where food businesses are failing to set targets and report on performance against them, but also includes examples of current best practice that should be adopted across the sectors. 

For the full report, click here!

The report  and accompanying  dashboard  maps  out the  current commitments, targets and performance reporting of  26 major UK food businesses.  


The new report  finds that only 4 of the 11 supermarkets have  public targets on either the percentage of food sales that are healthy, or for increases in sale of fruit, veg or plant-based protein products. 

The analysis  does however highlight leadership examples in the field, including Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer’s commitment to reporting the percentage of sales that comes from healthy products. Tesco’s leadership also aims to halve the environmental impact of the average shopping basket,  and  Lidl reports  a 20% increase in sales of veg between 2017-2019. 

Below shows how the supermarkets scored  on  10  key topics. Full analysis and comparison diagrams are available on the  dashboard here.  


The report finds that, of the major restaurants and caterers analysed, only 3 out of 15 have public targets or data available on either the percentage of food sales that are healthy,  or  report on  fruit and veg sales.  None of the  companies have clear published targets or data for increasing sales of plant-based proteins, although several are introducing new menu options as alternatives to meat.  

Only 30% of major restaurants and caterers have  any  publicly available data on their scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions (relating to food production in their supply chains) which is  of particular concern,  considering that food and agriculture accounts for around  30% of  all  global emissions. 

The report  does  however highlight  good practice and leadership qualities from companies such as  Greggs and Sodexo (UK and Ireland)  who are providing  data  in their  corporate reports on increases in sales of veg.  Sodexo, Mitchells & Butlers and Whitbread are also shown to be  now including scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions within their overall climate change reporting. 

Below shows  how the  out-of-home food companies  scored against 10 metrics. Full analysis and comparison diagrams are available on the  dashboard here.   

The report highlights both the opportunity for an economic recovery that could accelerate a transition to health and sustainable food, and the risk that the economic downturn could hinder this. It  states  the need for financial incentives for companies to invest in change towards a greater focus on healthy and sustainable foods. It notes that some of this change can be driven by consumer demand, but governments need to  legislate  to help  get the parameters and incentives  implemented  too.  


Investors need to introduce expectations on food businesses to set targets for, and report on, sales of healthy and sustainable food if they are to understand the  actual  risks and opportunities  that apply to these companies. Because  only  the minority of  these  companies have revenue or sales-weighted targets, investors cannot reasonably  assess  whether they are exposed to risks such as government action on obesity  or climate change, or risks associated with the supply of  foods more exposed to environmental  shocks.  In the same way as we would expect energy companies to set targets for renewable energy, food companies need to set targets for healthy and sustainable food.  

The report provides a set of “asks” for investors to use in this engagement with companies and additionally gives examples of where sustainability performance has been linked to capital provision. Investors  need to explore innovative ways that they can attach clear conditions of sustainability performance to capital investment, especially as the economy looks to respond to COVID-19. 

Anna Taylor, Executive Director, Food Foundation said: “The challenges we face are formidable and understanding the progress food companies are making and what targets they are setting is key.  We need clear direction from both investors and government to demand that companies report on these metrics if we are to see lasting change and if those companies with more ambitious health and sustainability commitments are to flourish.”

Nilani Sritharan, Group Healthy Living Manager, Sainsbury’s said:   “We want to be sure that we are doing the right thing and that in pursuing one potential solution we are not creating issues elsewhere. For this reason, scoping out the full impact of any action requires robust data, research and test and learns – and all of this takes time to gather and build the insight for action. There are several elements which may help to build the business case to accelerate change.   Firstly, by increasing customer demand and customer awareness about the impact of their purchasing choices, e.g. through labelling. Secondly, better data and better infrastructure for the sharing of that data across the food system will help us make more informed decisions right across the food chain. Both of these aspects can help improve the quality of the evidence around the behaviours we really need to drive – considering the interconnectivity of sustainability issues.” 

Paul Rhodes, External Affairs Manager, Greggs said:  “While the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is paramount across society today, we’re also mindful that our long-term strategic direction needs to remain “on track” to give our customers the food choices they want – and to ensure that we do the right thing as a brand. We’re continuing to focus on sustainable food as a way to help reduce the impacts of not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but all of the other sustainability challenges that haven’t “gone away” while global attention has understandably been elsewhere.” 

Perry Rudd, Head of Ethical, Sustainable & Impact Research, Rathbone Greenbank Investments said:  “We are absolutely of the opinion that consistent evidence of outperformance in benchmarks such as PUP can be a useful indicator of the links between good management of ESG risks and financial metrics.” 

Will Nicholson, Plating Up Progress Project Lead said:  “It feels like we are at a fork in the road.  So many of the changes we need to happen for healthy and  sustainable food systems come with a ‘by 2030’ tag, so we have a decade to get there.   Covid-19  presents  an opportunity to change gear in our transition towards that.    If progress stalls, we will lose vital time.   This report and webinar are an attempt to take stock of where we are and to understand what levers we need to use to make sure we take that opportunity.”   


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