SUGAR SMART, a campaign run by Jamie Oliver and Sustain that encourages local authorities, organisations, workplaces and individuals to reduce the amount of sugar we all consume, is focusing on the sports and leisure sector to encourage more health centres and sports clubs to sign the pledge and take action to reduce sugar consumption at their venues.
Sofia Parente, campaigns coordinator at Sustain, tells FitPro, “The SUGAR SMART campaign is all about reducing our sugar consumption and we engage with organisations from 10 different sectors, from schools and universities to sports and leisure centres.
“Sports and leisure has been a big focus for us this year because we all know that, if we want to live longer and healthier, we should look at our diet and exercise. However, we realise that, especially when going to leisure centres or to watch a football match, we don’t always have great food and drink options available. So that’s what motivated us to work more in this sector.”
Everyone Active has over 160 facilities nationwide and in September it launched its official support of the SUGAR SMART initiative across all its centres that are managed in partnership with participating local authorities. This has involved revamping the catering in some locations to achieve local accreditation, such as the Eat Out Eat Well award in Surrey and Buckinghamshire. After making changes such as swapping French fries for steak cut chips, which contain 36% less saturated fat, the majority of its cafés have achieved the gold standard.
As a fundamental part of Everyone Active’s offering, there’s also a focus on vending. Working with snack provider Nestle, Everyone Active has dedicated 50% of all its machines to healthier choices. Where high-sugar options are still available, they meet the government’s standard of 250 calories or fewer.
Having pledged to cut out more than three tonnes of sugar from its food and beverage products over the next three years, Everyone Active has already removed more than a ton and a half of sugar from its offering by simply swapping its sweet-snack supplier. A trial in Bristol proved that swapping in healthier choices did not affect sales, but instead showed that Everyone Active was succeeding in encouraging customers to opt for healthier alternatives, rather than shop elsewhere for sugary choices.
Parente adds, “The interesting thing is that Everyone Active thinks the campaign has been good for their business model. They haven’t lost any money, which is an important element of sustainability when you bring in changes; the catering and vending needs to bring in a profit. So it has been positive for them as a business too.”
Andy Coupé, Everyone Active’s group food and beverage manager, says, “Any organisation that offers food options to the community has an obligation to provide healthier alternatives. Our involvement in the SUGAR SMART campaign is all about giving people a choice and helping them to understand the small changes they can make that have a big impact on their overall health and well-being.”
Parente is keen to point out that it’s not just active people who come through the doors of health clubs and leisure centres. “A lot of leisure centres rent their space for occasions such as birthday parties. All sorts of people are coming through the doors, including a lot of children. Collectively we need to ensure vending is healthier, replacing big-sized snacks and sugary drinks with sources of energy such as fruit- and nut-based bars and moving away from refined ingredients. The campaign is very much in tune with consumer concerns as well – as a nation we are becoming more concerned about our sugar intake.”
Leisure centres, health clubs and organisations can sign up to the campaign at sugarsmartuk.org and take the pledge. Parente concludes, “The campaign provides a menu of actions organisations can take, from changing vending to doing challenges with their clients, such as inviting customers to go without sugary drinks for a month, and we offer them the resources and tools to do that. If organisations complete three different actions or more they will get a certificate to show they’re committed to the campaign.”
To find out more, head to sugarsmartuk.org
Where to next? Catch up on some of the fantastic sport relief campaigns that took place last week.