CSR: Ambu-lunch serves up healthy options

In October 2011, the then health secretary Andrew Lansley issued a national target to reduce Britain's calorie intake by five billion calories a day. After the hospitality industry was repeatedly criticised for prioritising profits instead of the nation's health, Unilever Food Solutions (UFS) - a provider of professional ingredients to the hospitality industry including brands such as Colman's and PG Tips - decided to act. It wanted to create a campaign that got chefs to believe they have the power to help consumers make healthier food choices when eating out. Unilever hired William Murray Communications to create and run the campaign.

Andrew Lansley:Served up by Lisa Faulkner
Andrew Lansley:Served up by Lisa Faulkner

Campaign: Ambu-lunch helps chefs tackle obesity
Client: Unilever Food Solutions
PR team: William Murray Communications
Timescale: June-August 2012
Budget: £68,000

  •  To strengthen UFS' reputation as a thought leader on health and nutrition
  •  To demonstrate how chefs can influence consumers to make healthier food choices.

Strategy and Plan

The PR team's research found that one meal in eight is eaten out of home each week. Developing a 'small changes, big difference' message to underline the campaign and encourage chefs to get involved, William Murray calculated that if a chef shaved just 24 calories from each meal, it would significantly contribute to Lansley's pledge - making it an achievable target.

To launch the campaign, an NHS ambulance was converted into an Ambu-lunch, complete with working kitchen and minirestaurant. This standout yellow vehicle was to be central to all photo-calls.

A photo-shoot was organised outside the Houses of Parliament, with Lansley taking up the team's offer to dine on board the Ambu-lunch with UFS MD Tracey Rogers, served by Lisa Faulkner, Celebrity MasterChef winner and healthy eating champion.

Media were invited and chefs served two dishes that were identical, except that one was 24 calories lighter than the other.

Journalists were challenged to taste the difference - the majority failed to do so.

William Murray organised for the Ambu-lunch to visit three prestigious catering colleges across England to engage with chefs at the beginning of their career to encourage them to adopt 'healthy'

habits. Students from Westminster, Leeds and Birmingham met UFS chefs, tasted the low-calorie options and took UFS' calorie wheel back to their lessons. Twitter was used to provide updates.

Measurement and Evaluation

The launch campaign generated more than 60 pieces of coverage, including Sky News Radio, BBC Radio Wales, London 24 and Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine.


After the photo-call, Lansley attended a high-powered meeting around the Government-backed Change4Life health initiative with top-level teams from major food firms including Nestle. He praised Unilever's Ambu-lunch activity, and wider health and nutrition efforts, as best practice within the sector for its contribution to the Government's calorie pledge. Visitors to UFS' website to use the calorie calculator increased by 314 per cent during and after the campaign.



I am just not sure that healthy food choices and lower calories are philosophically on the same page, but my argument is with Lansley, not William Murray.

Misguided government pledges aside, the agency did a great job in coming up with the campaign idea and linking it to the political agenda to make sure that Lansley attended.

I also believe that Lisa Faulkner was spot on in terms of celebrity involvement, with just the right amount of food creds versus mainstream appeal. I loved the creative idea of the Ambu-lunch, which gave a really on-message stunt element to the campaign.

But it did feel as though the tour to a handful of catering colleges was more about adding a touch of credibility than effecting any deep-rooted change.

In terms of evaluation, what I would really like to know is how many chefs are still using the calorie counter now?

To make this more than a flash in the pan, I would ask Unilever Food Solutions for a much bigger budget to continue the work with the catering colleges and try to bring about real change.

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