Newsmaker: How Innocent markets its smoothies to healthcare professionals (HCPs)

Gemma O'Reilly talks to Innocent's nutritionist, Vanessa Hattersley, to find out how the British smoothies company built bridges with the UK' s Department of Health to aid its health message

Hattersley: 'You have to be proactive'
Hattersley: 'You have to be proactive'

 

  • The Dept of Health changed its 5 a day advice in April 2009 to say that smoothies could count for two of the five a day. Did this follow lobbying by Innocent?

The five-a-day guidelines were originally compiled in the early 1990s and at that time smoothies weren’t commercially available.

Innocent was involved in the change in policy and led the way in providing information to the Department of Health’s nutrition team which deals with the Five-a-day policy.

The Department of Health is very open for more information in that area. We think that the industry can help Government departments because it is has the expertise to share. Policy departments are always looking for more information.

  • Tell us about your relationship with the Dept of Health. What’s the key to a good relationship between a brand and a Govt dept?

Government departments struggle because they don’t have the technical expertise in all of the policy areas they look after. They rely on industry knowledge to know what’s going on and what’s going to be practical to implement. They don’t want to produce policies that no-one is going to follow.

It’s about two-way communication and building relationships. You can’t just turn up and say ‘This is what we think’. You have to demonstrate that you have something to offer and be proactive.

The key for us is to have government recognition. It’s central. The Five-a-day message is government-owned and is seen as official. It’s really important for our smoothies to be aligned with that.

  • How much scientific research have you done to justify the two a day tag?

 

A smoothie is compiled of fruit juice and crushed fruit. Each one is one portion of your Five-a-day, so together it makes two. That’s common sense.

The bulk of research on Five-a-day is based on population studies that look at the diets of huge numbers of people. They take a long time and a lot of money to complete. We haven’t done those. Instead, we rely on independent organisations like universities to underpin our findings on Five-a-day. We then shared all of the evidence that we have with the Department of Health of what goes into a recipe and how fibre content differs between smoothies and fruit juice.

All of our research is compiled at end of the shelf life. Our products are all tested when the product gets to the shelf to ensure that people are still getting all that goodness, and that it hasn’t been lost through the transportation of the products.

  • What’s the aim of the section of your website aimed at healthcare professionals? How are you promoting it to them?

Five-a-day is a core message for healthcare professionals (HCPs). Few people have a bone to pick with that message. So it’s about moving it beyond being a message and making it practical.

The policy on smoothies only changed just over a year ago and the Department of Health doesn’t go out and shout about the fact that it’s changed. We have a job to do to promote this message to HCPs.

On the website we offer practical advice. Earlier this year we published a report called ‘Are you getting enough?’ based on research we did with HCPs to get their general opinions on Five-a-day. We promoted the report on our website when it launched.

We’ve also attended three key HCP conferences over the last eight months to talk about the report and the website.

  • Do you envisage HCPs actively talking about Innocent to their patients?

 

Realistically, HCPs shouldn’t be recommending one single brand over others because it’s against the ethics of their profession. But, according to the report, 75 percent of HCPs give advice on Five-a-day every day. For us it’s about Innocent being seen as one of the ways that patients can meet their Five-a-day and that we are one of the brands that springs to mind.

They can recommend products but they have to give a range. We want to be one of the brands they think of.

The report also found that 47 per cent of dieticians and nutritionists, and 82 per cent of nurses fail to achieve their own Five-a-day. If they are struggling, then it’s key that they know about Innocent for themselves too.

  • What else do you have planned to promote the Five-a-day message?

 

The website we have at the moment is for HCPs and is written at that level. But, what we realised when we evaluated that is that it isn’t just HCPs that want that information. The next step is to open up that practical advice to consumers too.

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