Promoting healthy diets & lifestyles

Targeted marketing and communications can raise awareness, promote behaviour change and encourage consumers to adopt healthy habits that lead to good heart health.

How we promote healthy diet and lifestyles

One way in which we aim to encourage behaviour change is through the creation of engaging campaigns that educate and identify how individuals can exercise a positive choice in their lifestyle. Unilever’s Five Levers for Change informs our approach. This practical tool is a coherent set of principles, designed to increase the effectiveness of our behaviour change interventions. It brings together our experience over many years.

Behaviour change for better health symposium

Creating a sustainable future will require fundamental changes in attitudes and behaviours across society. Governments and industry will have to change, but so too will individual citizens. In acknowledgement of this challenge, public health and behaviour change experts joined Unilever scientists, technologists, marketers and management at the ‘Behaviour Change for Better Health’ symposium in June 2012. Together, they discussed how to encourage consumers to make positive changes in nutrition, hygiene and sustainability.

Seductive nutrition: research

In 2012, Unilever Food Solutions carried out extensive research into global eating-out-of-home trends. Now in its third year, our World Menu Report finds that two in three (66%) of the 5,000 people surveyed said they will seek the healthier option on a menu, even if they don’t end up choosing it. On the flip side, seven in ten (71%) agree that they prefer to treat themselves when eating out. This reveals the difficulty of turning good intentions into action.

Further findings from the World Menu Report suggest a lack of consumer knowledge a so-called “Nutritional Knowledge Gap” around some recommended nutritional allowances. At least three-quarters of respondents were unable to name the recommended daily allowance of fat. In addition, the research shows us that healthier options are frequently perceived as being smaller (45%), more expensive (57%) or less tasty (43%).

In the absence of any major push from consumers for healthier options, our conclusion is that foodservice operators should seek to make small changes to their top-selling dishes to make them healthier rather than introduce new, healthier offerings.

Seductive nutrition

People enjoy healthy eating at home. Our research shows they would like healthier options when they eat out too. Our professional catering business, Unilever Food Solutions, is working with restaurant operators around the world to make their menus more nutritious with the help of our products.

Working with food experts and industry specific bodies, our Seductive Nutrition programme provides recipe ideas and advice for creating nutritious and delicious meals, especially for top-selling dishes.

Under the programme in the US, over 5,000 operators pledged to remove more than 450 million calories from their menus in 2012.

The campaign is already active in 17 countries worldwide. It will enable restaurateurs to tap into consumer demand and increase revenues, while also contributing to public health.

Improving heart health

Education plays an important part in raising awareness of cardiovascular disease. In 2009, Unilever and the World Heart Federation launched Heart Age, an online tool that uses diet and lifestyle factors such as weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and smoking to estimate heart health. A heart age higher than a person’s actual age can be a powerful spur to action and the tool offers users a free three-month diet and lifestyle plan.

Targets & performance

Improve heart health

  • By 2020, we aim to motivate 100 million people to take our Heart Age test. [Target revised 2013].

    Our goal is to motivate people to adopt healthier diets and lifestyles, as this can reduce elevated heart age.

  • In 2012 we joined forces with Microsoft to launch Heart Age as an app.
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In 2009 Unilever and the World Heart Federation launched Heart Age, a simple online tool to raise awareness of cardiovascular disease. The tool proved an excellent mechanism for making heart health personally relevant.

Until 2011 our Flora/Becel spread brands provided the foundation for raising awareness of Heart Age but recognised that, by themselves, they could not drive enough people to the tool. By 2011, the online Heart Age tool was available in 27 countries. In 2011 we recognised that these brands would no longer be the sole sponsors of the Heart Age tool, and that Unilever would look to work with a broader set of external partners with a common heart health goal to maximise the tool’s potential.

Partnering to improve heart heath

During 2012, Unilever joined forces with Microsoft to launch the Heart Age application on the new Windows 8 platform. This gives us the potential to reach a significant number of people as the platform grows, to co-promote the tool and to explore opportunities through Microsoft’s emerging health platform. The app is available for people to use on computers, tablets and mobile phones.

Following the launch, we are further expanding the reach of Heart Age via a wide consortium of partners interested in heart health, in addition to continued support from our Flora/Becel pro.activ brands and Microsoft.

The partnership with Microsoft emerges from our subsequent commitment to work with a broader set of external partners with a common heart health goal to maximise the tool’s potential. We are looking to identify other like-minded partners going forward.

The new app complements our brands’ ongoing efforts to promote heart health. Our Becel/Flora products help people take simple steps to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease and our partnerships with local heart charities remain a key element of our approach.

Our heart health campaigns

Our partnerships with local heart charities are a key element of our approach to increasing awareness of the role a healthy diet and lifestyle can play in helping to maintain heart health.

In 2011, our Flora/Becel pro•activ brand worked with local heart charities in Canada and the Netherlands to raise awareness of heart health issues with women. In 2012, we expanded the Red Dress campaign into other markets. This involved a series of events with retailers, media and healthcare professionals.

In South Africa, we work with the Heart and Stroke Foundation to raise awareness of heart health and the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle through our Flora ‘Test the Nation’ campaign. In 2010-2011, we tested the cholesterol levels of over 36,000 people across the country.

In the UK and Ireland, Flora has worked with cholesterol charity, HEART UK on a range of initiatives. Flora pro•activ and HEART UK have teamed up with the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society (PCCS) to create ActivHeart – a behavioural change programme for health professionals to encourage patients to improve their heart health through making small changes in their diet and lifestyle.

How can we promote health and nutrition to children?

Healthy eating habits and active lifestyles need to start as early as possible in life. A balanced diet and lifestyle can help children to reach their full potential. The effects of poor nutrition at a young age can have lifelong implications.

Here are some examples of nutrition and health education programmes designed for children.

  • Unilever Food Solutions is successfully running school programmes in the UK, France, Germany, Portugal, Thailand, Poland and the Philippines. The programme combines best practice kitchen and menu management with nutritionally improved recipes for children. This provides operators with efficiency gains and inspiration for a varied, nutritious and tastier meal – attracting more children to the school canteen – while delivering clear incremental growth to Unilever.

  • A Perfect Fit is a partnership between Unilever Israel, the Israeli Ministries of Health and Education and various paediatric, dietetic and education associations to foster healthy eating habits for life. This educational programme celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2011.

A Perfect Fit has been implemented in 1,500 primary schools and 2,500 kindergartens. Involving teachers, students and nutrition experts, the partnership promotes the benefits of a healthy breakfast and a healthy lifestyle. The effects have been validated by three scientific researchers. For example, the number of children having breakfast increased from 68% to 77% in a couple of years. This educational programme is now in its twelfth year. More information is available in Hebrew at opens in a new window)

Targets & Performance

Improve employee health and nutrition

Our Lamplighter employee programme aims to improve the nutrition, fitness and mental resilience of employees. By 2010 it had already been implemented in 30 countries, reaching 35,000 people.

  • In 2011 we aimed to extend the reach of Lamplighter to a further eight countries. We will implement Lamplighter in an additional 30 countries between 2012 and 2015. Our longer-term goal is to extend it to all the countries where we operate.
  • Lamplighter has reached over 50,000 employees across more than 50 countries. In 2012 it was rolled out to 12 countries.
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Lamplighter is key to addressing the top three health risks we have identified across our business: mental well-being; lifestyle factors (eg exercise, nutrition, smoking and obesity – the last factors can lead to conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease); and ergonomic factors (eg repetitive strain injury).

In 2012 we implemented a global No Smoking Standard for employees while at work. By the end of the year, compliance with the new standard had reached 72%; we aim to reach 100% in 2013.

Lamplighter helps us to analyse our employees’ health risks and to put in place steps to control them. For example, in India the programme has reduced the number of employees categorised as ‘high risk’ (due to obesity or hypertension for example) from 8% to under 4% over 2007-12.

It is proving a valuable tool for safeguarding employees’ health, improving productivity and reducing costs.


We have increasing evidence that our Lamplighter health programme is a sound investment for our employees and for our business. Independent analysis shows a return on investment of €4.82 for every €1 invested in the programme in Brazil, based on combined healthcare and productivity savings over 2008-11.

In Singapore the return on investment was €3:1 over 2009-12 and there has been a reduction in the health risk factors associated with higher healthcare costs, such as poor diet and fitness.