New Report from the Food Foundation calls on food industry to set and report on health and sustainability targets 

  • A 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 Progress dashboard 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. 

Wednesday 11th November – Today 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 findings 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 policymakers and for investors to include performance against these targets as part of their engagement and investment strategy.  

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.  

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Restaurants & caterers  

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.  

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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, The 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.”   

Editors' Notes 

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About the Food Foundation    

The Food Foundation is a charity working to influence food policy and business practice, shaping a sustainable food system which makes healthy diets affordable and accessible for all. We work in partnership with researchers, campaigners, community bodies, industry, investors, government and citizens to galvanise the UK’s diverse agents of change, using surprising and inventive ideas to drive fundamental shifts in our food system. These efforts are based on the continual re-evaluation of opportunities for action, building and synthesising strong evidence, convening powerful coalitions, harnessing citizens’ voices and delivering impactful communications.   

Registered Charity Number 1187611  

About Plating Up Progress  

Plating Up Progress is a Food Foundation project and has two aims. First, to forge a consensus on metrics and reporting mechanisms that allow assessment of food industry progress in transitioning to sustainable and healthy diets. Second, to engage stakeholders to advance the uptake of these metrics and track progress in the industry. We have begun this tracking with our Plating Up Progress dashboard.  






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