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Villainous veggies campaign shows brands need to throw out the rulebook

The famous five-a-day campaign isn’t hitting the mark with kids, says Iain Sawbridge, CMO of Beano Studios and head of Beano for Brands. It’s time for fruit and veg to get nasty.

While ‘Five-A-Day’ is considered one of the most successful, long-running public health campaigns in history, some kids have other ideas. You’d assume they’ve heard the phrase. But 42% of children still get it wrong, thinking you need to eat fewer than five bits of fruit and veg a day.

So when ITV and Veg Power approached us at Beano for Brands to partner with them on a new campaign to get kids to eat more veg, we were well up for the challenge.

ITV and Veg Power's campaign: Eat Them To Defeat Them
Eat Them To Defeat Them: kids get tough with veg

So how do you get kids to eat vegetables?

According to our own research with thousands of 6-12s on, close to a quarter of kids think vegetables are ‘yuck’ (their words not ours…!) Intriguingly, 42% of our 6-12 year olds don’t know how much fruit and veg to eat to be healthy – striking when you consider their parents are so-called wellness-driven millennials.

None of this helps to ameliorate the UK’s escalating obesity crisis. Government data in October 2018 showed the rate of severe obesity among children aged 10 to 11 has increased by more than a third since 2006-2007 to 4.2%, its highest rate ever.

But how can you positively change the habits of a demographic whose consumption trends are ephemeral in nature, and who forget fast? Who are increasingly sophisticated in their ability to screen out bland, educational, brand-heavy messaging just the way adults do? Entertainment not education, speak with, don’t speak at …

Sound familiar? That’s right, it’s the same rules as audiences 10 or 20 years older… except they are nine, and they’ve already got your brand on toast if you don’t get it right. And at this age they also need a duty of care and clear signposting. They love positive messaging, they are socially minded. It’s a balancing act.

Healthy eating for kids: getting the message across

This is the challenge we’ve been working on with ITV and Veg Power, to help address the issue of diet front-on. Our insight into 6-12s has provided the underbelly to the ‘Eat Them to Defeat Them’ campaign we’ve just launched together.

Though Beano is now a multi-award winning, data-powered content studio and digital network, some things haven’t changed. We’ve got 80 years of counter-cultural menace in our DNA … we love to shake things up and put smiles on faces while we’re at it, whether that’s in our own content, or in the work we do for brands.

Because that’s what kids love.

So we were chuffed to provide digital content for the Eat Them to Defeat Them campaign, because the attitude of what adam&eve’s has created was so resonant with what our audiences love day in, day out.

It’s brilliantly counter intuitive, veg aren’t cartoony best mates asking you to love them, they are EVIL! This is World War Z, but with more zucchini than zombie … and only kids can stop the pulp-stained onslaught.

‘Brands need to play to a new set of rules'

This campaign is a forward thinking, proactive project, with purpose at its core (sorry), which ITV, Veg Power and an unprecedented alliance of competitors in the UK Grocer market can be justifiably proud of (Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose, as well as Birds Eye).

And there’s much more to come, our emerging longitudinal survey on the new Generation Alpha (born 2010 and after) clearly indicates brands need to play to their new set of rules.

Ultimately, as this joint campaign shows, we will need to whip out the shovel of disruption, and uproot the rules of brand engagement for this generation if we want to avoid a wormy demise on the compost heap of history (sorry, I had to do it …).

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How Beano for Brands can help your marketing strategy

Beano for Brands is a kid-first consultancy and agency for brands seeking to connect with a new generation who are already rewriting the rules of engagement, creativity and even the world around them.

Our fortnightly reports are drawn from a wide range of touchpoints with real kids and families: Trendspotters (a UK-wide panel aged 9-12), insight and analytics from – the UK’s fastest-growing kids’ site, external research and 80 years of working with kids. Sign up at

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