As our Weigh It Up! campaign hit a new high point this week, with a pledge by the Conservative Party to back our calls for a review of the Nutrient Profiling Model, I thought I ought to talk about something else for a change. So let's look at milk prices and grand gestures.
Tesco's announcement that it would pay farmers up to an extra 5p a litre was a PR masterstroke, outflanking news that 17% of dairy farmers will quit milk production in the next 12 months (see p44). At a cost of £25m, this is not a mealy-mouthed measure; it is a gesture on a grand scale, effectively saving 1,000 dairy farms and showing the world that this increasingly isolated supermarket (to wit; this week: Sunderland, the Competition Commission, and the carpet showroom in Finchley stories on p6 and 8) does care about its clients.
Like Justin King and his Fairtrade bananas at Sainsbury's, and Stuart Rose with his carbon neutral Plan A at M&S, this 'ethically-motivated' gesture will play very powerfully for Tesco with consumers.
So, one wonders, why did the Chancellor choose not to opt for one of these grand gestures of his own?
To be sure, knocking 2p off the basic rate of income tax was a pretty grand gesture - though, like Tesco's 5p price hike for farmers, it was somewhat lost in the counter-spin. No, I'm referring to the decision not to drop the VAT rate on smoothies and juices in the 2007 Budget. These pots of liquid joy taste great, are super-healthy, but cost a small fortune - up to two quid. Reducing the VAT from 17.5% to 5% would make as much as a 30p difference. It would do wonders for Gordon's PR to be seen to encourage the consumption of 5-a-day, which is at the heart of the government's healthy eating agenda.
Maybe he'll make good the £200m shortfall by slapping VAT on HFSS foods. On second thoughts, I'm sorry I ever mentioned that.