Fighting Childhood Obesity: Delhaize Serbia Introduces “Super” Lunches
As in other countries around the world, childhood obesity is on the rise in Serbia. We wanted to strengthen our efforts to help families and children make healthier food choices, but first we needed to understand the factors contributing to childhood obesity.
Research at Belgrade schools and informal focus groups with associates’ children revealed a troubling trend: Many schools don’t have cafeterias, and as result students often purchase unhealthy foods – such as potato chips, candy and soda – from vending machines or nearby stores for their lunch or snack.
We saw these problems and decided to do something really ambitious. We wanted to change kids' bad eating habits and put them on a healthier track.
Quality & Safety Director, Delhaize Serbia
With a 2014 grant from the Delhaize Group Sustainability Innovation Fund, we developed a range of nutritionally balanced, tasty packaged meals that kids could take to school. We launched our SupeRučak (“Super Lunch”) boxes in 2015, and partnered with the Serbian Olympic team to promote healthy meals and active lifestyles to children.
Balancing taste and nutrition
Delhaize Serbia’s food specialists worked with outside experts, including nutritionists and food scientists, to develop healthy, nutritionally balanced recipes. But we knew that those foods had to be tasty and fun to eat, too. So we organized a taste test for children aged 7 to 11, which provided crucial input on several recipes. “Kids are very clear on what they do (and don’t) want to eat,” says Bošković.
After a year of development and testing, we had created 5 lunch boxes that include 3 items, such as a chicken sandwich on wheat bread, an apple muffin and a milk carton. To ensure that SupeRučak was an affordable choice, we priced the boxes at 199 dinars – less than €2.
Providing education and inspiration
To launch SupeRučak, we visited 5 Belgrade-area schools with a group of special guests: members of the Serbian Olympic Team. These athletes – who many Serbian children consider heroes – described how good eating habits can contribute to physical fitness, and then joined the students in games and exercises. We also brought a nutritionist to explain how eating healthier can help improve learning. “In order to change habits, you have to show the kids examples of healthy lifestyles,” says Bošković.
In all, 133 students participated in our inspirational, educational presentations. Following these events, we invited 24 students, parents and teachers on a field trip to visit a SupeRučak supplier in the Serbian countryside. The families helped harvest carrots and learned about the origins of some of the healthy, fresh food that made it into their lunch boxes (watch the video).
Refining and expanding
During the program’s first year we sold SupeRučak lunch boxes at 44 Belgrade-area stores. The lunch boxes were so popular that we plan to offer them in 19 more stores in 2016.
Thanks to feedback collected from children, parents and teachers throughout the process, we learned that the SupeRučak portions were too large for many children to eat all at once. We reduced portion size, which allowed us to lower the price of SupeRučak to 149 dinars going forward. We also are expanding the product line with 5 new SupeRučak combinations, which will help us make an even greater difference in children’s eating habits. “We want to make sure kids continue to be excited about SupeRučak,” says Bošković.