The government-backed campaign, which aims to increase awareness of healthy eating, was launched in the North East this month and offers fruit and vegetable chillers, stands and marketing material to retailers.

The £800,000 programme is being piloted in 12 stores with the potential for an additional 120 to join in 2009. Those involved say it has been a huge success so far.

Christine Dobson, who runs Spar in North Seaton, Ashington, is amazed at its impact. "You can see the chiller and posters as soon as you walk into the store and they really stand out. The detail that has been put in is impressive - even the shelf stickers that they gave us were specially designed to fit our shelves."

She reported that sales of fruit for the first week of the scheme have jumped by 30% compared with the week before.

"We've seen schoolchildren buying single pieces of fruit, which never really happened before. The fruit stand is right beside the confectionery and we've noticed them picking fruit over sweets, which is fantastic," said Christine.

She added that it's not just children who are buying more fruit. "A lot of older people are coming into the store as we now have a larger selection of fruit and it's more accessible," she said.

Michael McCormick of Nisa Local in Esh Winning, County Durham, was excited about the impact of the scheme. "We felt that we were under-performing in the fresh produce area so this is a good opportunity for us."

Since the scheme began Michael has noticed higher sales of exotic fruits such as pineapples, melons and grapes. "Before Change4Life it was only really apples and oranges that sold, but now that customers know about other fruits they are becoming more popular," he added.

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