RETAILERS STRENGTHENED efforts to service the health-conscious this past year with new on-package icons, seals and shelf tags identifying foods that are heart healthy, gluten free, low sodium and rich in whole grains.
One of the most comprehensive initiatives came from Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine. Its new “Guiding Stars” program assigns one, two or three stars — signifying good, better and best nutritional value — to national-brand and private-label products throughout the store. The stars are printed on shelf labels next to the price and UPC code. Foods are credited for having vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and whole grains, and debited for trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, added sugars and added sodium.
Food Lion, Salisbury, N.C., is considering adopting the system in its stores.
Another new retail program came from Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., which started using icons on private-label Safeway-brand packaging. The icons address a variety of nutritional claims, including sodium, fat, gluten and allergen content. The tags go even further by specifying if a product is dolphin safe. Safeway is also working on a shelf-level sign project that will complement the on-package icons.
New manufacturer programs kicked off as well, including Choices, an on-package logo system from Unilever that identifies foods low in trans fats, saturated fats, and sodium.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, Washington, is concerned that the many different icons on the market confuse consumers. As a result, it petitioned the Food and Drug Administration to design a national set of symbols to help consumers identify healthier foods. In its petition, it says the FDA should review programs that other governments use, such as the United Kingdom's color-coded nutritional system.