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ConAgra Joins Labelmania

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Manufacturers and retailers are really falling in love with the idea of nutrition guides. Everyone keeps coming out with their own versions. By the end of this year, consumers will be seeing a host of new programs in the aisles.

cafesteamer.jpgConAgra Foods, unveiled its own initiative earlier this week, and is taking a slightly different approach to the issue. The manufacturer of such brands as Healthy Choice and Orville Redenbacher's has devised a system based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid dietary guidelines.

The program, approved by the USDA, tells consumers just how much each product contributes to fulfilling the recommendations set by MyPyramid. In an example provided by the company, a Healthy Choice Fiesta Chicken meal that contains chicken, rice, fruit and vegetables will have a graphic (at the bottom of the image shown) indicating the product provides 15% of the grains, 30% of the vegetables, 15% of the fruit, and 40% of the meat and beans that a consumer should eat based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. The labels will appear on more than 700 ConAgra-made products beginning in May, and include only those that offer at least a certain threshold amount of important nutrients. It's quite an initiative, and will be a cornerstone of the company's Start Making Choices umbrella program.

Freedom of choice is part of the American Way; in this case, consumers looking to improve their diets can choose from a growing number of nutrition guides. ConAgra's new icons are one way to eat better, provided shoppers purchase those brands. Othe manufacturers like Kraft and PepsiCo have their own symbols and criteria. Retailers this year will have the opportunity to implement one of two universal programs that claim to cover every product in every category.

Call it too much, call it confusing. Let's just hope consumers get the message.

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