CHICAGO — Hannaford Bros.' highly regarded Guiding Stars nutrition navigation system is growing beyond food retailing and into the foodservice and food packaging sectors, SN has learned.
A Guiding Stars licensing pilot is slated to begin in the Topsham, Maine, school district in the first quarter of 2009, according to John Eldredge, director of brand and business development, Guiding Stars Licensing Co., a four-month-old wholly owned subsidiary of Hannaford's parent Delhaize. The spinoff was formed to market the brand to other retailers, as well as to food manufacturers and foodservice operations in schools and other institutions.
Menus sent home to Topsham parents and published online will include Guiding Stars ratings on all prepared foods and grab-and-go items. A similar pilot with a Maine college is being discussed.
Guiding Stars assigns a rating from zero to three stars based on an analysis of nutritional content. After launching in Hannaford in 2006, it has since rolled out to the Delhaize-owned banners Food Lion, Bloom and Sweetbay.
Eldredge, who held posts at General Mills and Tom's of Maine before joining Hannaford's licensing subsidiary, said the foodservice tests make sense because many parents already know about the system from shopping at Hannaford.
“Because the system came from a [food] retailer, it has a lot of credibility,” Eldredge told SN.
Meanwhile, the Guiding Stars brand is getting more exposure in-store. From 200 to 300 Hannaford and Sweetbay private-label products — ranging from cereal and pasta to yogurt and juice — will carry the ratings within the next few weeks. Food Lion and Bloom private labels will follow suit within the next six months.
Incorporating the stars on product packaging is the logical next step in the growth of Guiding Stars, Eldredge said.
“It serves as a reminder to consumers of the product's attributes when they get the product home,” he said.
Guiding Stars Licensing is also in discussions with several national-brand manufacturers about including the ratings on their products.
Formed in July, Guiding Stars Licensing is currently run by a 12-person team consisting of former Hannaford executives as well as people from outside the company. Jim McBride, who helped develop the system while at Hannaford, serves as the licensing group's director of information and systems.
The company currently operates in Hannaford's corporate offices, but is looking for its own home in the greater Portland, Maine, area.
It has been heavily marketing the brand at various trade shows. It had a booth at the Private Label Manufacturer Association's annual trade show, held here last week, as well as at the American Heart Association meeting in New Orleans on Nov. 8-12 and Natural Products Expo East in Boston in October. It also plans to have a booth at the National Grocers Association annual show in February 2009 and Natural Products Expo West in March 2009.