After several years of planning, Topco Associates is poised to begin licensing and implementing the Overall Nutritional Quality Index, developed by a team of nutrition scientists at Yale University. As a universal, objective nutrient-evaluation program, retailers will be able for the first time to help their customers cut through the often-conflicting information they find on product packaging and in advertisements.
“ONQI will allow shoppers to quickly and easily select products that best fit their personal nutritional goals,” said Chris Phillips, spokesman for ONQI, the business entity established as a joint effort between Topco and Yale to bring the rating system to market. The system was recently rebranded “NuVal” for marketing purposes and will go through a test phase this year before being rolled out to stores nationally in the first quarter of 2009.
ONQI funnels 30 different nutritional factors through a sophisticated mathematical algorithm to determine the overall health benefits of individual food products, but customers won't necessarily have to know that. All they will see is each food product given a rating of between 1 and 100, with the latter representing the best nutritional content.
According to officials, the rating system will be tested on shelf tags in a select number of Topco-supplied stores beginning this September. In conjunction with the introduction, the supplier cooperative is also developing extensive educational materials, a website and other supporting resources for retailers and customers.
One of the companies testing the program is likely to be Hy-Vee Food Stores, Des Moines, Iowa, whose president and chief executive officer, Ric Jurgens, also serves as current chairman of Topco.