BOWIE, Md. — Shoppers Food and Pharmacy here has expanded its in-store nutritional navigation program "nutrition iQ" into its fresh food departments, offering shoppers detailed information about fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, baked goods and other items.
"We initially launched with the center-store program because that's where we received the most consumer questions and that's the area of the store where customers had the most difficulty identifying truly better-for-you foods," explained Steve Sylven, external communications director for Shoppers' parent company Supervalu.
"In the center-store aisles, you'll see mainly tags on qualifying products as well as some signage in the aisles. In the fresh departments you'll see signage identifying nutritional attributes of foods with their corresponding health benefits. For example, oranges would have a corresponding sign that lets the customer know that oranges provide an excellent source of vitamin C, important for skin and immune health and a good source of fiber, important for digestive health."
He continued: "Most customers are in the know on the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. Now, by highlighting the nutrition attributes and health benefits, we can help consumers understand how nutritional factors influence their diet so they know what to buy to give them a better chance of realizing success in managing their health."
Rather than aim for simplicity with a simple ranking system, nutrition iQ uses color coated tags to highlight one or two specific attributes in different foods. For example, green tags denote low sodium foods, while red tags highlight foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids and/or low in saturated fat. Foods that are good sources of several important vitamins receive dark purple tags, while products that are an excellent or good source of fiber receive yellow tags.
"We believe that a healthy diet is simply a balanced diet, focused on foods like fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean meats, seafood, nuts, legumes and low-fat dairy, while being low in sodium, added sugars and saturated fat," said Sylven. "We also realize our customers are looking to manage different health goal like weight loss, weight management or an overall health diet or they may be managing a health condition like heart disease or diabetes. Because of this, we wanted to develop a comprehensive program that speaks to those needs, so we teamed up with Joslin Clinic, part of an academic medical center affiliated with Harvard Medical School, to develop the program."
To select eligible products and then decide which nutritional attributes to call out, Joslin clinic experts screened items against basic threshold criteria for sodium, saturated fat and in some categories, sugar content, to ensure that all items that receive tags are actually better-for-you foods. Eligible items where then analyzed to determine their key nutrients, and a tag was selected to call out each product's top one or two nutrients or benefits. In fresh produce areas, new categories now highlight fruits and vegetables that help promote muscle and bone health, help support healthy digestion, reduce the risk of birth defects, or promote skin, eye and immune system health.
"At Shoppers, we strive to make healthy eating convenient and enjoyable," Shoppers' registered dietitian Jennifer Shea, said in a release. "The expansion of the nutrition iQ program coincides with the new year, the perfect time to get on track and eat better-for-you foods as well as to create a healthy lifestyle." Shea is also suggesting that the chain's customers utilize the nutrition iQ program to try new strategies for eating healthier, such as eating several mini meals throughout the day composed of foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and beans, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and fish.
"Not skipping meals and eating every few hours helps keep your metabolism going strong, which helps burn calories. Plus you'll never feel overly hungry, so are less likely to overeat." The nutrition iQ tags and signs can also help guide shoppers to healthier snacks, such as lentil or edamame hummus, new nut varieties and trail mixes, gluten-free snacks and new kid-friendly produce snacks, the release notes.
The program now calls out more than 3,200 items in Supervalu banner stores, including Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbachers, Jewel-Osco and Shoppers.
"The program is achieving our goals," Sylven told SN. "First, from our market panel of over 7,000 SVU and competitive shoppers from across the United States, the idea of providing nutritional information at the shelf to help make healthier choices is rated as the #1 idea our of 50 ideas presented (e.g., take home meals, online shopping tools, etc.) that grocery stores can provide. Secondly, we are seeing a shift within nutrition iQ tagged categories to people selecting more of the nutrition iQ tagged items than they had in the past. This tells us we are helping our customers make healthier choices. We've simplified the shopping experience because we've done most of the work for our customers when it comes to seeking out better-for-you foods and now those foods are easy to identify. Third, nutrition iQ is improving how people view our stores. Specifically, we are getting credit for helping our customers shop for healthier foods and they are more inclined to recommend our stores to friends and family."