Better Nutrition Labels Simplify Health Food Decisions for Customers
As a health-conscious grocery shopper, I am constantly checking nutrition labels when deciding between food products. Unfortunately, this process is extremely time-consuming, and often leaves me confused. Nutrition Fact labels are supposed to help us make healthy decisions, but the format is certainly not easy to follow. I want to eat healthy, but I’d rather not spend so much of my time calculating what the percentages and serving sizes actually mean for my diet.
According to a 2012 Nielsen survey, “59 percent of consumers around the world have difficulty understanding nutritional labels on food packaging and more than half (53%) consider themselves overweight.”
Without clear guidance on nutrition at grocery stores, many consumers turn to the media for health advice. Magazines, books and TV shows promote the latest trendy diet with slogans like “Drop 10 pounds in two weeks!” Some of these fad diets may help people lose weight, but physicians across the nation recommend exercise and a healthy diet.
“It turns out that no matter what region of the world consumers hail from, there is a strong consensus about how to lose weight. Dieting is the most popular method among more than three quarters (78%) of global online respondents,” (Nielsen 2012).
The question consumers face is what exactly constitutes a healthy diet. Which is better: low calorie or low carb? Low fat or low sugar? Competing claims from food packaging makes it challenging for shoppers to decide what is healthiest. When consumers try to compare food products using Food Nutrition labels, the serving sizes and percentages vary, thus forcing shoppers to calculate the math if they want a true comparison.
A Healthy Solution
Many dieticians and scientists are backing in-store nutrition programs like Nuval and Guiding Stars. Nuval uses a 1-100 scoring system to label food products; the higher the score, the better the nutrition. Guiding Stars uses a three star system to label edible products; three stars means best nutritional value, one star means good nutritional value. These programs make it so much easier for shoppers to make healthy choices, and also save them time.
Nutrition programs can position a grocery store as the health and wellness hub of the community. Independent grocers often sponsor little league teams as a form of community outreach, but why not sponsor health and wellness for the entire community? There is a competitive advantage to promoting nutrition because health-conscious customers like me will be more loyal to your store over others.
At-a-glance nutrition guidance from NuVal or Guiding Stars can be a powerful marketing tool for independent retailers. Consumers are looking for nutrition labels they can easily understand so they can make healthier choices when grocery shopping.
According to the Food Marketing Institute’s “Shopping for Health” 2014 survey, “One-third [of shoppers] say they are buying more food items based on nutritional components; and 31 percent say they are buying more foods with reduced or no calories/fat/sugar/salt. As a positive trend, 75 percent of shoppers say in the past year they have switched to a healthier version of at least one of the 21 types of food surveyed. Notably, these trends are consistent between men and women and across generational groups.”
Battling the Epidemic of Obesity
High-calorie food is widely indicated as a primary cause of the epidemic of obesity throughout the United States. Obesity is associated with heart disease, diabetes, and a laundry list of other health problems.
In a recent study by psychologists Peter Helfer and Thomas Shultz of McGill University in Montreal, the doctors suggest a potential countermeasure is to encourage shoppers to buy healthier food with better nutrition labeling.
“We find that the Nutrition Facts label, currently required in the United States, Canada, and a few other countries, is relatively ineffective in guiding participants toward nutritious choices, whereas some alternative schemes that present nutrition information in a more condensed form perform significantly better,” (Helfer & Shultz, 2014).
Clear, easy-to-understand nutrition labels from NuVal and Guiding Stars are an excellent way for grocery stores to support health and wellness. Utilizing in-store nutrition programs is a great tactic in battling the epidemic of obesity in the United States. This problem won’t go away unless we do something about it!