- Ahold USA banners Stop & Shop, Giant, Giant/Martins and Peapod will introduce the Guiding Stars nutrition labeling system to store shelves this week, according to a news release and press officials for the company.
- Developed by Hannaford stores back in 2006, Guiding Stars uses an algorithm to assign products one, two or three stars depending on their nutrition content, in what the company describes as a “good, better, best” hierarchy. Not every product receives a rating, including dietary supplements, products with less than five calories like water and spices, and products like cookies and chips that don’t meet the program’s criteria.
- "We know that more and more of our customers are prioritizing nutrition and in fact, our research tells us that over half of Americans cook at home because the meals are healthier," Lisa Coleman, lead nutritionist at Giant of Landover, said in the release. "We saw this growing demand for healthier meals and we set out to make it easier to shop for nutritious ingredients and meal solutions.
Less than two years after its merger, Ahold Delhaize has decided to spread the Guiding Stars nutrition labeling system across its brand portfolio. The move leverages an exclusive asset, and points to the increasing focus consumers are placing on eating healthy.
Back in 2006, Hannaford released Guiding Stars in its stores. This was one of the first nutrition labeling systems aimed at helping shoppers identify truly healthy products. In 2007, the program launched at Food Lion stores, which were also owned by Delhaize America, and in 2012 Guiding Stars licensed its system to Canadian grocer Loblaw.
When the system was first introduced, some manufacturers were less than thrilled. Hannaford was, after all, rating the very products it was selling. But it positioned Guiding Stars as a positive program that called out healthy products without bashing less-than-healthy ones. Still, some companies felt the system implicated many products by not issuing a rating for them.
“We don’t like the idea that there are good and bad foods out there,” a representative from the Campbell Soup Company told The New York Times at the time.
The algorithm used to assign Guiding Stars ratings incorporates recommendations from a scientific advisory panel, and has been updated to reflect Food and Drug Administration Guidelines. And studies have shown that the program boosts the purchase of healthier foods, as well as a stores’ healthy image.
Rating systems like Guiding Stars and NuVal have support from the nutrition community, but the industry has lately favored transparency-focused programs like SmartLabel, which was developed by the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Retailers like Raleys have developed shelf tag programs that call out health benefits like “gluten-free” and “low sodium” without issuing a rating.
The Food and Drug Administration, meanwhile, is working on its own transparency initiative, with an updated Nutrition Facts label set to debut in 2020.
It’s tough to predict how nutrition rating and transparency programs will continue to expand and evolve. What’s certain, though, is that consumers want healthier products and the ability to identify them in stores.