- Retailers interviewed by Supermarket News say they’re finalizing calorie labeling for their foodservice departments ahead of the May 5 deadline set by the Food and Drug Administration.
- Grocers are less than enthusiastic about the cost of testing and labeling, which can run several hundred dollars per menu item. Retailers like Tops Friendly Market are also confused by the finer points of the law, such as how often labeling needs to be updated.
- Despite this, some grocers that aren’t required to label their foods are still doing so, hoping that the added transparency will be a value for their customers.
Despite significant resistance, including an 11th-hour appeal from the National Grocers Association and the National Association of Convenience Stores, it appears the FDA’s new labeling law will go into effect next week.
It’s a tough rule for grocers to swallow, given the cost and other issues surrounding it. According to NGA, testing and labeling menu items can cost several hundred dollars per item. Considering that many retailers have dozens of menu items in their foodservice departments, that can quickly add up. Retailers are also wondering about the law’s more granular guidelines, like whether or not swapping in new ingredients will necessitate a new round of testing and labeling.
“If I change the bread in our sub rolls next month, and it changes the calorie information, that will be a very big expense to make the correct changes,” Susan Durfee, director of deli and prepared foods at Tops Friendly Markets, told SN.
There’s also concern over how consumers will respond to the additional transparency. Will they be horrified to see how many calories that fried chicken platter has in it? Or will they be apathetic?
Certainly retailers and industry sources have good reason to question the labeling law’s goal of inspiring consumers to make healthier choices. Numerous studies have shown that calorie labeling has little to no impact on peoples’ food selections, and that those who want to see this information are affluent consumers who are already well-informed when it comes to healthy eating. A study by researchers at New York University that looked at calorie labels in fast food restaurants concluded that as few as 8% of consumers were set to make healthier choices because of the initiative.
None of this, however, looks like it will change the inevitable, so why not make the best of the situation? After all, grocers like to talk up their commitment to consumer health. Stores could promote low-calorie options through pricing deals, or through a promotion that highlights five dishes under 500 calories. Or, they could really lean in and start a discussion with their customers about calories, nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Educating shoppers about obesity and how many calories they should consume each day may not seem like retailers’ job. But then again, it could reinforce their wellness positioning, and maybe even inspire the healthy changes so many consumers want to make.