Walmart: New Nutrition Labeling Program is ‘Great For You’

Discussion
Feb 08, 2012

Walmart has now officially launched its “Great For You” labeling program, entering the space of providing nutrition information to shoppers with the hope it will lead them to healthier eating choices.

It is not new territory: NUVAL, Guiding Stars and other programs have been there before. Indeed, NUVAL is currently used by several major supermarket chains including Hy-Vee. But the Walmart initiative is different in two ways:

  1. The chain has created its own extremely comprehensive program backed by science and its own resources.
  2. It is leveraging its massive strength in stores and private label to make this program work.

According to Andrea Thomas, SVP sustainability for Walmart, the retailer worked closely with the USDA, FDA, and the White House. Data collection was extensive and included shopper behavior relative to nutrition labeling. Criteria for the icon is based on a required amount of healthy substances in a food product with limits on negative substances such as fats, trans fats, sodium and sugar.

Central to the program is an on-label icon, Great For You. Walmart turned to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, USDA, FDA and the Institute of Medicine to set the program’s precept:

  • The program had to be simple so shoppers, who are not nutritionists, could understand it;
  • It had to be interpretive, that is evaluate the food product by a set of scientific criteria;
  • There had to be a communications program to support it.

The precept that Walmart didn’t accept is that the program should be ordinal, that is scaled as to good, better, best, or other variation. The reason, Ms. Thomas noted, is that the “icon has to be understood by our Walmart mom,” as well as being easily identifiable by busy shoppers. A scaled system was deemed to be too complicated and Walmart is banking on trust as well as transparent criteria to make the icon acceptable and effective. A website, www.walmartgreatforyou.com, explains the criteria, provides recipes and lists products with the icon.

Walmart also chose a front-of-packaging label, as opposed to a shelf sign, to improve identification. The program will cover all grocery categories starting with fresh fruits and vegetables. Currently, only Walmart store brands have the icon, although it is available to suppliers (without a licensing fee) with products that meet the criteria.

Nearly 100 store brand SKUs now feature the icon. Ms. Thomas estimated that about 20-25 percent of the chain’s current private label will meet the Great For You standards. That should expand with reformulations, and, in a real sense, this program is also under continuous test. If the Great For You products begin to sell better, then by normal merchandising processes, the planograms will reflect the growing sales of the healthier product with more facings.

Discussion Questions: Will Walmart find success with its Great For You nutritional labeling program? How does this program compare to others on the market? How will it affect what Walmart’s competitors do?

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16 Comments on "Walmart: New Nutrition Labeling Program is ‘Great For You’"

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Paula Rosenblum
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

And who decided that Walmart has “massive strength in private label”? It doesn’t compared to other chains that sell food. It’s one of the reasons the company’s attempt to eliminate entire brands from its shelf in 2010 failed so badly. The private label has very little strength.

So I see this as the reverse — a way to drive sales of private label product. Will it succeed? I don’t think its core customer cares that much, to tell you the truth.

Max Goldberg
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

Good for Walmart! By creating a simple program, backed by science, WM could help consumers eat healthier food and could get national brands to look at their ingredients. If the idea is welcomed by consumers, look for other chains to copy WM.

Even with this valuable information, consumers need to watch portion sizes and caloric intake from non-rated products, otherwise this program will have little impact.

Ian Percy
Guest
5 years 10 months ago
Did I read this right? “Walmart Moms” are so slow and stupid that they couldn’t handle something as “complicated” as a three (3) category distinction? That differentiating between “Good, Better and Best” would simply cause a mental overload? At the most, these poor moms can handle a cartoon of a man in the shape of an ‘X’. I’ve got to say it isn’t often we see that kind of care and compassion on the part of a major corporation! To earn the X-man distinction, the product has to meet the “required” standards as supported by those health nuts the USDA,… Read more »
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
Guest
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
5 years 10 months ago
It is good to see Walmart getting involved with a nutritional program. I question the value of the program, however, after reviewing the list of items that carry the “Good For You” label. They are all Walmart Brands. Great for Walmart, but is it great for their customers? The approach seems to be more about marketing Walmart brands than actually sharing nutritional values across all brands and categories. Also, if you have a “Good For You” label, do you also need a “Bad for You” label? National Brands and consumers should be concerned if Walmart does not also include national… Read more »
Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
5 years 10 months ago
Walmart has reached that zenith in business which requires that it must create good PR programs to offset the repetitive effects of its massive size, omnipresence, bold power and pretend condescensions. And “Great For You” nutritional labeling fits that requirement and it also appears better than most similar programs now in effect by competitors. So we give Walmart kudos for “Great For You” even though one wonders how many WM customers will really find healthy light in that PR tunnel. And since that tunnel can be dark, many WM competitors will try to emulate what they assume is another piece… Read more »
Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

The simple answer is that we’ll need to see sales data to see if this improves product sales for those tagged items and whether it hurts sales for non-labelled products. I like the simpicity of it, and if I were a competitor, I’d be testing this myself.

Roger Saunders
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

Walmart is taking the right step in getting out in front in supporting nutrition programs on the product; keeping it simple and straight-forward. They will win the hearts and minds of a group of their shoppers.

Select suppliers will likely, wisely follow. The icon that sits on recycling trash cans, championed at one point in time by Anheuser Busch, pointed the direction that many followed.

David Livingston
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

I think in the end, we will see the “Great for You” logo on every sugar cereal, boxed food, dairy product, frozen pizza, etc. It will come down to the dollars and food companies will have to pay money to get the logo put on their product. We can make the argument that just about every product is healthy. My guess is we will see the logo on just about everything but fresh produce.

Gregg London
Guest
Gregg London
5 years 10 months ago
As others have pointed out, “Great For You” is not new, nor is it unique. The fact that it only appears on Walmart Private Label Items — and only certain items at that — would seem to support the idea that it’s a “marketing” concept, and nothing more. With regard to Nuval and the like, the overall problem with ALL of these systems is that they are based on purely subjective criteria (high in this, low in that, etc.), without accounting for individual health requirements. For example, Gatorade carries a very low Nuval score, because of the sugar. However, if… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
5 years 10 months ago
The first nutritional program I experienced was in ’73 at Fleming Foods. I was part of the development team. Since then there have been dozens more across the industry from both retailers and manufacturers. None have really taken hold as a benefit that consumers look for. Let’s hope this one is different. Just another Walmart irritant for manufacturers, though. No shelf tags, but they get access to the logo (free!) so they can print it on only the packaging that will be sold to WM. That is, after they redesign their packaging just for WM to provide room for the… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

Why is it that Walmart’s scientific analysis, conclusions, and interpretation for consumers is better than any other program? Once again Walmart attacks the issue by trying to create its own set of criteria (that consumers have to go to the website to thoroughly understand) that is different from everyone else’s. So the question is, will consumers trust Walmart to be the arbiter of health for them?

Catherine Hamilton
Guest
Catherine Hamilton
5 years 10 months ago

No more than the other retailers already participating in similar programs and it will cost the vendors tens of thousands of dollars to change existing labels.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
5 years 10 months ago
My initial thoughts were the same as Ian’s — although it should be said that the condescending tone comes from this article rather than Walmart itself — but after actually reading the guidelines, I can understand the fear of over complication (is a “single item fruit or vegetable, fresh, canned or frozen” still such if sugar or salt has been added?). And a “good” category would likely have been broadened to include everything short of deep-fried ice cream. So mild applause and good luck to them with it … the rest is up to the consumer (and 15 servings of… Read more »
Mark Burr
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

This is something that just about every retailer is doing. It’s no big deal. Their competitors on the grocery side are already in it.

They are all comparatively the same. They are a lot of cost. They are a lot of labor. They accomplish no more than the FDA mandated nutritional label already does for them.

Why do it? Somewhere in the retailing rule book it was updated that it’s politically correct to do it. It’s an unlegislated – legislated mandate.

Ho hum. So they’re doing it too.

Kai Clarke
Guest
5 years 10 months ago

No. Nutritional programs have failed over the majority of products from standard canned goods to fast foods. People shop at Walmart for their prices not their nutritional labeling.

Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
5 years 10 months ago

It can’t hurt and every little bit helps. To those who think this implies moms don’t understand nutrition, I’d say, most don’t. I have 2 diabetic children. It has amazed me for years how little the average person knows about nutrition.

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