CPGmatters: Nutritional Labeling Provides CPGs, Retailers with Unique Competitive Edge
By Dan Alaimo
a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of
a current article from the monthly e-zine, CPGmatters.
Manufacturers can gain a competitive advantage
by working with nutritional ranking systems, especially those that provide
information to shoppers at the point of purchase. The new systems seek
to simplify this data, while maintaining the credibility of sound fact-based
NuVal ranks supermarket products on a 1 to
100 scale based on nutritional information presented in on-pack labels,
and after a proprietary analysis. The NuVal score is presented on the shelf
label next to the price in retailer chains paying a licensing fee. The
higher the score, the more nutritious the food. Competitive programs are
Guiding Stars and Smart Choices.
NuVal, LLC is a joint
venture formed in 2008 by supermarket cooperative Topco Associates, Skokie,
Ill., and Griffin Hospital of Derby, Conn., a non-profit community hospital,
and home to the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. While NuVal is
still a new company – it started in 2008, and went into its first two chains,
Price Chopper and Hy-Vee, in January 2009 – manufacturer acceptance has
been good, says Robert Keane, spokesman for NuVal in Braintree, Mass. It
added Meijer later in 2009, and will launch in United Supermarkets (Lubbock,
Texas) this month.
In most cases, NuVal obtains the information
it needs to evaluate products on store shelves from nutrition fact panels
and nutrition labels, “the way everybody else does,” he notes. “The manufacturers
aren’t sending us anything. Part of what makes NuVal important is we are
independent of food manufacturers.”
Late last month, the American
Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study endorsing key parts
of NuVal scoring. For example, the study found that higher-scored items
in the NuVal system correspond to the DASH, or Dietary Approaches to
Stop Hypertension diet. The study also found that NuVal’s 100-point scale
was preferred to other four-tier systems by a ratio of three to one.
The company has set scores
on over 41,000 items so far in about 160 categories.
“The way scoring
happens, we take down all the information – the nutrition fact panels,
and the nutrition labels – to make sure we get an absolutely accurate score.
At that point we inform all manufacturers of the scores their products
have received and sometimes they will have questions. There have been times
where some manufacturers have sought to increase their score,” Mr. Keane
After signing a non-disclosure
agreement to protect NuVal’s proprietary ONQI algorithm, “we can go through
with them and explain why their product scored the way it did.” This may
result in a change in ingredients or formulation, and the products are
“But the score itself
is done completely independently, which we think is important to gain customer
trust,” Mr. Keane adds.
The recent news that the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is devising its own on-pack nutritional
labeling has poured cold water on some programs like this. But NuVal is
proceeding, while keeping an eye on what FDA comes up with.
“If anything, [the FDA
plan] brings the whole idea of nutritional labeling into the spotlight.
It shows that people are really looking for this kind of guidance,” he
Questions: Should food retailers be investing in independently-run
nutritional ranking systems like NuVal rather than those being run
by the industry or the government? Do you think consumers will
respond better to a 100-point scale versus a four-tier nutrition ranking