Walmart: New Nutrition Labeling Program is ‘Great For You’
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:
- The chain has created its own extremely comprehensive program backed by science and its own resources.
- 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.
- Walmart Unveils ‘Great For You’ Icon – Walmart Stores
- Great for You – Walmart Stores
- Healthier Foods – Walmart Stores
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?