To help consumers navigate the often confusing world of food, many conventional—and natural—retailers have adopted nutrition scoring systems. But are these systems truly guiding shoppers toward healthier choices?
In the past five years, nutrition scoring systems have become the hip new way for conventional grocers to address consumers' desire to eat healthier. But Future of Wellness research from New Hope Natural Media indicates that some consumers don't trust third-party scores, numbers or seals—instead, they rely on their local retailer to be their health guide.
This is where natural retailers can shine. "The big advantage that natural retailers have always had is their staff," said Bill Crawford director of retail publishing programs for New Hope Natural Media, suggesting that instead of a star on a price tag, "let your staff who live in the natural world be the resource."
Here, Natural Foods Merchandiser (NFM) reviews the most popular nutrition scoring systems and gives them our own grades. But before implementing, ask yourself: Will these nutrition scoring systems work against the trust you've developed with your customers?
NuVal Nutrition Scoring System
NuVal Scores rate food's healthiness on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being best. The system is based on the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI), an algorithm developed by nutrition, public health and medical experts led by David L. Katz, MD, of the Yale Prevention Research Center. The ONQI quantifies more than 30 nutrients and nutrition factors such as vitamins, minerals and fiber, as well as sugar, salt and saturated fat. Organic is not included as a factor in NuVal.
Where it's used: Conventional grocery chains coast to coast, including Kroger, HyVee and Price Chopper
NFM's grade: C-
Pomegranate juice scores 1, while Cheez-It Crackers score 20. Say what?
Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI)
ANDI scores measure the nutrient density of food on a scale of 1 to 1000. For example, kale is 1000 while broccoli is 376. Developed by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of Eat Right America, ANDI factors in vitamins and minerals from calcium to zinc as well as the ORAC score. This score is beneficial for encouraging better eating habits, but acknowledges that healthy fats (which have lower nutrient density) need to be consumed to maintain healthy weight. The score only rates whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts, not processed foods or meat.
Where it's used: Whole Foods Market
NFM's grade: B+
Why split hairs between healthier foods? Crossover shoppers may become confused about healthy eating.
Guiding Stars uses one, two or three stars to indicate nutrient density of more than 70,000 rated foods. An absence of stars means the product doesn't meet the rating criteria. The system pits essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and whole grains against saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sodium and added sugar. A Scientific Advisory Panel reviews the algorithm which combines evidence-based nutrition science with FDA and USDA dietary guidelines.
Where it's used: Public school cafeterias, College dining halls, 1,600 conventional grocery stores such as Food Lion and Hannaford
NFM's grade: A-
We like the good, better, best rating system, and while three stars may seem overly simplistic, it's easy for consumers to understand.
Do you use one of these systems or have you created your own? Share in the comments.