The seal – first mooted back in January – was originally scheduled to appear on the front of qualifying Walmart products later this year as an at-a-glance means of helping customers identify healthier choices.
But while the timetable has shifted, bosses remain committed to rolling it out, media relations director Lorenzo Lopez told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We are currently working on the nutrition criteria [underpinning the seal] and finalizing our efforts around the healthier food seal/icon.
“We anticipate the seal will be available around the spring of 2012.
"In the meantime, we’ve been working on the reformulation of Great Value products, such as a 15% reduction of sodium in Great Value Ketchup, which is currently making its way to stores across the country.”
‘The seal will be supported by a nutritious food standard’
Walmart has not released details of the scoring system underpinning the seal or said whether the nutrition criteria will be category-specific or universally applied.
However, Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability, said in January that it would be developed “in consultation with health organizations to help customers identify healthier food for their families”.
She added: “The seal will be supported by a nutritious food standard designed to increase vitamins, minerals, whole grains, fruits and vegetables in food products, while limiting saturated fats, sodium and added sugars.”
Walmart seal will complement Facts up Front
This sets it apart from the front-of-pack scheme recently proposed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), which also attempts to steer shoppers towards healthier choices but uses a points-system based solely on levels of nutrients to discourage (saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars).
However, Walmart’s healthy seal could be used in addition to the industry-backed Facts up Front/Nutrition Keys scheme and will be open to branded suppliers as well as private label manufacturers.
“Walmart … will also offer the seal to its suppliers for their national brands that qualify. This effort will complement the front-of package nutrition labeling system already being discussed by the food industry.”
Said Lopez: “Customers have told us they want to be able to easily identify healthier food items. As it relates to the IOM recommendations, we’re still evaluating them as part of our overall goal to provide customers with easier access to healthier food options.”
Front-of-pack labeling debate
Front-of-pack labeling is a politically charged topic in both the United States and Europe, as consumers are faced with a bewildering array of colors, points, icons, ticks, seals and figures designed to help them make healthier choices.
However, all of the schemes are based on slightly different criteria, with some focused on nutrient density and others just focusing on fat, sodium and sugar levels.
Asda – Walmart’s UK subsidiary – has opted for a ‘traffic light’-based front-of-pack scheme. However, color-coded schemes have not proved as popular this side of the Atlantic.