Healthy Aisles scheme spreads to 5,000 stores as more shoppers seek at-a-glance health & wellness info

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

'More recently, we’ve also started to get a lot of inquiries about non-GMO products'
'More recently, we’ve also started to get a lot of inquiries about non-GMO products'

Related tags: Nutrition

healthyAisles - a merchandising system enabling retailers to highlight products containing attributes from ‘low sodium’ to ‘good source of calcium’ via customized shelf tags and other tools - is now used in more than 5,000 stores across the US.

The program, developed by shopper marketing expert Vestcom, logs 35 health & wellness attributes in a database of 200,000+ products including store brands and meat, seafood and produce, and has grown by 600% in the past four years, Vestcom VP marketing & strategy Jeff Weidauer told FoodNavigator-USA.

He added: “We work with 25 retailers now and we’re growing very fast. In 12-18 months, we’re going to be huge. We can’t name our clients because it is a white label program - the tags are customized for each of our customers - but we work with some of the leading chains, including one in the top three.”

In RTE cereals, retailers might want to highlight attributes such as gluten-free or whole grains

Typically customers select 8-10 attributes of interest, and then home in on two or three at any given time, he said.

“It’s based on a relevancy table, so we don’t label green beans as ‘gluten-free’. Retailers typically want to focus on certain attributes in relevant categories, so in ready-to-eat cereals, they might want to highlight products that are gluten-free or contain whole grains.

“We also work with some retailers to develop proprietary tags such as peanut-free, or ‘carb-aware’ which targets shoppers with type two diabetes that need to watch their blood sugar.

Jeff-Weidauer-Vestcom
Jeff Weidauer: 'We’re an agnostic third party, we’re not paid by the manufacturers'

“More recently, we’ve also started to get a lot of inquiries about non-GMO products, so we’re looking at whether we can include this as an attribute, although it’s going to be quite a challenge.”

At-a-glance information for busy shoppers

While manufacturers make a lot of claims directly on pack, shoppers like shelf-edge tags because they provide at-a-glance information so you don’t have to scrutinize every label, he said.

The information is also more trusted as it is based on objective information from the products’ ingredients list and Nutrition Facts panel that is integrated with FDA rules governing nutrient content claims and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and not on manufacturers' marketing claims, he added.

We’re an agnostic third party, we’re not paid by the manufacturers.”

While retailers know exactly what products are on their shelves, they don’t typically maintain databases they can interrogate at the click of a mouse to determine which products meet the conditions of use for any given nutrition or health claims, which products have third party certifications, or which contain gluten, he said.

healthy-aisles-fresh-produce
While retailers know exactly what products are on their shelves, they don’t typically maintain databases they can interrogate at the click of a mouse to determine which products meet the conditions of use for any given nutrition or health claims, which products have third party certifications, or which contain gluten

“It’s a full-time job maintaining a database this size and we’ve been building it up for seven years. Other players have entered this market since we started, but we have got a big head start.”

In an industry first, Vestcom has also moved into the dietary supplement aisles with the new Vita Aisles scheme (click here​ for more details).

We know what the products are, where they are and what’s in them 

Little Rock, Arkansas-based Vestcom, which also supplies its data to retailers interested in integrating it with smart phone apps, online marketing activities, and a range of other health and wellness tools, is also exploring how the database could be used to help retailers handle product recalls, he added.

“We know what the products are, where they are and what’s in them, and so we’re starting to have conversations with a couple of clients about how how we can put this information to use.”

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