With increased attention focusing on nutritional labeling, Sue Till, client services manager of Guiding Stars, told us that Guiding Stars is widely accepted as a nutrition guidance program that works.
“For retailers that embrace health and wellness, Guiding Stars is a natural fit,” she said. “We’re hopeful that more retailers will adopt Guiding Stars moving forward.”
Guiding Stars, which awards products 0-3 stars based on their nutrient density per 100 calories using a patented algorithm that factors in everything from whole grain content to trans fat, recently added 199 new Loblaw banner stores across Canada, bringing its total presence to 565 Canadian stores and more than 1,500 in the US, including Hannaford, Food Lion, Homeland, Marsh Supermarkets, B&R and Price Chopper (Kansas City).
“We’ve seen a very positive response to the Guiding Stars program from our customers,” said Melanie Byland, registered dietitian and senior manager, Dietitian Program, Loblaw Companies Limited.
Till cites four main reasons behind the adoption of the Guiding Stars program, including the simple rating system of 1, 2 or 3 stars to help shoppers to “immediately identify the more nutritious foods on the shelf”; science supporting the shifts in consumer choices to a more nutritious direction; its patented nutrition rating algorithm; and the robust portfolio of Guiding Stars communications materials work effectively in a busy store environment, she said.
But it’s not just about grocery, said Till, with the program being successfully implemented in the food service operations of corporations, colleges and hospitals.
There has also been an expansion into the online and mobile space. “Currently, Guiding Stars fuels the mobile iPhone app Shopper and is the official nutrition rating engine for ‘ServeItUp!’, the healthy eating program offered by Premera Blue Cross,” she said. “As health plans and employers continue to search for effective ways in which to incentivize healthier behaviors, the interest in influencing more nutritious food choices continues to grow.”
Data published in both the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Food Policy indicated that the Guiding Stars rating system aids in decision-making for consumers who don’t read or have a hard time understanding government-mandated Nutrition Facts labels.
Writing in the AJCN, scientists from Dartmouth Medical School and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill reported that, based on purchasing data from 168 stores in the US Northeast, “the nutrition navigation system studied showed significant changes in food purchasing immediately after implementation, and these changes continued to be significant 1 and 2 years later.”
Similar improvements were reported for ready-to-eat cereals by scientists from the USDA, the FDA (CFSAN), and the University of Florida. “We found that the GSP significantly increased the demand for cereals that GSP considers more nutritious at the expense of cereals that GSP considers less nutritious,” they wrote (Food Policy, Dec. 2013, Vol. 43, pp. 100–107).