The expansion of Guiding Stars to some private label packs could give products competitive edge

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

The expansion of Guiding Stars to some private label packs could give products competitive edge
The nutritional rating system Guiding Stars is expanding to four more grocery brands and will, for the first time, appear on the front of pack of some private label products at the stores – potentially giving them a competitive edge over national and regional brands as consumers seek healthier options.

Beginning April 6, shoppers at Giant Food, GIANT/MARTIN’s, Stop & Shop and Peapod, the country’s currently largest online grocery retailer, will be able to more easily select nutritious options by looking for Guiding Stars’ three-star rating system on product shelf tags, and in some cases on the front of private label products.

The system assigns one to three stars to products that qualify for the programs’ “good,” “better” or “best” rating based on their vitamin, mineral, fiber, omega-3 and whole-grain content. The system also considers the amount of trans fat, saturated fat, added sodium, added sugar and artificial colors when assessing whether products qualify for stars.

By adopting the influential Guiding Stars program, the four chains could see higher revenues, based on data recently published in The Milbank Quarterly ​ journal, which looked at product sales and total revenues of three supermarket chains in Canada that introduced Guiding Stars to their stores.

The study found that not only did consumers select notably more nutritious products after the system was in place, but the number of products per transaction and the mean price per product purchased also increased, leading to higher total revenue for the control stores.

Private label products that will feature the Guiding Stars ratings on the front of their packs at the four retail brands rolling out the system this week could capture a disproportionately larger share of any sales boost compared to nationally branded products that do not have the labels on their packaging. This could be because consumers are more likely to look at product packaging for certifications and nutritional information than at the shelf tag where Guiding Stars are more typically located.

Elizabeth Caton, the client services manager for Guiding Stars, told FoodNavigator-USA that the addition of Guiding Stars to the front of some private label packages is “thrilling,”​ but she noted the company cannot as easily offer the same benefit to national brands.

“We sort of can’t do that for everyone because national brands … need to include a lot of things on their packaging, and because they have packages that are offered at stores that don’t have the Guiding Stars program,”​ she said.

Guiding Stars strives to ‘refresh’ its database

In addition to expanding to new retail outlets, Guiding Stars also expanded its database of rated products by about 50,000 items – bringing the total to more than 93,000 rated products and recipes. Of these, more than 37% earn one, two or three stars, according to the program.

While the addition of the items was specifically geared towards the rollout of the program at these stores, it also is part of a “huge project to update our database and, hopefully, create some tools that are easier for consumers and our clients to use,”​ Caton said.

She explained by the end of the year the program hopes to have a new app and an updated and refreshed database that will be a “little more user friendly, so that clients and consumers can more easily look up products and see how the ratings compare to other products.”

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