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Supervalu-owned Cub Foods said yesterday that it will make its “nutrition iQ” labeling program, first announced by the parent company last January, available in its 73 stores in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Supervalu says that the nutrition iQ system uses established U.S. Food and Drug Administration Nutrient Content Claims as a framework to determine the nutritional benefits of items that pass a set of qualifying criteria and are, at a base level, better for consumers. Products meeting the threshold criteria are then further evaluated to identify their top one or two nutritional benefits, which are called out for consumers on color-coded nutrition iQ shelf tags.

The program covers 11 different nutrient claims in seven categories with the shelf tags color-coded as follows:

• excellent or good source of fiber are denoted by orange tags,
• excellent or good source of calcium by blue tags,
• excellent or good source of protein by yellow tags,
• low or healthier level of sodium by dark green tags,
• low calorie by a purple tag,
• low saturated fat by a red tag and
• whole grains by a dark orange tag.

According to the company, “the tags are located in an area where consumers naturally look when making food purchases — on the store shelf right below the product's price, unit price and bar code. The at-a-glance cues are designed to help point consumers toward healthy food options. The information serves as a supplement to the more detailed information already found on the ‘Nutrition Facts’ portion of food labels, should consumers wish to compare products further.”
KC's View:
In the interest of being consistent – a standard I don't always achieve – I went back to read the story and commentary that I wrote back in January when the nutrition iQ initiative was first announced. Part of the reason this made sense was because I’ve been conflicted about whether it makes sense for there to be so many different nutritional labeling systems, or if there should be one national system.

And I think I’m going to stick with what I wrote seven months ago:

Why shouldn’t chains have proprietary, differentiated systems that actually are part of the process of creating customer connections? Maybe people will begin choosing stores based on the kind of advice and information they provide…which actually makes sense, when you think about it.

Not to say that customers won’t get confused. And I suspect that manufacturers are going to find all these varying systems annoying, since they’ll be trying to figure out how to qualify and get the best ratings in systems that may have different criteria or biases.

But listen, here’s the important thing. An information-driven customer base is going to be getting more information. Transparency begins to seep into the system.

This is good.

Why should Hannaford and Food Lion be compelled to have the same system as Supervalu or Hy-Vee? And vice-versa? After all, these stores are presenting different images and narratives to consumers, and if they do things right, their individual nutrition labeling systems should be part of that distinct narrative. And since presumably different kinds of chains appeal to different kinds of consumers, it makes sense that they use different nutrition labeling systems.