Grocery store rating system for food nutrition

The Hannaford grocery chain has developed their own ratings system for the nutritional value of grocery products. From this story

A New England supermarket chain has developed a 1-to-3 star nutritional rating system that flunks most of the foods consumers think are good for them.

After plugging 27,000 products into its system, the Hannaford Brothers chain found that 77 percent of the foods failed to receive even one good nutrition star, The New York Times reports.

Hannaford said many of the processed foods advertised as being healthy failed to gain a star because they contained too much sodium, sugar or fat.

Most fruits and vegetables earned the highest rating of three stars along with salmon and high-fiber cereals.

Making its debut in September, Hannaford’s rating system puts the chain in the awkward position of judging the very products it’s trying to sell. In fact, most of Hannaford’s own store brands failed to get any stars, the Times said.

“We are saying there are no bad foods,” Hannaford spokeswoman Caren Epstein told the newspaper. “This is a good, better and best system.”

Hannaford’s nutritionists acknowledge their system is more stringent than the guidelines used by the Food and Drug Administration.

A couple of things of note here. First, the subjectivity of any measuring and rating system means that establishing standards will always be tough. The challenge to non-nutritionists to understand the complexity of ingredients, preparation, nutrition, etc. is enormous. I would suggest it’s impossible. Do multiple layers of ratings systems help or hinder? And related, is the second issue, where a retailer (a food retailer, even) is assessing the quality of the products they are selling. If a product is packaged and branded as being healthy, but it’s label is in opposition to how many stars it receives, will there be pressure on Hannaford to back down? It seems that this is healthy for consumers (so to speak) but may be a retailing nightmare. I hope they stick to their guns, but I wonder if other channels would be so bold. The online world has brought us a lot of customer reviews that obviously can be quite critical, but does that work in a bricks+mortar setting when the negative assessment comes from the bricks+mortar itself?


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