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Michigan-based Spartan Stores introduced a new program called The Nutrition Guide through its West Michigan banners D&W Fresh Markets and Family Fare Supermarkets on Sept. 13, 2009. More than 16,000 products are identified with a color-coded labeling system, indicating:
• Low-fat (orange label)
• Low-sodium (tan label)
• High-fiber (teal blue label)
• Gluten-free (green label)
• Sugar-free (purple label)
• Low-calorie (yellow label)
These categories are supported by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A variety of foods that are low in fat, low in sodium and high in fiber also will be identified with a heart label indicating they are heart-friendly.
Need for Better Labeling
The “U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2009” report from the Food Marketing Institute found that only 15 percent of grocery store shoppers were extremely satisfied with the nutrition information provided by their primary grocery store, and that 35 percent were somewhat satisfied and 38 percent were neither satisfied or dissatisfied. This, coupled with Spartan Stores’ 2009 independent research indicating the majority of consumers believe it is extremely or very important that their grocery stores of choice provide information about the health and nutrition benefits of the products they purchase led Spartan Stores to develop The Nutrition Guide program.
Ron Nelson, president of the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids, along with the YMCA branch executive directors and wellness directors, the program director for Gerontology Network’s Traveling Grannies/Grandpas statewide program, the wellness director at Holland’s Evergreen Commons Senior Center, and manager of Forest Hills Seniors Community Services Programs, joined Spartan Stores’ registered dietitian Heather Leets for a demonstration about the program and how to create healthy meals, including healthy back-to-school lunches, senior meals and portable work meals on a budget using the new labeling guidelines.
Leets and a team of registered dietitians designed The Nutrition Guide program to highlight specific attributes on nutrition labeling on more than 16,000 food products sold in D&W Fresh Markets and Family Fare Supermarkets. Her hands-on experience with providing healthy recipes (on a budget) on the Web and in print ads, Ask the Dietitian Web-based program, and participation in statewide health fairs heightened her awareness for the need for better labeling. She and her team have spent months designing the program and labeling system.
“The D&W Culinary Classroom is the ideal setting for this kickoff,” noted Spartan Stores’ EVP merchandising and marketing, Alan Hartline. “Our facilities have 12 commercial-grade cooking stations and all the necessary equipment. Attendees not only learned about our Nutrition Guide and labeling system, they also had fun planning healthy, appetizing, affordable meals without fuss and confusing measurements. Afterward, participants had the opportunity to tour our Grandville D&W Fresh Market and check out how the color-coded nutritional labeling system works. It is very easy and ties in with both our weekly recipes and our in-store specials. Our registered dietitian, Heather Leets, facilitated the interactive meal presentation and our tour.”
Simple, Easy Guidelines
“The beauty of The Nutrition Guide,” noted Leets, “is it is very simple to follow. The labels are all color-coded by FDA category. Any one, any age, any education, any language can quickly identify food attributes that are important to them, like low-fat, low-sodium and high-fiber for a heart-friendly choice for healthy meal planning. For example, if you are a parent wanting to limit your children’s intake of excess sugar, or someone who’s been newly diagnosed with celiac disease, the Nutrition Guide shelf tags can be a helpful tool with your purchasing decisions.”
Leets emphasized, “The Nutrition Guide is not intended to rank foods as ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy,’ but rather to simply call out foods that are low-fat, low-sodium, high-fiber, gluten-free, sugar-free and low-calorie, making it easier to identify foods that may benefit you and your family’s health.”
Healthy, Affordable Recipes and Online Support
Leets is developing simple, healthy, affordable recipes that will often feature weekly sale items for customers to pick up in their local D&W Fresh Markets and Family Fare Supermarkets. She also provides online support through the “To Your Good Life” link on the Spartan Stores, D&W and Family Fare Web sites.
Mishelle Bakewell, community outreach manager for Metro Health, endorses The Nutrition Guide, noting: “Many people get confused when trying to make good nutrition choices. Label reading can be a chore with all the complicated words and graphs, numbers that many people don’t understand. I think The Nutrition Guide program will simplify choices. It will also save time as a lot of folks shop on the run and taking time to read a label becomes one more thing to do. There is also contradicting information out there that further confuses people. The easy at-a-glance labels will help the shopper make good choices in less time. Tying in the sale items along with healthy recipes is an added bonus as shoppers can meal-plan, shop and save money all at the same time. It is a win-win for health-conscious shoppers.”
Gary Strekle, health and wellness director for the David D. Hunting Branch of the YMCA, attended the Sept. 16 kickoff with president Ron Nelson and area branch executive directors and wellness directors, and is excited about The Nutrition Guide program. “This is exactly the type of program we want to share with our members and program participants. Our ‘Move it to Lose It’ participants will be able to shop Family Fare and D&W Fresh Markets, and use this new guide to help make better food-purchasing decisions. This labeling system, easy and affordable recipes, and online support will make it even easier, not just for this group but all of our YMCA members and guests. We are really excited about how we can connect this with some of our outreach efforts like the Healthy U program and Activate West Michigan. We also look forward to an ongoing relationship so that together we can help improve the health of West Michigan residents.”
Spartan Stores recognizes that older adults may have special nutritional needs and, therefore, has established ongoing educational programs with Holland-based Evergreen Commons, the Forest Hills Senior Center and Grand Rapids-based Gerontology Network. Representatives from all three organizations attended the Sept. 16 kickoff, as well as set up educational programs and store tours throughout their service areas.
Peggy Burns, program director for Gerontology Network’s Traveling Grannies/Grandpas program, attended the Sept. 16 kickoff along with two traveling grandparents. She believes The Nutrition Guide will be a tremendous help to the more than 60 Traveling Grannies and Grandpas. “Our Traveling Grannies and Grandpas who mentor teenage girls are on the front line, helping young mothers learn critical skills — from parenting and preventive health care to managing a budget and grocery shopping for nutritional foods. This will be an invaluable help to them.”