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|Image on Price Chopper's Web site|
Hy-Vee, Inc. and Schenectady, N.Y.-based Price Chopper this week became the first grocery chains to introduce the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System that helps customers understand the nutritional value of the food they buy.
As one of several such programs that are debuting at other retailers around the country, with the aim of helping consumers make better-informed choices at the store shelf, Hy-Vee tested the NuVal Nutritional Scoring System at its Des Moines-area stores in the fall and is currently moving it out across its entire seven-state marketing territory in the Midwest.
"When we're in a position to make a difference in people's lives, we should," said Ric Jurgens, CEO of the 225-store, West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee. "This program has the potential to improve the health of our nation.” Jergens noted consumers' keen of "the relationship between what they eat and how they feel. NuVal is just one more tool available to them so they can actively incorporate health and wellness into their food-purchasing decisions."
Neil Golub, Price Chopper's president and CEO, concurs. "We have always been committed to making sure that our customers and associates have relevant nutritional information to help them make healthy choices. Over the years, we have shown our commitment with [a wide variety of] informational outreach via our growing 'Healthy U' initiative. But NuVal takes this to a whole new level. Our customers will be able to understand the choices that they're making through the scoring system, simply by reading the NuVal score on each shelf tag. We're going into this full force, with a commitment to get every product in every store scored."
Price Chopper's commitment includes placing NuVal signage throughout the store and on shelf tags right at the point of purchase so it's easy for customers to incorporate consideration of NuVal scores into their regular shopping routine. In addition, Golub said the 117-store chain's team of registered dietitians would be offering store tours and informational visits to schools and public spaces throughout the community to show consumers how easy it is to incorporate NuVal into their families' diet choices.
At Hy-Vee, more than a dozen food categories are scored, including fresh produce, frozen and canned vegetables, cereal, juice, crackers and cookies. Categories will be continually added as scores become available; it's expected the great majority of food will be scored by early 2010.
While Jergens' enthusiasm for heightened consumer nutritional information is palpable, he particularly applauds the program's complete objectivity. "NuVal was developed by experts who have no ties to food manufacturers or retailers, so they have no vested interest in how a product scores," said Jurgens. Hy-Vee is a member of Topco Associates, a cooperative of midsize retailers and wholesalers whose participation provides the program with national exposure.
In the coming months, other retailers are expected to sign on with NuVal, which aims to easily translate nutrition information into one easy-to-understand number between 1 and 100; the higher the number, the more nutritious the food.
Nuval scores are obtained through a powerful algorithm known as the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI). The procedure was developed over a two-year period by an independent group of nutrition and health experts, led by Dr. David Katz, chairman of Griffin Hospital's Yale Prevention Research Center. The ONQI analyzes 30 nutrients -- those that are important to a balanced diet and those that can hamper it -- to score products across all food and beverage categories. Fiber, vitamins, sugar, cholesterol and fat are among the factors considered.