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Guiding Stars, the pioneering nutrition guidance program, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Launched in 2006, the system leveraged the expertise of scientific advisers to offer a food rating system based on a patented, published algorithm that objectively rates foods for nutritional value, assigning one star for good, two for better and three for the best nutritional value. Guiding Stars is now available at major grocery chains and foodservice facilities at thousands of locations across the United States and Canada, as well as online.
“One of the keys to the long-term success of the Guiding Stars program is that it is very simple to understand,” said Jim McBride, director of Scarborough, Maine-based Guiding Stars Licensing Co. “As customers make their way down the aisle of a supermarket, think about choices in a cafeteria or plan homemade meals, Guiding Stars serves as a visual reminder to take good nutrition into account. Most importantly, it really works. Independent studies have shown that Guiding Stars definitely affects consumer behavior, prompting people to choose the most nutritious foods. As organizations across the country celebrate National Nutrition Month [in March], we’re proud of Guiding Stars’ contribution to the nutrition landscape over the past 10 years and look forward to continuing our work to help consumers make smarter food choices every day.”
“Over the past 10 years, Guiding Stars has remained committed to the program’s original mission, which is providing clear nutritional information to help shoppers make better choices,” noted Julie Greene, healthy living manager at Scarborough-based Hannaford Supermarkets, where the program made its debut a decade ago. “But the program has also evolved, adjusting the rating system and patented algorithm in response to changing dietary guidelines as the science of nutrition has matured. Guiding Stars has also added more information to help consumers live better, such as recipes and in-depth health and nutrition information at the Guiding Stars website. Guiding Stars was a revolutionary idea that has stood the test of time. Sound science, committed public health experts, transparency: these are all qualities of the Guiding Stars program that make it a hallmark public-health success.”
The Guiding Stars algorithm and ratings criteria are publicly available to maximize transparency and engender trust with consumers, stores and manufacturers. The program currently features more than 100,000 foods rated in a searchable database.
The program’s purveyors further claim that as well as helping consumers make better food choices, it’s also prodding food manufacturers to reformulate their recipes. During the 10 years of Guiding Stars’ existence, the percentage of foods that earn a star grew to around 35 percent, including an impressive 17 percent-to-35 percent increase in ratings among private label products, many of which now include more low-sodium and reduced-fat options.
Besides Hannaford, participating retailers include Delhaize America sister banner Food Lion, along with Homeland, Marsh Supermarkets, B&R, Price Chopper (Kansas City) and, in Canada, Loblaws. Guiding Stars is also accessible through the Shopper mobile app for iOS devices.