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Seeking to learn what foods the typical household has on hand --- and the nutritional value of those items --- Rutgers University completed a comprehensive "pantry audit" of 100 New Jersey households.
A key element of the study was Gladson Interactive's database, which connects a product's Universal Product Code (UPC) with information on the product's nutritional composition contained on the package label for over 300,000 items, said Gladson and Rutgers in a release about the research.
Lisle, Ill.-based Gladson Interactive is a leading provider of category management services to consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and brokers.
Rutgers' researchers used hand-held devices to scan the UPC of every food product in the home, excluding baby foods, bulk items such as sugar, flour and shortening, and foods with limited nutritional content such as bottled water, condiments and spices. Bar-coded items represented about 85 percent of the 250 to 300 food products in the average home. Non-UPC items such as fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, homemade foods, and fund-raising items (such as Girl Scout cookies) were recorded manually.
"Being able to link directly the products we found in the households to their nutritional value was a major factor in the successful completion of our study," said Dr. Carol Byrd-Bredbenner, the professor of nutrition at Rutgers who directed the study.
Professor Byrd-Bredbenner's team supplemented the in-home inventory with interviews of primary food purchasers to learn more about their purchasing choices. The researchers used psychographic analyses and grouping of the data to determine if an "intervention" or educational plan could be developed to help households increase the nutrient value of their food purchases.
A paper on the study has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed professional journal.
Funding for the study came from the Canned Food Alliance.