NuVal Nutrition Ratings Added to Texas Grocery Chain

Nuval, the nutrition rating system that scores product from 0-100, announced this week the addition of a fourth supermarket chain as a partner – United Supermarkets, LLC of Lubbock, Texas, which operates 50 stores under the United Supermarkets, Market Street, and Amigos United names. Only 6 of the stores will be launching NuVal initially, beginning in March 2010. The rest will roll out during the remainder of 2010.

NuVal, originall called ONQI,  is a nutrition rating system developed by Dr. David Katz and other prominent scientists and nutrition experts in order to help shoppers make healthier choices at the supermarket. We explained the system and compared it to the (R.I.P) Smart Choices Program here.

NuVal is currently available at Price Chopper, Hy-Vee, and Meijer supermarkets in 19 states and over 500 supermarkets, according to company.

Coinciding with the PR, the NuVal website has been redesigned and it also includes a game called “Nutrition by the Numbers” where players have to rank 3 products by their NuVal score.

What you need to know:

This is a a small win for the NuVal licensing company, that had expected to be in thousands of supermarkets by this time when the program was announced last year. Nuval has yet to gain entry into one of the larger chains such as Kroeger, Publix, or Safeway.

We recently asked a NuVal board member why this is, but got a general answer that there is “a lot of work in progress.”

Here are a few thoughts on why NuVal is not as far ahead as it expected:

1. NuVal is not sponsored by food manufacturers, as Smart Choices was, and therefore its scores do not show on product packages. They appear on shelf tags together with the prices. Our sources tell us that this is causing a logistical nightmare as products are arranged on different shelves, prices change, and employees are not always aware of the new labeling.

2. NuVal’s competitors, especially Smart Choices and Guiding Stars, as well as individual efforts by some chains, have divided the industry, making it very hard for any player to gain substantially.

3. The recent inquiries by the FDA into “front of pack” nutrition labels may also have supermarkets sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see if a federally mandated standard will render existing systems useless or illegal.

4. Lastly, some supermarkets may find themselves in a conflict of interest. On one hand, providing consumers with more nutrition information is a good thing to do and builds loyalty. On the other, it may create a loss in revenue because customers will now buy less of the profitable junk foods and beverages. These profit-centers occupy substantial real estate in all modern supermarkets.

What to do at the supermarket:

Whether your local supermarket is participating in a nutrition labeling program or not, you can still make sound choices. The best advice is to buy minimally processed foods, with short, understandable ingredient lists. Make sure you get plenty of fruits and vegetables, limit your snacks to a very few, and opt to drink tap water instead of soft drinks.

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