Safeway’s 22 “Simple Nutrition” Shelf Tags

Following in the footsteps of many other grocery retailers, Safeway is introducing its own nutrition labeling system to the mix.

“Consumers are inundated with conflicting nutrition information and are often skeptical of the nutrition claims on packaging,” said Safeway’s Barbara Walker, group vice president, consumer communications and brand marketing. “SimpleNutrition is an ‘at the shelf’ program that simplifies and personalizes the grocery shopping experience so that shoppers can feel confident about making more informed food choices. While SimpleNutrition is not a replacement for the nutrition panel found on food and beverage packages, it provides shoppers with a quick snapshot of the nutrition and ingredient benefits that best match their nutritional needs.” read the full press release…

There are 22 different benefit tags as Safeway calls them. Here’s a partial list:

Sugar Free, Made with Whole Grains, Good Source of Fiber, Sodium Smart, Fat Free, Low Saturated Fat, Low Fat, Good Source of Calcium, Good Source of Vitamin C, Good Source of Vitamin A, Good Source of Iron, 0 Grams Trans Fat, 100% Juice, Low Cholesterol, Good Source of Antioxidants, Good Source of Potassium, Good Source of Folate, Lean Protein

What you need to know:

Did you notice that there is not a single “disadvantage tag”? All these tags do is encourage shoppers to buy more. We’d like to see shelf tags like

“Contains potentially carcinogenic food dyes”

“More than 6 tsp of sugar per serving”

“Good source of heart attack – over 50% saturated fat”

“Great opportunity to increase blood pressure – over 40% of your daily sodium”

But how can you expect a grocer to turn you off a product that it’s trying to sell. Once again, the limitation of nutrition labeling by interested parties is exposed. While the press release may tout this as a means to quickly convey important information to busy moms, this is in fact another advertising opportunity.

What to do at the supermarket:

If you’d like to see the full nutritional picture behind a product, don’t rely on the grocer or the manufacturer to spell it out for you in any simple to understand terms. Read the Nutrition label AND the ingredient list.

Or you could download and use Fooducate’s free iPhone App. We’ll tell you both the good and the bad about a product.

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  • Sketch

    no good deed goes unpunished… the “disadvantage tag” is called the “Nutrition Facts” on the side of the container. Try looking at it once and a while. Its not Safeway’s responsibility to tell you how or what to eat – it’s your PERSONAL responsibility. What the hell is wrong with you people?

    • blahblah

      @Sketch – of course it is each person’s responsibility to look at the label. However, don’t you think it is a bit incongruous to have a system where Fruit Loops get the beneficial label of “Made with whole grains” and not the one that says “one serving contains 50% of your daily sugar intake”?

      • Sketch

        it is – just as its incongruous for politicians to say one thing and do another. However, when you realize that EVERYTHING is a business model (farming, blogging, politics, etc…) – even this site – it puts the onus on each person/individual/parent to verify every claim (if that claim is important to you). The truth is, unless you’re eating beans and quinoa grown from heritage seeds, free range home grown chickens, living off-grid – you’re going to have to put some faith in other people/farmers/corporations. Why complain more if a company (i.e. Safeway) does something they aren’t required to do – either legally or morally – when its YOUR responsibility to check everything anyway? The people who complain will NEVER be happy with it, as there will always be SOMETHING to complain about.

        Why do you believe THIS site? because its in-line with your current belief system. You rely on this site to give you information. How much information on this site do you actually double-check? EVERYTHING is a business model. Its up to YOU to figure out whats best for you.

        • Mike Lieberman

          If I am making decisions on what to buy, I want to know what it is that I’m buying. Therefore I think that I should be honestly told what it is.

          This is why I don’t buy from a lot of big box companies and chain stores because they are a business first and foremost. They care about my dollar first, then possibly me.

    • mari

      @Sketch: We call this, “deceptive marketing” and that is the point of this blog post and usually this entire site; to inform consumers so that they CAN be an informed about what is sketchy on a label.

      When you’re only told of the good things the product has to offer, and usually in a very catch phrase sort of way. People forget the fact that there’s additional sodium, sugars or say BPA’s in that can. We don’t want to spend 4 hours in the market.

      The supermarket has a goal and it’s definitely not to be neutral and to let the people DECIDE what they want and is best for them. Are you lucky enough to live where the Safeway’s have the digital price screens? Please don’t tell me you’d think that’s to give you the lowest price.

      Nutrition facts (alone) say very little about what’s actually IN a product. So maybe before you go slamming “you people,” you think a little about what you’re actually saying.

  • Jason

    Just another layer of superfluous marketing.

    At the top of my priority list are: ingredients, the way in which the food was produced/processed (how the animals were treated/fed, organic/conventional/gmo?), THEN nutritional info. Those first two should take care of the last.

    Would an avocado or grape ever get eaten if nutritional info was the main focus?

  • Foodie, Formerly Fat

    I suppose they think they are being helpful. Sigh. The trouble is that most of those labels are meaningless and the ones that might actually be helpful (i.e. “lean protein”, “a good source of calcium”) are only good depending on who’s putting the labels up. Putting “a good source of calcium” on a head of broccoli would be great, but I suspect it’s going to go on cartoon character branded kids’ yogurt sticks that are filled with sugar.

    The real path to a solution here comes from people being educated on what food is versus processed edible food like substances. If you shop only on the perimeter of the store (i.e. produce section, dairy case, butcher and fish shops) you won’t need these “helpful” labels. People need to know that broccoli is a good source of calcium and that a serving of lentils provide as much protein as meat. Then these labels would be as useless to everyone as they are to me.

  • Tt

    Saturated fat is only bad if it is lauric,mystric,palmatic which are found in animals. In combination with non fiber carbs, this signals to the system for insulin to be released, which also tells the liver to make cholesterol.

    I despise the 0g tranfat label, Instead it should be No transfat with no transfat ingredients inside.

  • Amelia Boan

    I think this idea is a good one, in principle. However, I side with this article that Safeway’s motives are suspect. I think the value-based judgment tags, such as “good source of fiber,” are the main concern. That type of tag would lead me straight to the label, and I would most likely disagree with the tag’s judgment (just guessing). I do think this system can be helpful, when using only fact-based tags. For example, Sprouts uses “gluten-free” labels, and they are extremely useful. I am comfortable with some of the tags from Safeway’s list such as 100% juice, for the same reason (although, usually that is fairly large on the packaging, in the front of the juice bottle, so it’s a bit unnecessary). I would also be comfortable with Sugar-Free, although as a shopper I wouldn’t necessarily pick something based on that tag because it doesn’t mean it’s healthy and contains no other processed sweeteners. Like everything, it pays to be savvy and I’m afraid too many shoppers would be misled by tags touting no sugar, no fat, etc. They need a tag that just says “real food.”

  • Darin C

    Despite any obvious limitations, this is a step in the right direction by retailers. They are taking a leadership role in helping customers make more informed decisions about what they’re eating.

  • josef

    “Good source of heart attack – over 50% saturated fat”
    Where is the evidence that SFA’s contribute to heart attacks? Yes, this is popular idea, but where is the actual evidence in human being? (I’ll help you out, it doesn’t exist.)

    “Great opportunity to increase blood pressure – over 40% of your daily sodium”
    Where is the evidence that reducing one’s sodium intake actually contributes to meaningful reductions in blood pressure for an individual?

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