Yesterday, Walmart announced the launch of its new nutrition labeling system called “Great for You”. Starting this spring, a small selection of Walmart’s private label products – Great Value – will be decorated with this healthy seal of approval.
This is not the first, nor the last FRONT-OF-PACK nutrition labeling attempt coming from the food industry. The list is long and can be found here.
But because of Walmart’s size and reach, this program may have a significant impact on the market. The foods that are eligible for the seal of approval must meet strict nutrition criteria, according to Walmart:
Items with the “Great For You” icon must meet rigorous nutrition criteria informed by the latest nutrition science and authoritative guidance from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Institute of Medicine (IOM). Developed in consultation with food and nutrition experts from the public and private sectors as well as leading health organizations, the “Great For You” nutrition criteria are available to the public on the web (www.walmartgreatforyou.com), representing a collaborative and transparent effort to develop a trusted and reliable system for consumers. The icon will also be made available to national brand products that qualify and can be complementary to other nutrition labeling systems being used by the food industry.
We took a look at the criteria and were PLEASANTLY SURPRISED at the rigor used by Walmart:
- Mostly single ingredient items like fruit, veggies, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, eggs.
- Processed foods that have low sodium, low added sugar, low saturated fat
What we didn’t like:
- Fruit juice is considered Great for You. We disagree. Juice removes most of the benefits of the fruit, concentrates the sugars, and its calories don’t contribute to satiety.
- Some products, with a mix of added and naturally occurring sugars can be very high in sugar. For example, this Raisin Bran Cereal, with a whopping 18 grams of sugar (4.5 teaspoons)
The list of Great for You products is actually quite short at launch. Only 2 short pages, including canned tomatoes, fresh bagged produce, dried fruit, rice and beans, and some cereals. Walmart is inviting additional manufacturers to adopt its logo and nutrition criteria.
Why is Walmart forging ahead with this program, full knowing that over 90% of its products will never be eligible for the seal of approval? Keep in mind that the initiatives from the private sector are a way to “get a better deal” than if the FDA were to mandate Front of Pack labels based on recommendations by the Institute of Medicine. If the private initiative will be deemed good enough by the regulator, perhaps the regulator won’t go ahead with its own plans.
What do you think about Walmart’s Great for You system?