With supermarket foods carrying such a large – and often confusing – variety of nutrition labels, it is not surprising that shoppers sometimes find it difficult to decide which products are the healthiest for them. Food retailers have developed their own methods of helping consumers with this in recent years, with Walmart placing “Great For You” labels on selected products, and Whole Foods Market using the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI).
However, a new third-party scoring system called NuVal could be the most effective yet. NuVal analyzes food products under a variety of different nutritional categories (such as protein, calcium, or sugar), then gives the product a “health score” between 1 and 100.
Could this system help lead shoppers toward the healthier options? A new study led by Christina A. Roberto, a psychologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, has indicated that this could be the case.
The study – which was presented last week at the American Public Health Association’s 141st Annual Meeting in Boston – asked 1,000 consumers to take part in a simulated online shopping task, choosing the healthiest option from a range of food products that carried the following labels:
- A “Facts Up Front” label created by the food industry, carrying information about calories, saturated fat, sodium, and sugars.
- A NuVal “health score” label.
- A single traffic light symbol – colored red, green, or yellow based on the overall nutritional value of the product.
- A “multiple traffic light” system, where different nutrients within the product – such as saturated fat, sugar, or protein content – were given different colors.
- A star system, whereby the product was given zero to three stars.
The study found that the only labeling system that consistently caused consumers to pick the healthiest option was the NuVal “health score.”
Commenting on the study, Roberto said that while the NuVal system “is probably the most user-friendly,” much more research would be needed to confirm the findings, including studies of “real-world” purchasing scenarios.
NuVal is working on rolling out its labeling system nationwide, and is currently available in stores such as Festival Foods, Just Save, and Price Cutter. A full list of store locations can be found here, while more information about using the NuVal system can be found here.