Loblaw is the first Canadian grocer to launch Guiding Stars nutrition navigation program.
The program will roll out at Loblaws stores in Ontario starting Aug. 10, and provides at-a-glance nutritional ratings for foods found in every store aisle, according to a press release.
The Guiding Stars program is designed to complement existing nutritional data such as the nutrition facts table, on-package product labels, and Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating.
“One in three Canadians shop at our stores each week and we work really hard to ensure we meet their priorities, including helping them make informed decisions about healthier food,” said Michael Lovsin, senior vice president, health and wellness, Loblaw, in the press release.
“Offering in-store dietitians and programs like Guiding Stars are ways that Loblaw is working to empower our customers to make healthier choices.”
The program scores food based on nutrient density using an objective scientific algorithm grounded in the most current dietary guidelines and recommendations of national regulatory and health organizations.
Delhaize Group’s Hannaford Bros. chain in the U.S. developed the program in 2006 and has since expanded it to many other U.S. retailers.
Although other Canadian retailers have expressed interest in bringing Guiding Stars into their stores, Loblaw has exclusive rights to the program for the time being, according to a Globe and Mail report.
Companies such as Loblaw pay a licensing fee to have the program in its stores.
Products are scored on a credit and debit system, with foods acquiring stars for containing more vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, whole grains, and omega-3 fats while they are debited for containing saturated fat, trans fat, added sodium, or added sugars.
Up to three stars can be earned and these ratings are displayed on easily identifiable shelf tags for products in store.
Foods with fewer than five calories per serving such as bottled water, tea, and spices, are not rated.
Food that has been rated and has no stars means it did not meet the criteria for a Guiding Star.
“Guiding Stars has strength in its consumer-friendly translation of current dietary recommendations that are based on science,” said Alison Duncan, professor, human health and nutritional sciences at the University of Guelph and a member of the scientific advisory panel for Guiding Stars in the release.
“This means that consumers can rely on the Guiding Stars program to provide them with quick and accurate guidance about the nutritional quality of the food choices they are making.”
In the U.S., the program has helped shift consumer behaviour, said John Eldredge, director of brand and business development with the Guiding Stars Licensing Co., in the Globe.
He said that in stores that use the program, more consumers are choosing lower-fat milk (which has more stars than whole milk), whole-grain bread over white, leaner ground beef and cereal that has earned a higher star rating.
Recent in-store research from the first phase of Guiding Stars in the Greater Toronto Area showed that eight in ten customers liked the program, considering it clear and easy to use and offering helpful information.