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Are Things Changing in Your Grocery Store?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
People purchase food from a variety of grocery options. Some prefer the convenience of one stop shopping that supercenters offer. Others focus on the benefits of buying in bulk through warehouse clubs. More and more people are visiting dollar stores and extreme-value outlets to get the most for their food dollar. We have provided guidelines to help our readers save money by planning ahead. We have shared ideas suggesting shopping the perimeter as well as tips to make over your meals. Now it seems grocery stores are getting in the act too by providing new opportunities to share information at the point of purchase.

To help stores develop strategies that reach shoppers in their target markets, The National Grocers Association conducted a consumer survey earlier this year. Some of the results were interesting. For instance, 76 percent of the respondents said accurate shelf tags were very important. The majority of respondents felt low prices were very important as well and 84 percent believed product freshness on the shelf was of high importance. Where do consumers get information about nutrition issues on a regular basis? Seventy-five percent in this survey relied on the internet and 64 percent used information they found in magazines. Only 33 percent were getting nutrition related information at the grocery store. It appears stores are beginning to expand their services to make a shift in this area.

I recently read an article about grocery stores in the Chicago area that are hiring dietitians. One store has a dietitian ready and willing to review a shopping list and offer alternative nutrient rich ideas. Dietitians might also schedule store tours to highlight healthier products. They also have the ability to help people with specific medical conditions find food choices to support their specialized diets. Dominick's have dietitians that rotate through their pharmacies to make information available when you shop. Jewel-Osco stores have an on-line dietitian to help with shopping and cooking information before you make your trip to the store.

Food City President Steve Smith just released a video announcement highlighting the NuVal nutritional scoring system used in the store to help customers make healthier choices while comparison-shopping at the point of purchase. They hope the scoring system will help their customers quickly determine which product is the nutritious choice for the price. Other grocery chains like Meijer and Kroger stores are testing the NuVal system as well. Kroger is also trialing a machine they refer to as LUCY or the LC600 Health Station. This machine provides customers with more than just pulse and blood pressure information. It can provide weight and body mass index feedback as well.

From now through the end of October a variety of grocery store chains such as Publix, Giant and Martin's are participating in the Produce for Kids Fall Campaign. Over 1,500 stores throughout 20 states will help PBS Kids when shoppers purchase participating fresh produce. To get children excited about produce, there is a Play with Your Produce Healthy Challenge that can provide winning families with grocery gift cards and classrooms and teachers with cash. There are also Ideal Meals in-store displays with shopping and meal tips focusing on sponsor products and fast meal tips using fresh produce. The suggestions are developed by a Registered Dietitian and meet USDA Dietary Guidelines. These colorful displays provide shoppers with on the spot meal ideas as well as shopping and assembly tips focused on increasing nutrition and produce selection.

Grocers have definitely turned up the heat on in-store nutrition education and product information. Store dietitians, easy to find store tags with NuVal scoring information and seasonal campaigns that are part product promotion and part nutrition education definitely make it easier to make nutrient wise and dollar smart choices.

Have you seen any of these new initiatives in your grocery stores? What services or information would you like to see your favorite stores provide?

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I prefer the ANDI score; I have not taken the time to research the backgrounds of the sci's who made up NUVAL, and with all the kickbacks in pharma I don't buy that their opinion is "independent" until I do. Aspartame was approved as safe in 96 FDA studies; but excluding those studies and excluding others sponsored by the manufacturers, TRUE independent studies showed 100% of the independent studies found problems with aspartame. Just call me jaded but I'm afraid NUVAL is like the FDA approving aspartame - probably NOT independent and if so, probably skewed by dairy industry interests, beef industry interests, and so on. The dietetic associations and American Diabetes Association that some of the NUVAL sci's belong too, are definitely proven, not rumoured, but proven to accept money from, major funding from, and be in bed with, junk food and candy industries. The ANDI score on the other hand does not need a background check or an algorithim - it shows the value based on nutrition of the food, is straight forward, and can't be bought. My whole foods uses ANDI and I won't look at nor pay ANY attention to NUVAL. Report
Nothing but reading the labels at "Trader Joe's," a very popular chain around here, esp. for its prepared foods (e.g., salads,frozen entrees, etc.). Furthermore, they offer few low-fat and low-salt options (as well as very little for the vegetarian) compared to some other "alternative" stores. The consumer really has to do his/her homework and speed label-reading. Report
There's an old grocery store in Quincy, MA called Roxies. It's about a quarter of the size of an A&P from the 50's ~ only two aisles and little tiny shopping carts. The customer service there is exceptional! It's specializes in fish, meats and produce (in other words, the nutritious foods). A majority of the customers have gray hair. They know a good bargain, and Roxies' owners know not to fix something if it's not broken. I live 60 miles away, but anytime I go visit my MIL, we always go for our weekly deals. I'm happily amazed that the younger crowd doesn't shop there, but it's a bare-bones store. I don't shop in the big superstores much anymore because Roxie sells everyone someone eating healthfully would need. Report
Can't wait to see if my Kroger gets Lucy! Report
I've been doing more and more shopping at any store that has the highest quality AND lowest prices for produce and organics. That means farmersmarkets, roadside stands, Aldis, and the discount table in the Stop & Shop produce dept. All have fresh local produce and some organics too! I shop all the fliers in my 20 mile radius, which means I have 8 different places available to me that offer fresh produce. I then will buy other staples IF they are on sale and IF they are high quality! Price does come first for me and with all the choices I have at all the different places I shop, somewhere in the mix, I get what I want for the right price and the best quality too! It requires some travel and some homework before I go, but in the end I eat very well on a fixed budget and I get the most nutritionally packed meals this world has to offer. I even shop in the local cities when seafood gets delivered fresh and on sale in bulk! I follow the sales on-line on their websites and take advantage whenever possible. I have begun using more and more frozen items, like seafood and produce that is organic. But I only buy in bulk when it is on sale! I just found organic range-free split chickenbreast at Big Y with coupons off of $2 per lb. cause the date was that days! Nothing wrong, still very fresh cause it was frozen, but at only $3 a lb!!!! I got 4 pkgs. so that is one per wk for me a single person!! It was a 5 1/2 oz pkg. with bone and skin, which I will remove before cooking for a portion of 3-4 oz. of healthy, low-fat, organic roasted chicken!! Report
I'm frugal, so I shop for bargains, and I don't care about a lot of other "fluff." Report
Our Whole Foods is using the NuVal labels (or another system like that). I don't like it. I don't find the number score very informative, and I think it has an unintended consequence of making some familiar, kid-friendly foods like green beans, carrots and apples look "not as good" or like "weak" nutritional choices. I don't need a system that tacitly scolds me for serving my kid those fruits and veg instead of kale.

As for my own choices, I'm fine with the rule of thumb that darker colors mean more rich nutrients -- kale over chard over spinach over romaine over iceberg lettuce. I dont need that translated into credit scores.

Doesn't really impact my shopping anyway, because we get our produce from a local farm thru a CSA subscription. Report
The Hannaford stores in my area all have a "Guiding stars" system that gives healthier choices 1, 2, or 3 stars for a very fast "at-a-glance" method of gauging how nutritious a food is. I like it because they really don't highlight prefab foods at all, unless they're something really healthy like Kashi products or pre-grilled chicken. Froot Loops don't make the cut, which is reassuring for me!

A couple of other chains use the NuVal system, which I like since it seems more thorough than the Guiding Stars program, but the stores that use it are so unpleasant to shop in that it's not worth it!

I love the nutritionist on-staff idea... I'd love to get the low-down on my grocery list just so I could see if I'm falling into any hidden health traps! Report
I am just trying to get my closest store to stock whole grain/brown rice in an economical bag. I can buy it this way across town for $1.50. They only have instant versions for several dollars. Report
You would think a Ca super walmart would have caught on to what healthy people are looking for. Its not just low prices. we can get that else where. We want low calorie and high fiber. People do compare more than prices. Report
Sounds great - hope HEB in Texas is listening! Report
YES!!!!!!!! Big Y Foods in Massachusetts has the NuVal system and also has 2 dieticians on staff that people can email. These 2 dieticians also put out information in the weekly flyers. Report
Martin's grocery store in Eldersburg/Sykesville MD has a dietician. A private consultation is $20, but you get back a $20 store credit. She's very well informed. Report
Haven't seen anything like this at any grocery stores here. But then the companies only go by demographics. I can pretty much bet that densley populated states will not get that opprotunity. Report
Wish I could say the same about our local grocery store. They no longer sell items that are reduced or no-sodium. And try to find whole wheat bread at a reasonable price-$4.50 a loaf.

I travel to Price Chopper bi-weekly (75 minutes away) to get everything I need for healthy choice. To bad my local crocer hasn't figured out how much business he might be losing. Report
Heinen's in the Cleveland area has staff to help with special needs and marks shelves for gluten free, etc. Report
We have stores in our small city with dieticians. I have been to weekly classes. They have stars on products that are nigh in fat, or sodium on many of the foods there. They are doing a great job except for one small item- THE PRICE. I can shop for a few things there and they are just too much more expensive on our limited income so i go there, shop a little learn a lot and try not to feel too guilty. I waish they all had dieticians but most of them offer the same food labels and brands, so it just makes sense to shop elsewhere and Walmart usually has it. I often find bulk buys at the natural foods store is less expensive that some of the grocery stores so you have to educate yourself and shop around. It is definitely better with more people looking at the Nutrients at this time -it HAS to catch on. I sure do hope so for our kids sake. Pat in Maine. Report
How about putting the store tags where you don't have to get down on your knees to read them? Larger print would be nice for senior eyes, too. Report
I agree with Knitywity, these are great ideas, and I too, still read labels. Report
I haven't noticed any changes in particular. Although I will say that they have been putting more organic items (like Kashi bars) out near the registers as "impulse" buys. Report
At Safeway, they now have labeled many of their products with a big green "Eating Right" label. I've tried a lot of these (after reading the labels) and found it's very helpful to look for the large green labels to get new ideas. Report
These are good ideas, but I'll still read the labels. Report
My store occasionally has pamphlets available suggesting meals, but I'm pretty sure that's more for the purpose of marketing than trying to help with healthy eating.

There are two things I would like to see at my store: (1) more organic and locally grown produce (they're getting better at this) and (2) not to have things pre-packaged/pre-wrapped in sizes/quantities that are too large and wasteful for a single person ~ not to mention we don't need that extra packaging and plastic wrap added to our landfills. Report
I wouldn't take diet advice from a supermarket. They wouldn't have a clue what my specific dietary needs are.

I'm happy to read the label myself Report
My usual store uses NuVal, and I do not pay it one bit of attention. Foods lower on the scale can still be part of a healthy diet, used in moderation, and foods high on the scale can be prepared in a less healthy way - or overeaten. Chasing an arbitrary number is not going to guarantee that you have a healthy, well-balanced diet. Report
I don't think the store I shop at most does this yet, but another place I stop occasionally has something similar to the NuVal program. Hannaford (a small chain in the northeast) has a program that uses stars to indicate where a product falls on the healthy eating scale. I don't remember what they call their program, but labels on the shelf of some products have stars (I think it is from 1 to 5) that indicate which items make the healthiest choices. They also have healthy eating information and recipes on their website. I don't shop there much and I don't usually pay attention to the labels when I do. I consider myself fairly health conscious (although I do buy less than healthy products sometimes) but for someone who isn't it might be helpful. Report
I am always amazed at the kind of things that happen in Western countries! Here in Kenya we are behind news so to say....LOL
But we do have new developments as far as Supermarkets are concerned. When I first came to Kenya 17 years ago, we basically had 2 Supermarket chains, which were both not very exciting. Now Nairobi is full of bustling malls and many new Supermarket chains.
On the negative: That means more junk food chains and ready made meals full of empty calories.
On the positive: We are slowly getting more things that are low fat, we are getting more items with better nutritional info on them - the law does not require this yet.
And we are also getting things like sugar substitutes, which we never used to have.
Many of these items are expensive & I can't always afford them.

Thats why I still love our Farmer's Markets were you get all this fruit & veggies fresh from the farms very cheaply. Report
Im happy we are moving to a healthier way of shopping! Hope people really take advantage of the dietitians as their services are for free but they are so helpful! Report
Sounds like great news! Report
Yes, things are changing in my grocery store as we now have an area for health foods, ethic as well as organic foods. They offer taste testing of new items and feature certain items and sale items weekly. They prepare meals, as well as offer already seasoned foods as well. It's a pleasure shopping there for me. Report
the world of grocery shopping has changed since i was a kid . I was born in 1939 and they had many shopping hangups . lack of differnent foods . we did not have all the breakfast item and fast food choices . unbieveble Report
I haven't seen anything like the above in the grocery stores I shop at. Since I'm new to eating right and this web site I'm sure it might be that I haven't looked or noticed. I do try to stay with fresh items not packaged so that helps. Learned that from tv tho. I'll be giving this some more attention next visit to the grocery store. Thanks for the info. Report
I work in a grocery store that has promotional items that we are supposed to push each week. (I never do, I feel that by the time a customer gets to the register they are ready to go home. They do Not need me trying to push something else on them, especially NOT unhealthy items).
The thing I can NOT understand is that with the entire country facing obesity and health problems, the items this store pushes are always sugary and fattening. If they truly care about their customers and their community they should make healthy items more affordable instead of pushing donuts, pies, cakes, and candy bars.
I have considered talking to the manager about making this kind of change. It would be nice to share a healthy site like Sparkpeople with our customers instead of trying to kill them with sugar and fat. Report
No I have not but would welcome most of the ideas Report
I do the majority of my shopping at Aldi.. except for bakery, produce, and meat.
I buy these at a regional grocery chain (Schnucks). They have an in house bakery, butcher, and buy local produce. They also offer cooking classes, and a dietitian is available, but not in the individual store.
They will also do your shopping for you, and keep it in the cooler until you arrive to pick it up... if you ask.... Report
The grocery chain where I do the majority of my shopping has a house brand organic label that is comparable in price to conventional brands, an extensive line of foods that are high in fibre, low/no sodium, low in fat, whole grains without having misleading consumers with confusing labelling. The packaged products are honest to goodness as healthy as can be for packaged food. They also carry a large selection of local produce. Also, the weekly flyer focuses on fruits and veggies and lean protein, instead of the low cost, low nutrition garbage that is everywhere.

Every other grocery chain I've seen still tries to sell crap and crap disguised as healthy food to unsuspecting customers. Report
I'd love to see something like the Nu-Val program in my store.

The best thing about my grocery store is that the produce is front and center. You have to go through it to get to the checkout lanes. They also centerpiece local grown produce quite often. Our healthfood/organic food section is right next to it and it keeps expanding. They have also adopted a "kid friendly" check out lane. There is no candy or soda in that lane, instead it is water and healthier snacks. It's also the handicap lane, so it's always open. Report
Our local chains (Upstate New York) have nutrition programs and the one we use (Oh I see someone already mentioned Price Chopper) also has an on-staff nutritionist/dietician and is putting a lot of info on their website and in stores too!

We buy the majority of our foods at the farmer's market and one can't get fresher than that!!! Report
Our local chain called Hy-Vee has a Dietician that works on staff! Intersting... Report
I haven't seen anything locally but wouldn't that be a great idea for a tie-in with a local nutritionist program? With Kroger HQ in Cincinnati, multiple hospital systems and universites in the area, I'd think it wouldn't be hard to pull together. You could do a tie-in with the school system too to teach kids more about nutrition. Report
Our local Hy-Vee (Midwest chain) have both a nutritionist on staff AND the Nu-Val system in place. I find both very useful. I have emailed the nutritionist more than once for information about foods in their deli and their pre-made salads and she has responded quickly. Report
I purchase my groceries from Whole Foods, and they have always encouraged healthy eating with things like newsletters that are emailed to you with healthy recipes and cooking classes. Report
This is great news for those areas where the stores are trying this. Unfortunately, the small town I live in has very limited options for grocery shopping. It seems like the big box retailer is shrinking its supply of fresh foods while expanding their stock of sugar and fat-laden junk. I have to travel about 30 miles to reach a decent grocery store and over 50 miles to reach a whole-foods store. Report
I haven't seen anything like this is the grocery stores around my area. In fact, I think there may have been a step backward in the past few years. I remember as I kid I used to love paging through this book in the produce section that had all the items (produce) in it, their nutrition facts, their benefits and how to use them. I haven't seen that in any of the stores I've been to recently.

I would, however, love to see this in my local grocery stores. I don't really like driving anywhere but my parents' house and work because they're a bit far away and the only grocery walking distance away is a conventional one. If they had a registered dietitian on hand I could ask questions of, that would be splendid! Report
I would love to take the shopping tour with a dietician, I think this is so helpful for anyone but especially for people who have been diagnosed with prediabetes, diabetes, and hypertension but often they are told they need to make changes in their diets but they really don't have the guidance to make those changes.
I'll also be looking for NuVal information, that sounds like it will be very helpful.
I have been much more aware of the importance of reading labels, and often will leave a product on the shelf at the store after seeing ingredients were beyond the calorie limit or include things that I choose not to include in my healthier lifestyle.
When I was with Weight Watchers, we were encouraged to mark items we bought with the points values on the label, as a reminder of how it would fit into our daily goals/limits.
Thanks for this article and I will check out some of the links! Report
We have Walmart-supercenter or ma/pa small grocers...neither are doing anything like this.

I think it's a great idea though! Maybe Wal-mart will catch on soon. Report
Awesome! Whole foods always has a registered dietician as well! Report
That is awesome. I would love to have that available in my stores. I keep catching myself looking in other (fit) people's buggies to get Having a dietitian available would be great. Report
For holidays our local Frys stores have tables where children can decorate a cupcake with this frosting that is loaded with sugar. Isn't that nice? They'll be doing it for Halloween soon, I'm sure. Instead of providing them with more sugar why don't they have them decorate pumpkins or let them make healthy snacks? I guess sugar is cheaper. Report
I'm more worried about the predominance in many stores of pre-packaged foods. Pre-cut & pre-packed veggies, pre-packed & seasoned meats, grab-and-go-meals. We have stuck to shopping in one tiny supermarket becuase they still sell meat, vegetables, and other items that haven't been messed with. It is one of the few chains left near us with these items. Thankfully, Rhode Island is teeming with farmer's markets, but I worry for folks who don't have access to fresh veg/fruit. Report
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