Local HyVee rolls out NuVal Nutritional Scoring System By Staff Reports
Yankton Media, Inc. For people who are confused about which items are the healthiest for their family there is an exciting new labeling system available called NuVal and HyVee is the first to bring it to the Midwest area. HyVee tested the NuVal(tm) Nutritional Scoring System in its Des Moines-area stores in the fall and is now rolling it out to its entire operating territory across seven midwestern states. "When we're in a position to make a difference in people's lives, we should," said HyVee CEO Ric Jurgens. "This program has the potential to improve the health of our nation." Consumers have long complained that nutrition labels are difficult to decipher. The clutter of manufacturers' health claims on packages adds to their confusion. The NuVal system easily translates nutrition information into one easy-to-understand number between 1 and 100. The higher the number, the more nutritious the food. "The neatest thing on the whole program is it is a non-biased formula," said Chad Holden, store operations manager at the Vermillion HyVee. "It doesn't matter what manufacturer, or if it is a private label or public product, it is of no concern to the formula. They simply break down the 30 components to give it a nutritional value, so at a glance the shoppers can see the score from zero to 100. They can see which products are more nutritional." NuVal scores are obtained through a powerful algorithm known as the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI). The procedure was developed over a two-year period by an independent group of nutrition and health experts, led by Dr. David Katz, chairman of Griffin Hospital's Yale Prevention Research Center. The ONQI analyzes 30 nutrients-those that are important to a balanced diet and those that can hamper it-to score products across all food and beverage categories. Fiber, vitamins, sugar, cholesterol and fat are among the factors considered. At the launch of the program, more than a dozen food categories will be scored in the company's stores, including fresh produce, frozen and canned vegetables, cereal, juice, crackers and cookies. Categories will be continually added as scores become available; it is expected the great majority of food will be scored by early in 2010. "We have changed our price tag to include the double hexagon symbol right there on the price tag," Holden said. "Kratz's goal was not for this to be a diet plan, where you come in and only by 85 or higher. He just wanted to help consumers be able to easily identify a well-balanced meal. They want you to be able to quickly identify that balance is key." One of the benefits of NuVal is that it is completely objective. "NuVal was developed by experts who have no ties to food manufacturers or retailers, so they have no vested interest in how a product scores," said Jurgens. Hy-Vee is a member of Topco Associates, a cooperative of mid-size retailers and wholesalers whose participation provides the program with national exposure. Other retailers are expected to roll out the program later this year. It is hoped consumers will use NuVal to change the types of foods they eat most-increasing fruits and vegetables, for example, which consistently achieve the highest scores and coincide with the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Consumers can also use the program to trade up within a category by choosing foods with higher scores. NuVal is not a diet program. But those who consistently make more nutritious choices tend to improve their overall diet, which contributes to weight loss, said Laura Kostner, Hy-Vee health and wellness supervisor and a registered dietitian. "Choosing more foods with high NuVal scores and eating moderate portion sizes will result in a wholesome diet that helps maintain a healthy weight." The program is also not judgmental and it doesn't label a food good or bad, added Kostner. "People already know that fruit is healthier than cookies. Nothing in the cookie or candy aisle is ever going to score as high as apples and bananas." But the scores do tell a story. For example, foods containing dark chocolate, which is rich in antioxidants, will score higher than those containing milk chocolate, which contains more sugar and cream. "Shoppers can use this information to make a more nutritious choice when they're in the snack aisle," said Kostner. Shoppers will find NuVal scores in a double-hexagon emblem on the shelf tag right next to the price. Store signs, banners and brochures highlight and explain the program. Hy-Vee's 125 in-store dietitians can answer questions or explain the program in more detail. "We have been out doing outreach into the community trying to raise awareness," Holden said. "Here in the vermillion store we are doing store tours. We have teamed up with Sanford health, we have advertised in the Broadcaster for public store tours, we have been to the local schools, as well as working with the health and nutrition classes at USD to get the students here working with the product. Additional information is available at www.nuval.com.