23 Feb 2012

Walmart initiates ‘Great for You’ nutritional label to help change the way consumers buy

Author: Nate Dudzik | Filed under: About Us, Localizing story, Spring 2012, Student Contributor

Walmart's 'Great for You' label that will be featured on nutritional food items. Photo courtesy of rodale.com

By: Nate Dudzik

A nationwide problem that has affected local communities is the never-ending problem with food and nutrition. In the ever-growing struggle with what tastes good and what is good, stores have had limited success in making consumers think differently when they shop for food.

In the city of Bowling Green, which is known primarily as a college town, food shoppers include a good number of students that are looking for the best deals. However, many shoppers choose to buy more unhealthy products because of certain benefits, which has caused one store to begin a new initiative.

Coming this spring to nationwide locations, Walmart stores will be introducing their ‘Great for You’ nutritional label. The label will be placed on certain products to let shoppers know what items are more nutritional and healthy.

According to a press release that was issued by Walmart, the ‘Great for You’ icon will appear on select Walmart Great Value and Marketside items, as well as on fresh and packaged fruits and vegetables. Items with the ‘Great for You’ label had to meet certain nutritional criteria’s before being approved by the FDA, USDA and IOM.

Jack Sinclair, the executive vice president of grocery for Walmart was quoted in the press release stating, “Customers asked us to make healthier food choices easy while keeping prices low. We feel confident the ‘Great for You’ icon balances those objectives.”

For shoppers, especially students, price can be an important factor that determines buying behavior. In a recent interview via phone, Rebecca Pobocik, an associate professor at Bowling Green State University commented on the unhealthy decisions shoppers make because of price.

“Fatty and unhealthy foods are cheap and in quantity,” said Pobocik. “Shoppers will buy ramen noodles, even though they are high in calories, because they are cheap and filling.”

According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, over 50% of recent college graduates have an average student loan debt of $10,000, a number that is doubling faster than the inflation rate.

“I wish I could buy healthier foods, but it’s cheaper to buy large quantities of something like Easy Mac than something nutritious and more expensive,” said Justin Camuso, 20, a sophomore at BGSU and Walmart shopper.

The ‘Great for You’ initiative may finally solve the financial turmoil.

According to the press release, it stated that the company completed one of its primary goals by cutting prices on fruits and vegetables to help customers save nearly $1.1 billion. The company also stated its initiative to lower the price of over 350 better-for-you items.

Price comparison may not seem like it would change the buying habits of consumers, but professor Pobocik offered a different opinion on the subject.

“There have been price comparison research studies done at different college cafeterias,” said Pobocik. “When healthy and unhealthy foods were offered at the same price, participants chose the healthier option.”

Can something as simple as a visual change the way people buy? Mary-Jon Ludy, an assistant professor for food and nutrition at BGSU believes that quick visuals will help the ‘Great for You’ label attract a new audience.

“Consumers want a friendly way to see what is healthy,” said Ludy in a recent phone interview. “We have things like the food pyramid and my plate that tell us the nutritional values in what we are buying. The ‘Great for You’ label should be a quick and easy way to show consumers what they need to know.”

Walmart stores want the ‘Great for You’ label to be a quick and easily identifiable way for people to know what is nutritional and inexpensive at the same time, according to the release. As the nation’s largest food retailer, the company is hoping that people eventually choose to eat a healthier diet.

“I think having the most recognizable store in the U.S. show its initiative with this program speaks a lot about how much they want people to start eating right,” said Camuso. “This definitely might be something I consider when shopping for food.”

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