The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

LabelCalc.com

LabelCalc.com

Shoppers and Trends

May 29, 2007

LabelCalc.com
SHOPPERS & TRENDS

Obesity continues to be a growing problem on a global scale. According to the World Health Organization, there are over 300 million obese adults, and 1.1 billion overweight people worldwide. That's the bad news. The good news is that there is a growing interest in the nutritional information that product labels provide - proof that people want to live more healthfully.

According a Food Marketing Institute (FMI) survey, shoppers are increasingly influenced by nutrition facts on food packages, with 83 percent of shoppers regularly looking at this information when buying a product for the first time. While 45 percent are seeking more trans-fat free foods, others are seeking out labels with low-carb and weight loss claims. Sixty-three percent of shoppers seek food promoted as "low fat."

A January 2007 SupermarketGuru.com and National Candy Association poll revealed a similar trend. When shoppers were asked to identify which factors were important in helping them select a primary supermarket, the availability of nutrition and health information stood out. Of those surveyed, 30 percent say nutritional information is very important when selecting their grocery store, 40 percent say it is somewhat important, and 70 percent of respondents rank this factor as very or somewhat important.

"Demand for this type of information is growing daily," says Lucy Needham, President of LabelCalc.com, an online nutrition analysis service. "Individuals are increasingly seeking out organics, and other healthier alternatives. Every time a shopper sees a favorite brand release a 'healthier alternative' with '30 percent less fat,' they jump at the chance to explore this healthier option."

Nutritional information is popping up everywhere. Even newspapers are starting to include nutritional info on their recipes. In this era of online ordering, online recipes, healthy cookbooks, and food blogs, this type of knowledge is available with just the click of a mouse. Needham's LabelCalc.com is one such resource making it easy and cheap for retailers to provide the dietary information that their customers crave.

"People have made the conscious decision to live healthier lives. Retailers that provide nutritional information will find themselves at a competitive advantage. Providing this information can also help retailers up-sell a whole new product line, or even an accompanying line to a similar healthy food category," Needham says.

LabelCalc.com calculates nutrition analysis and claims for recipes and total menu reports. Food manufacturers and supermarkets run their products through the claim calculator by entering ingredients, quantity and unit of measure. Next, a serving size is applied and the total weight of added ingredients are divided by the serving size entered.

Finally, this calculation is run against the FDA claim rules. For example, the claim "low fat," according to FDA standards is a 3g or less serving of fat per serving size. So if these numbers line up, the manufacturer can put the claim "low fat" on their label. All nutrient analysis tools use the USDA nutrient database as their underlying source of ingredient data and nutrient analysis.

"Food manufacturers frequently tell us that claims like 'low fat' are contributing to an increase in sales. Supplying this type of information for other claims will likely do the same," says Needham.

When shoppers can't find the information they need, stores suffer. In fact, the FMI study found that more than one-fourth of all shoppers surveyed decided against making a purchase because of product labeling info. Needham says this is a problem that can be avoided.

"Eating healthier is becoming a part of a lifestyle change, rather than a fad or a diet. Retailers can stay on top of this trend by helping their customers obtain easy-to-find, accurate information about health and food choices."

***For more information on how the FDA regulates food labeling, visit their website at: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/flg-6a.html.