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GMA defends Facts Up Front, front-of-package labels

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — A report released by the Institute of Medicine suggested that front-of-package labels don’t give clear guidance about a product’s healthfulness.

The report, Examination of Front-of-Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols, concluded that "it is time for a move away from front-of-package systems that mostly provide nutrition information on foods or beverages but don’t give clear guidance about their healthfulness, and toward one that encourages healthier choices through simplicity, visual clarity, and the ability to convey meaning without written information."

IOM also said suggested that the Food and Drug Administration "develop, test, and implement a single, standard FOP symbol system to appear on all food and beverage products, in place of other systems already in use."

In response, the Grocery Manufacturers Association defended Facts Up Front, an initiative co-developed with the Food Marketing Institute, which seeks to offer consumers a fact-based, front-of-pack nutrition labeling system. GMA said the system, launched in January, offers "a real-world program that delivers real value to real consumers in real time."

"Consumers have told us that they want simple and easy to use information and that they should be trusted to make decisions for themselves and their families," GMA said in a statement. "The most effective programs are those that consumers embrace, and consumers have said repeatedly that they want to make their own judgments, rather than have government tell them what they should and should not eat. That is the guiding principle of Facts Up Front, and why we have concerns about the untested, interpretive approach suggested by the IOM committee."


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Kashi rolls out single-serve entrées

BY Allison Cerra

LA JOLLA, Calif. — Kashi is boosting its presence in the frozen food aisle with two all-natural frozen entrées.

Kashi said that its all-natural entrées include chicken enchilada and three cheese penne, which feature whole grains, fiber and protein, and cook in just minutes. The chicken enchilada includes natural shredded chicken, an array of vegetables, including kale and red peppers, wrapped inside a Kashi 7 whole grain tortilla. The three cheese penne is made with asiago, feta and cheddar cheese sauce, Kashi 7 whole grain penne, as well as shiitake mushrooms, cannellini bean puree, roasted red onions, red peppers and yellow carrots.

"Our new frozen entrées are satisfyingly delicious — made with great tasting ingredients that provide a unique eating experience of colors, textures and tastes along with the whole grain goodness that Kashi is known for," said Keegan Sheridan, natural food and lifestyle expert at Kashi. "For anyone who doesn’t have time to make lunch or dinner from scratch, these are the perfect solution for a complete meal in just a few minutes."

The frozen entrées now are available in the frozen aisle of grocers and natural food retailers nationwide.

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SymphonyIRI: Budget grinch will restrict most holiday spending

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO — As many as 71% of consumers earning less than $100,000 per year are planning to trim back their spending this holiday season, according to new research, “Holiday Shopping 2011,” released Tuesday by SymphonyIRI Group.

In addition, 74% of consumers will be spending less than $800 in total on the holidays, and 73% will begin shopping before Dec. 1. These findings point to a holiday season filled with consumers doing their homework to find the best deals and most value for their money, Susan Viamari, editor of SymphonyIRI’s Times & Trends, suggested.

“Consumers are going to shop for gifts that help make the holidays bright, but they are going to do so with an eye toward keeping costs down,” Viamari said. “The Internet is going to play a big role in helping consumers stick to their budgets. In fact, 81% of consumers say they will be shopping online this year. This is a sizable jump from 2010, when 54% of consumers told us that they would do some of their holiday shopping online.”

With 44% of consumers saying they are worse off financially today versus one year ago and 82% saying they think government actions are making a negative impact on the economy, this uncertainty is expected to impact holiday budgets. Findings from SymphonyIRI’s quarterly MarketPulse survey, conducted online in September 2011, revealed that consumers expect ongoing deterioration across a number of budget-related measures in coming year:

  • 70% are concerned about the price of food;

  • 65% are troubled about the cost of utilities;

  • 58% are worried about gas prices;

  • 53% are uneasy about the cost of borrowing/interest rates; and

  • 52% are anxious about the value of investments, including stocks, bonds, 401K, retirement accounts, etc.

These concerns will lead a number of consumers to cut back even further this year. SymphonyIRI’s "Holiday Shopping 2011" survey results found that 26% plan to spend less on holiday gifts, 16% will reduce spending on celebration-related food and beverages and 11% will spend less on holiday beer, wine and spirits.

For 74% of consumers this year, gift-giving budgets will top out at $800, which is in line with what was spent last year. However, budgets will be smaller for 26% of consumers. Cut backs are happening across income brackets, but they are most prevalent among middle-income shoppers.

Almost 1-of-every-3 shoppers will be relying more heavily on pre-made lists, and only 39% of consumers reported they will purchase fewer unplanned gifts this year than they have in the past. With lists in hand, 75% of consumers will begin their shopping before Dec. 1. While this timeline is similar to last year, 1-in-5 consumers are starting earlier in hopes of saving money.

Many consumers are timing their holiday shopping in order to accommodate budgetary needs. For instance, 46% want to spread spending out rather than making fewer, larger trips, 41% want to take advantage of sales and 24% want to ensure availability of items they want to purchase.

To get the most for their money, consumers are turning to the Internet to help with their money-saving strategies. Interesting findings from the survey include:

  • 44% of consumers will use more coupons from retailer websites versus 54%, who will use about the same as last year;

  • 42% of consumers will use more coupons from manufacturer websites versus 54%, who will use about the same as last year;

  • 61% of consumers will use more coupons from group couponing websites versus 33%, who will use the same as last year;

  • 48% of consumers will take advantage more often of promotions learned online versus 50%, who will leverage online promotions with the same frequency as last year; and

  • 43% of consumers will compare products on the Internet more often (e.g., consumer forums and blogs) versus 54%, who will do the same comparison shopping as last year.

SymphonyIRI is offering a free webinar, entitled “Holiday Shopping 2011: What Consumers Can Expect in Their Stockings This Year,” on Thursday, Oct. 20 at noon EST. The webinar will highlight findings from the newly released SymphonyIRI "Holiday Shopping 2011" report and will be hosted by Viamari. To register for the webinar, click here


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