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Nutrition label confusion reaches far and wide

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK — Food manufacturers, take note: Consumers worldwide don’t necessarily understand nutritional labels on packaging, according to a new Nielsen survey.

The global survey, which pooled responses from more than 25,000 Internet consumers in 56 countries, found that about 6-out-of-10 consumers (59%) have difficulty comprehending nutritional labels and just 52% understood them "in part." Looking across demographics, consumers in North America showed the most confidence in understanding nutritional labels, with more than half (57%) indicating they mostly understood the information — including 58% of Americans and 49% of Canadians — followed by Europeans (45%). Consumers in Asia Pacific showed the lowest level of nutritional label understanding, with less than one-third (31%) mostly understanding nutritional information.

“Consumers around the world have healthy eating on their minds and consumer packaged goods marketers have an opportunity to help,” Nielsen VP global consumer insights James Russo said. “Consumer-friendly nutritional labeling can be a powerful marketing tool as consumers are hungry for easy-to-understand information.”

Among nutritional labels that are trusted by consumers, calorie count claims rank supreme, with one-third of consumers claiming they always are accurate, followed by vitamin and fat content claims are the second- and third-most trusted claims, respectively. On the other hand, packaging that touts such claims as "freshness" and "heart healthy" are sometimes or never considered believable, the survey found.

“Consumers have difficulty trusting more ambiguous attributes compared to the concrete ingredient-based information,” Russo said. “Clearly there is a need and an opportunity for more education to help reduce the skepticism that is apparent around all parts of the globe.”

Among those surveyed, more than half (53%) considered themselves overweight and 48% said they were trying to lose weight. Among them nearly 80% are trying to lose weight through dieting.

Nielsen’s survey was conducted in March/April 2011 and in August/September 2011.

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Local flavor: Meijer’s Michigan stores to feature food products made in the state

BY Alaric DeArment

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Meijer’s stores in Michigan will "prominently" feature 49 products made in the state as part of a program to promote local businesses, the mass merchandise retailer said.

The chain is partnering with the Michigan State University Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources to launch the "Made in Michigan" initiative, whereby 33 stores will feature 49 such grocery items as marinara sauce, blueberry butter, gluten-free baking mixes and gourmet seasonings in specially designated areas of the store starting on Sunday.

"Meijer is always pleased to support Michigan businesses," CEO and co-chairman Hank Meijer said. "Also, there is tremendous interest from our customers to buy local and to support local businesses. This is why we continuously increase the amount of products we purchase from local suppliers and companies. This partnership with the MSU Product Center presents a great opportunity to enhance our selection of Michigan-made products and produce, further making Meijer the place for one-stop shopping."

The initiative would be an ongoing feature and is expected to generate $400,000 for the Michigan economy, MSU Product Center project manager Matt Birbeck said.

"We couldn’t be more excited about this program," Birbeck said. "Working with Meijer to implement a dedicated Michigan section for its customers is a win-win situation for everybody."

Meijer isn’t the only retailer featuring locally made products. Seattle-based retail pharmacy chain Bartell recently launched a new store format that also prominently features products from Washington state in its "Urban Market" section. Meanwhile, Duane Reade often features "Restaurant Row" endcaps in its stores, stocked with sauces and other food products made by New York restaurants and entrepreneurs.

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Nonni’s Foods acquires ThinAddictives brand

BY Allison Cerra

CHICAGO — A biscotti maker now owns a Canada-based cookie brand.

Nonni’s Foods said it has acquired the ThinAddictives brand from V.I.S., which is known for its nameksake almond thins, along with its state-of-the-art baking facility in Ville St-Laurent, Quebec. The ThinAddictives brand includes cranberry almond, pistachio almond and chocolate almond flavors.

"Nonni’s Foods has shown an unwavering commitment to quality across its total organization. I am excited to join the leader in the premium cookie category in North America to aggressively expand both product lines through strong marketing and cross-selling synergies," V.I.S. president Robert Sigler said.

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