Rating Nutrition: Manufacturer Reaction

The people behind the Overall Nutritional Quality Index and Guiding Stars say manufacturers have been supportive of the programs, which essentially dig through the on-pack claims, graphics and logos and present a true assessment of a product's healthfulness. There's a bit of hand-wringing going on in the industry about a rating system like this possibly having a negative impact on our business, our

The people behind the Overall Nutritional Quality Index and Guiding Stars say manufacturers have been supportive of the programs, which essentially dig through the on-pack claims, graphics and logos and present a true assessment of a product's healthfulness.

“There's a bit of hand-wringing going on in the industry about a rating system like this possibly having a negative impact on our business, our sales, our margins,” said Ric Jurgens, president and chief executive officer of Hy-Vee Stores, Des Moines, Iowa. “I don't see that happening.”

Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, which was first to market with its Guiding Stars system, approached vendors with an in-depth explanation of the program's goals, according to Caren Epstein, the chain's director of external communications.

“We were pleased that the response was one of genuine interest and recognition that, as business partners, we are trying to please the same customers, and that many of them are interested in making more nutritious choices,” she said.

The marketers behind ONQI say the index can actually help the manufacturing community keep up with changing consumer demands.

“As we speak, every manufacturer is working on better-for-you products, because that's where the consumer is going,” noted Jeff Posner, executive vice president of Skokie, Ill.-based Topco Associates.

The biggest worry manufacturers face is that low scores from either rating system could hurt sales — but only if customers are utilizing the information to make their purchase decisions. Jurgens says Hy-Vee will be using the ONQI program to educate, not judge.

“We're not going to throw out foods that have low ONQI scores just because they're not good for people's diets,” he said. “People have a right to eat what they want, to buy what they want, and it's not my job to dictate what they buy.”