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Trading Partners Talk Nutrition Education

This morning's sessions at the 53rd World Business Summit focused on simplicity. To that end roundtable participants Jeff Noddle, executive chairman of the board at Supervalu, Brenda Barnes, chairman and CEO of Sara Lee Corp. and Kraft Foods' chairman and CEO Irene Rosenfeld, kept the discussion frank.

When asked for her opinion of Supervalu's Nutrition IQ program that uses color-coded shelf tags to highlight 11 nutrient claims, Rosenfeld, who favors a universal approach to educating consumers rather than independent programs, didn't sugar coat her response.

"We wish he didn't have his own system, because as he says he has a system and many of our other customers have different systems" she said referring to Noddle. "It's somewhat antithetical to the idea of trying to have a common format for consumers that make it simple for them to understand. But we see promise behind it and it's heading in the right direction."

Kraft is an adopter of the Smart Choices Program, a front of pack labeling system that offers "guidance at a glance," and information related to calories per serving and servings per package. The program was created with input from Wal-Mart, Kraft, Kellogg, Nestle, Wegmans and General Mills.

Sara Lee recently announced plans for a different model. Its "Nutritional Spotlight" banner includes calorie, fat and sodium information about its products.

Despite the new introduction, Barnes shares Rosenfeld's view.

"The consumer is already cynical and if there are [different systems] who do they believe?" she said.

All agreed on one thing: shoppers aren't just being bombarded with different nutrition information delivery systems, but too many product choices on the shelf.

Rosenfeld's explanation: "Promoting a product that already exists isn't as exciting as promoting something that's new, even though sales on the existing product are [probably] better."

Noddle added that a variety of package sizes is also responsible.

"We noticed a category in one store with five sizes of the same product with only a few ounces in difference," he said. "We've got to work on the number of SKUs we have."