CHANDLER, Ariz. — Bashas' has launched a digital nutrition labeling system that has reduced labor, and at the same time is addressing the particular health concerns of Arizonans.
Unveiled just in time for National Nutrition Month in March, the system is already generating positive feedback from the chain's customers and also from Bashas' employees, Barbara Ruhs, Bashas' corporate registered dietitian, told SN.
Basically, customers and employees say it makes it easier for them to find the products they need to assure themselves they are eating healthy.
“Since we went digital, we can produce these labels right along with price labels. When new labels are generated to show price changes, the nutrition data is on there, too,” Ruhs said. “There's no way a customer doesn't see the nutrition information. It's directly underneath the price, on a colorful background.”
Previously, the company had used perpendicular nutrition tags attached by hand to the shelves, and those tags often got worn looking over time.
“The new system, set up by Vestcom, Little Rock, Ark., taps into a nutrition database every time a new price label is printed. So it's always a fresh-looking label,” Ruhs said.
Customers need only look for the colorful nutrition tags on the shelf along with the price and unit information.
“We have 30,000 products in the UPC database for each store. And all those products are eligible to get a tag if they qualify. Basically, they must all ‘pass’ the universal nutrition filter. That is, they must contain no more than 4 grams of saturated fat, no more than 480 mg of sodium, and meet other criteria, or the product doesn't get a nutrition label.”
Under the system, a product could qualify for up to two nutrition notations, such as a whole grain product, which could be labeled high in fiber and low in sodium, or “fiber smart” and “low-sodium smart.”
Ruhs pointed out that the system affects all products that are packaged and have a UPC code. That being so, many items in produce — such as bagged salads, bagged nuts, dried fruits, cut fruit and berries — get the labels. And dairy has a lot of products that qualify. In fact, all departments in the store — meat, seafood, deli, bakery, produce, as well as grocery — get the nutrition labels on qualifying products.
The only exceptions allowed to bypass the criteria set by the nutrition database filter are gluten-free products, Ruhs said. In other words, if a product had 100 grams of fat and was gluten-free, it would still get a nutrition label that simply says “gluten-free,” regardless of its other nutritional attributes.
The system also can be changed to highlight other things. For instance, if the company decided it wanted to establish criteria for sustainable products and then label those as well, it could do that with the digital system.
“I'm happy that we've had the ability to customize the nutrition labeling to make it particularly relevant to Arizona residents. For instance, diabetes is a huge problem here, and so is heart disease,” Ruhs said.
Giving customers such an easy way to control their blood sugar and cholesterol, and manage other health problems by simplifying food choices certainly gives Bashas' a competitive advantage, but Ruhs sees it as a valuable community service as well.
“We're the state that's No. 1 or 2 in foreclosures, people have lost their jobs and with them, their health insurance, so this simplified program helps them out a little bit. Helps them maintain their health through healthy eating.”
Not only that, but Ruhs makes herself available to answer any questions customers have about the labeling.