SCARBOROUGH, Maine — The Guiding Stars nutritional navigation system — already rolling out to private-label packaging at Hannaford Bros. and its sister banners — may soon be featured on store brands outside the Delhaize Group.
That's because Guiding Stars Licensing Co. is marketing it to other supermarket chains, even those that aren't using the Guiding Stars shelf tag program, according to John Eldredge, director of brand and business development, Guiding Stars Licensing, a wholly owned subsidiary of Brussels-based Delhaize, whose banners include Hannaford, Sweetbay, Food Lion and Bloom. The spinoff was formed last year to market Guiding Stars to other retailers, as well as to food manufacturers and foodservice operations in schools and other institutions.
“We are talking with other supermarket chains to incorporate Guiding Stars on private-label packaging,” Eldredge told SN. He declined to say which retailers are interested, as formal agreements have yet to be signed.
Guiding Stars was developed to make it easy for shoppers to quickly identify and choose more nutritious foods. Foods are analyzed and assigned a rating from zero to three stars based on nutritional content. Products with three stars have the most nutritional value.
After launching in Hannaford in 2006, it has since rolled out to other Delhaize-owned banners.
Until recently, the ratings were carried only on shelf tags. Now, however, about 200 private-label products sold at Hannaford and Sweetbay carry the ratings on packaging. For instance, Hannaford-brand elbow macaroni and whole cashews both feature two stars on product packaging.
Packaging for the Nature's Place natural and organic line — sold not only at Hannaford and Sweetbay but also at Food Lion — will carry the ratings soon.
Of about 2,800 edible private-label products carried at Hannaford and Sweetbay, about 21% have received one or more stars, Eldredge said.
The packaging icons are designed to reinforce the shelf-edge communications, according to Hannaford spokesman Michael Norton. The icons were intentionally designed to appear in a small corner of product packaging so they won't overwhelm consumers with too much information.
“It's another source of guidance,” Norton told SN.
There are no immediate plans to add the ratings to Hannaford's Smart Options and Taste of Inspirations private brands, Norton said.
Expanding the ratings to packaging is the logical next step in the evolution of Guiding Stars, Eldredge said.
“Having it on packages reminds people every time they eat a product how nutritious it is,” he said.
Meanwhile, Guiding Stars Licensing has launched a “pre-licensing” service for manufacturers of private-label and branded products. The service rates selected products for manufacturers, who can then use the information internally to decide if products should be reformulated so that they receive a higher rating.
“The pre-licensing service is the first step for manufacturers interested in Guiding Stars,” he said. “It's a baseline.”
Four yet-to-be-named manufacturers representing several dozen items are already using the service.
Such plans come at a time when Guiding Stars is expanding into the foodservice sector. A Guiding Stars licensing pilot recently began in a Maine school district. Menus sent home to parents and published online include Guiding Stars ratings on all prepared foods and grab-and-go items.
A similar pilot with an area college is being discussed.
Likewise, plans are in the works to rate foods served in hospital cafeterias and patient foodservice programs.
Delhaize banners are aggressively promoting the food rating system. Last year, Food Lion launched a Guiding Stars mobile marketing tour.
Anchored by a specially outfitted 18-wheel tractor-trailer, the “Guiding Stars 3 Star Kitchen” stopped at stores and community events throughout Food Lion's operating area to educate people about the program.