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Loblaw's Guiding Stars program shines a light on nutrition

Expands to Western and Atlantic Canada after launch in Ontario two years ago

Loblaw is expanding its Guiding Stars nutrition program to Western and Atlantic Canada.

The program, which uses a three-star rating system to score the nutrient density of foods, is hitting Real Canadian Superstores, No Frills and Your Independent Grocers in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Loblaw also confirmed to Canadian Grocer that the program is now rolling out in the Atlantic provinces at Real Atlantic Superstore, Save Easy, No Frills and Dominion banners.

READ: Loblaw launches Guiding Stars nutrition labelling program

In-store signage and flyers will highlight the scoring system to customers and store employees have been trained to educate customers about the program, a Loblaw spokesperson said in an email.

Guiding Stars was launched at Loblaw stores in Ontario two years ago and expanded to Quebec last summer.

The program scores a food product’s healthy bona fides using a scientific algorithm.

READ: Guiding Stars algorithm receives Canadian patent

Foods are awarded stars for having more vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, whole grains and other healthful ingredients. They lose stars for containing saturated fats, trans fat, added sugars and added sodium.

Products can earn up to three stars, with signs on the shelf indicating the number of stars for the item. Products that don’t meet Guiding Stars criteria have no stars, nor do products with fewer than five calories per serving, such as bottled water and spices.

“Guiding Stars is a family friendly tool that translates dietary requirements in a visual and practical way,” Melanie Byland, a registered dietitian and senior manager of the dietitian program at Loblaw, said in a release this week.

The program’s launch in Western and Atlantic Canada coincides with back to school shopping when, Byland noted, “it’s a great time to refresh old routines and start new ones.”

Guiding Stars was developed by Hannaford Bros., a New England grocery chain, in 2006 and is now used at several major American supermarkets including Food Lion and Marsh. Loblaw is the only Canadian grocer to have Guiding Stars.

READ: Loblaw launches Guiding Stars in Quebec

An independent study published a year ago in the journal Food Policy found Guiding Stars has had some success in switching shoppers to healthier buys. Sales of no-star cereals dropped 2.6% at Hannaford stores compared with a control group comprised of similar stores, the study found. Cereals with stars saw sales gains of up to 1%.

But a recent study by Cornell University suggests Guiding Stars might be bad for a store’s overall sales.

Researchers from the university in New York studied sales records from 150 Hannaford stores and found that sales of less healthy foods fell 8.3% while sales of sales of healthy foods rose only 1.4%

Loblaw says that it is happy to date with the response from customers in Ontario and Quebec to Guiding Stars. “It seems to be a helpful tool for customers looking for support and guidance on their journey to a healthier lifestyle,” a spokesperson said.

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