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Call it the “nutritional labeling system formerly known as ONQI.”

Last Friday it was announced that the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI) developed to rate all 40,000 food products available in US supermarkets on a scale of 1-100, will take on a new name – NuVal – and will roll out this September in three as-yet unidentified US supermarket chains.

"Consumers want clear information about the nutritional value of the foods they eat, and NuVal scores are going to give it to them," said NuVal president Nancy McDermott. "We've got the scientific foundation, the logistical ability and the retail partners needed to bring this important education to consumers coast to coast." McDermott said the newly-formed company is focused on reaching all U.S. markets and scoring all 40,000 of the products available in the average grocery store by September 2009.

NuVal's double-hexagon emblem, bearing the score of each individual product, is designed to appear on shelf tags next to the price. Retailers will use banners, shelf-talkers, brochures, associate training and other forms of in-store communication to tell the NuVal story.

The NuVal system is based on a proprietary algorithmic formula to score the nutritional value of foods on a scale of one to 100, weighing some 30 different nutrient factors; the higher the score, the higher the nutrition value. NuVal LLC, the independent company formed to bring the system to market, is a joint venture of Topco Associates, LLC, and Griffin Hospital, home to the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and a teaching affiliate of the Yale University School of Medicine.

The NuVal system is different from the Guiding Stars program developed and being licensed by Delhaize USA in that the latter approach rates all products but only gives one, two or three stars to products that qualify as good, better and best.

KC's View:
I suspect that while the three chains that have committed to using NuVal this September have not been identified, one of them almost certainly will be Hy-Vee. I’ve had conversations with Hy-Vee CEO Ric Jurgens in which he has been extraordinarily passionate and persuasive about the system; he believes completely in the program’s ability to “change the world” when it comes to how shoppers think about the supermarkets, food and nutrition.

Not sure whether consumers are more likely to embrace the NuVal system or the Guiding Stars system (which already has shown itself to be extremely effective at Hannaford Bros. and Sweetbay Supermarkets in terms of moving rated products). I’m not even sure that both can't work together.

But I am sure that better and more transparent nutritional labeling is the right move.