Friday, October 8, 2010

Symbol Overload

Do you ever go to the grocery store and get lost in all the health symbols on packaging? It’s like looking at a map with no key. What the H does all of this mean? Once you learn one it seems like three more come out. Between the Hannaford Guiding Stars that are only seen on the East Coast, the Smart Choices program that had some major issues with its criteria, NuVal, once known as ONQI, the Heart Check by the American Heart Association, whole grains,…I am totally overwhelmed.

It’s really not a bad idea from a business standpoint. Many American consumers could use some guidance when it comes to healthy eating (as evidenced by America’s obesity epidemic), why not get a piece of the pie? The tricky thing when making recommendations everyone has different needs (click here for more on this).

Now we’re starting to see symbols on restaurant menus, adding even more symbols to the mix. I’ve been hearing about a lot of different pilot programs across the country that get restaurants involved in labeling healthy items on their menus (voluntarily of course). A lot of people say that menu labeling doesn’t go far enough to educate consumers, so something like this seems like a reasonable next step.

I have two concerns with these programs:

1. That this will turn into the grocery store confusion mentioned above with too many symbols/programs. I think that one national symbol and set of criteria might make more sense.

2. That restaurants won’t be interested in the program in the first place.

What do you think? Would a menu health symbol be helpful?