Is "Great For You" Good for Consumers?

Feb 13, 2012 10:02 AM ET

What Do You Stand For?

With one-third of American adults struggling with obesity, there is little doubt that action must be taken to curb this growing epidemic. Still, even with a replacement for the archaic food pyramid, government agencies have yet to introduce a standardized label to denote healthy foods at point-of-sale. However, an unlikely entrant has stepped forward to offer yet another solution to this glaring gap.

Walmart, the largest seller of food in the country, has announced a new label aimed at helping Americans make healthy eating choices. The new "Great For You" seal was devised and developed by Walmart, with the help of nutrition experts, health groups and government consultants, to denote food items that meet specific nutrition criteria. In addition to the label, which will first be rolled out on the company's "Great Value" brand, Walmart has taken steps to reduce the amount of sodium and sugars in many of the private label and brand name products it sells. Interestingly, the company developed the "Great For You" seal because executives felt they could no longer wait for a government-developed label. Walmart's own senior vice president of sustainability, Andrea Thomas, explained the rationale in a recent Reuters article, stating, "At the point in time that there is a standardized label that comes out from the FDA then we'll be happy to make a switch. At this point we feel like our customers need help right now; we don't know how long that's going to take."

Although it is unclear the real impact the seal will have on consumer eating habits, it does signify a bigger shift in consumer perception of the responsibility of companies. According to Cone's 2011 Global CR Opportunity Study, 88 percent of consumers believe companies are essential to major social change because they have resources governments and NGOs do not. In this case, Walmart has stepped in where government has been slow to act. What is yet to be seen, however, is whether the "Great For You" seal will break through the label clutter or will further add to consumer confusion.

We encourage your thoughts and comments. Continue the conversation on Twitter by using #WDYSF.