Q&A: Ahold talks food transparency
In the coming year, Ahold Delhaize USA will be rolling out 1,500 to 2,000 new store brand items, and the company is specifically looking to focus on healthy foods. In fact, the retailer set a goal to have 51% of its own brand sales come from healthy products by 2022, and 54% of its 15,000 private brand products will specifically achieve a one, two- or three-star rating through the Guiding Stars nutrition guidance program by 2025, working with the Partnership for a Healthier America to achieve these goals.
Store Brands spoke with Brittni Furrow, vice president of health and sustainability at Ahold Delhaize USA, about the new goals.
Store Brands: Can you explain the Guiding Stars program and its importance for the company?
Brittni Furrow: Guiding Stars helps consumers choose foods with the most nutritional value through a patented formula that evaluates nutrition information and offers a rating system that is easy to understand. Many products tout single claims that may not fully inform shoppers about the overall nutritional quality of a product. Shoppers might see “whole grains” on an item and think they are making a healthier choice, but that claim doesn’t always tell the whole story. What consumers may not know is that the product they have chosen also has excessive amounts of added sugars. By providing a neutral evaluation of all products — on private brands and national brands — shoppers can make an informed, trusted choice.
SB: When it comes to your store brands, what steps is Ahold Delhaize USA making to be more transparent around the health of the products it puts its name on?
BF: Giving customers access to healthier, more transparent private brands options is important to all Ahold Delhaize USA companies. Our companies have taken several steps recently in this space, including a landmark commitment to remove all artificial ingredients from all private brand products by 2025 and new animal welfare and GMO policies, which both extend to private brand products.
SB: What about sustainability, what’s the latest in terms of Ahold Delhaize USA’s commitment to making its private brand products more sustainable?
BF: In addition to the items mentioned above, last year, Retail Business Services announced a commitment to sustainable chemistry for private brand products. Under this new commitment, Retail Business Services will restrict certain chemicals from products and packaging, work with suppliers to ensure products meet high standards for ingredients, beyond what’s required by law today and collaborate with suppliers to address the root causes of contaminants.
SB: What are ways your store brand suppliers can get involved in these issues?
BF: Store brand suppliers can reformulate or offer new products that meet criteria to earn a star through Guiding Stars. Products with higher levels of vitamins, minerals, fiber, whole grains and Omega-3 fatty acids and lower levels of saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, sodium and artificial colors will score higher. Providing all nutrients in the product on the nutrition facts panel can also help the product earn a higher score.
SB: Going forward, what else can consumers expect to see?
BF: Across Ahold Delhaize USA companies, we are doing a lot to make improvements. We have committed to make our private brand products cleaner and more natural by 2025. What this means is that we will be removing all synthetic colors, artificial flavors, artificial preservatives, artificial sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup from all of our private label products. We plan to produce more allergen-free products and will further strengthen its guidelines for Nature’s Promise, our free-from and organic brand.
We have also recently announced our commitment to a new sustainable chemistry commitment. Under the new commitment, Ahold Delhaize USA companies will restrict certain chemicals from products and packaging, work with suppliers to ensure products meet high standards for ingredients, beyond what’s required by law today, and collaborate with suppliers to address the root causes of contaminants. This year we also announced new sustainability policies providing guidance on two key issues: genetically modified food and farm animal welfare.
We continually refine the approach and seek to improve sustainability and transparency within the food supply chain.