HEB is the first grocery chain in Texas to roll out a new nutrition labeling system on items in its stores to assist people in making healthy food choices.
Following guidelines from the USDA, color coded icons appear next to the prices of many items on HEB shelves, to indicate the health factors of a particular food. HEB has piloted this program for about a year, and it’s now being rolled out company wide.
HEB Dietitian Lorena Kaplen said she’s found some patrons find nutrition labels difficult to read, so the seven color coded labels can help point them to healthier items or those that are necessary for a special diet.
“If your doctor says you need a low sodium diet, then you can go in our aisles, you can look for our low sodium tag and know it’s going to be a good choice; an item low in sodium,” Kaplen said.
Each label depicts whether an item is sugar or gluten free, or low in sodium or saturated fat.
“We’ve got two labels that we consider to be lifestyle. Those are ‘Organic’ and ‘Gluten-free.’ We say this is your lifestyle choice due to what you prefer to have in your product.,” Kaplen explained. “We also have ‘Heart Healthy.’ That’s going to be a low sodium, low saturated fat item.”
Items that receive tags are not determined by HEB, but by a program called Healthy Aisles which is based on FDA guidelines. HEB vice-President of Communication Kate Rogers said the each food item runs through a universal filter.
“Say something has just a whole lot of sodium in it, it wouldn’t get a tag even it was gluten free, because it got kicked out due to the sodium,” Rogers explained.
The labels are displayed in both English and Spanish on products in the center aisles of the store.