One of the tactics used on many cereal boxes are simplified nutrition statements and graphics to help consumers make better choices. While this has likely assisted (or at least swayed) people's decision making in the store, there are still tons of sugared, artificially-flavored cereals sold each year. Let's face it, people buy cereal for more than nutrition, and for some it is still very confusing.
For several years now the Maine-based Hannaford Supermarket chain introduced the "Guiding Stars" program which displays up to three stars for food products to indicate their relative nutritional value. In a recent study of that program cereals that didn't qualify for a star saw a reduction in sales by at least 10 percent.
If such a program were to be more widely adopted, what would be the impact on our buying habits and our health? Certainly, there is much to be said about giving consumers information to make good nutrition decisions. But, can a star system really address the complexities of food and nutrition? Who determines the rating system, and how valid is it? And, could it give people a false sense of security on their overall eating habits?
One thing is for sure, the pressure is still on the cereal aisle. At least this approach takes the onus off the manufacturers to convey all the information, although they will still be forced to work harder to meet consumer demand.
In the end it's about choice. Giving consumers information is valid, but let's remember that there are many reasons why people buy the cereals they do. Many will make decisions despite the number of stars on the grocers on the shelf.