Navigating the Grocery Aisle by the Stars


When faced with too many choices—or too much information—people choose to do nothing at all.

That’s a bit oversimplified. But its one of core points of “The Paradox of Choice,” an insightful book by Barry Schwartz that I read a few years ago.

The supermarket provides a perfect example. Most families want to eat healthier. But it’s not easy to figure out how, given the thousands of products on the shelves, and confusing labels and claims. (Organic, natural, lite, low-fat, low-calorie, no trans fats, and on and on and on.)

Nutrition labeling helps. But it’s too much information for most consumers. So they zone out and load up the basket with familliar products (and a perhaps a few more veggies to ease the guilt). 

hannafordstar.jpegHannaford, a northeast supermarket chain, gets it. Last fall, it introduced its Guiding Stars rating system which labeled more than 25,000 items in its stores with one, two or three stars (for good, better or best nutritional value).

The system is working, proving again that “less” is often “more.” During the first year of the program, products that Hannaford rated with stars grew 2-1/2 times faster than those without. Starred cereals grew 3-1/2 times faster. (For more information, take a look at this press release and AP story.)

Hannaford’s campaign represents communications strategy at its best. It’s great for sales, great for the Hannaford brand (talk about differentiating a commodity service) and great for consumers.

The lesson: People today are overloaded with information. Often, what they really want is guidance that they can trust. If Hannaford can continue to find new ways to deliver on that promise, it can build “nutritious shopping made simple” into a deliciously successful brand.  

Photo by lyzadanger or, (cc) some rights reserved