I had the opportunity to tour King Kullen and learn about the NuVal™ nutrition score thanks to Tracey Cullen who works in operations and marketing at King Kullen. Tracey is one of the people responsible for the Nuval™’s launch and implementation at King Kullen. I’d also like to thank the store manager Ed Williamson who stayed late to accompany us on the tour and answer all our questions. We were also joined by Michele Tonner, a nutritionist who works for King Kullen and Wild by Nature, she was able to provide us with a better understanding of the NuVal™ score and how it works…thanks Michele.
Food shopping can be difficult especially with a 2 year old, so anything that will make my trip to the grocery store easier I’m all for, especially when it comes to nutrition. NuVal™ is a nutritional scoring system that scores food items from 1-100 based on their nutritional value, it allows consumers to see the nutritional value of food at a glance. It is a tool that consumers can use to easily make informed decisions about the nutritional value of the food they are buying. The NuVal™ score is based on the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, these guidelines provide advice for people two and older about how good dietary habits can reduce the risk for chronic diseases. Since the federal Dietary Guidelines exclude infants and toddlers under two, so does the NuVal™ system.
The NuVal™ score is calculated by taking more than 30 different nutrients and nutrition factors into account and through a complex algorithm food is labeled form 1-100. Simply speaking, nutrients with generally favorable effects (like vitamins, minerals and fiber) on health are the numerator and nutrients with generally unfavorable effects (like trans fat, saturated fat, and sodium) are the denominator and these scores are divided to create the NuVal™ score.
In addition to the numerator and denominator nutrients, the algorithm takes in other key factors:
- Trans fat: Trans fat has a a very strong association with heart disease so the algorithm assigns a “weighted coefficient” to trans fat which substantially lowers the score of the foods that contain it.
- Quality of macronutrients (fats, proteins, carbs): The higher the quality, the higher the score.
- Nutrient dense foods: Foods with a significant amount of vitamins and minerals with relatively few calories receive extra credit and higher scores.
The nutrient data used in the scoring process comes from the nutrition facts and ingredient list on the food’s packaging. For non-packaged foods the data is primarily obtained from the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory.
The score for certain foods can change over time due to two reasons:
- Scientific advancement requiring updates or revisions to the algorithm
- Reformulation of packaged products such as the removal of trans fat
I learned that King Kullen receives weekly updates on the changes so that they can keep the most current NuVal™ scores available for the consumers. The NuVal™ website also has sample scores on their website but for a more comprehensive look at scores you much visit a retailer that has the NuVal™ score such as King Kullen.
King Kullen recently implemented the NuVal™ scoring system into their stores this past February so as a consumer we can now see how nutritious items are just buy looking at the label on the shelf next to the item’s price.
For King Kullen the implementation of the score comes around the same time as their new promotion in their produce department-Fresh Produce, Refreshing Prices, Every Day of the Week. You can now get your fresh produce at King Kullen for great prices every day of the week. In the produce department Nuval scores range from 81-100 with the average score being 96.
One interesting fact I learned about produce and the NuVal™ score during my tour was that being organic does not affect the score of the produce. At this time there is no scientific evidence to show that pesticides have any impact on the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables so the scores are the same among organic and non-organic foods.
Nuval™ scores are not only on signs around the store, like the ones you see above, but they are also on the shelves in front of the products.
Regular Barilla pasta scores a 61 and Barilla plus scores a 91, trading up to the Barilla plus will make your pasta meal more nutritious but if your family doesn’t like the taste regular Barilla has a great score too! Scores for dried pasta are driven by the amount of sodium, cholesterol, omega-3 fatty acids and fiber in the product.
Milk and Flavored Milk scores range from 1-100, averaging in at 60.
- Skim milk: 91
- 1% milk: 81
- 2% milk: 55
- Whole milk: 52
- Tuscan and King Kullen milk both have the same score.
As you can see skim milk would be your most nutritious option but just trading up from whole mile to 1% provides a significant increase in the nutritional value. Scores for milk are driven by sodium, added sugar, saturated fat, calcium, vitamins D and A.
These are just a few examples of what you will see when you go into King Kullen or any store with the NuVal™ score. You can choose to trade up to a more nutritious product or not, but now thanks to NuVal™ you can make an informed decision on the nutritional content of a product just by looking at the shelf.
There are some products that are not scored at this time, some examples are baby food, prepared food items (bakery, deli dept.), vinegars, spices, water, tea, coffee and beer.
You can check out the NuVal™ website for any questions you may have, stores that have the NuVal™ system in place, blogs and more.
As a registered nurse, mother, wife, blogger I think that this system rocks!! The obesity epidemic in the United States is a major problem and if people have the nutritional information available to them in an easy score this will help everyone with making better choices. It doesn’t take any extra time, you don’t even have to pick up a box, you just look at the label on the shelf and you can start making better choices for you and your family.
Thank you King Kullen for making the NuVal™ available on Long Island!!!