What Does The Heart Check Mark Certification Mean?
The Heart-Check Mark Certification has been on groceries since 1995, long enough that a lot of people aren’t even sure what it really means. Everything that gets this certification from the American Heart Association (AHA) has to meet rigorous standards and is designed to help shoppers find foods that support a heart-healthy diet so they don’t have to spend eternity in the aisles checking ingredients on their own.
According to the AHA, products with the certification have 92% brand awareness among consumers and 3 out of 4 consumers they are more likely to purchase foods that feature the Heart-Check mark, regardless of age or whether there are kids in the household. But not everyone who shops in the store knows what that emblem means or how it’s different from similar heart-shaped marks that don’t carry the kind of scientific validity as the Heart-Check Mark. Helping your customers be aware, either through signage or your app is a smart strategy.
How Does the Certification Work?
Foods submitted for certification have to meet rigorous standards in one of the seven categories covered. Standard requirements include:
- Having less than 6.5 grams of fat
- A limited amount of sodium—depending on the food category
- Naturally occurring nutrients such as 10 percent or more Vitamin A, C, Calcium, Iron, Protein or dietary fiber.
Then there are specific criteria for various products. Like milk has to have 130 calories per 8 fluid ounces and canned fruits and vegetables can’t be packed in “heavy syrup.”
The certification only means the food meets the scientific criteria. If a producer wants to make a specific claim regarding health benefits, the AHA has to verify those claims before they grant the certification.
If there is a question about whether a product meets the standards, the AHA has it tested before giving it the stamp of approval. Then there are some products that just aren’t certifiable. Products containing partially hydrogenated oils are not eligible, neither are alcoholic beverages, desserts, diet-branded products. There’s a whole list.
How Can Retailers Get Involved?
Acquiring certification is a multi-step process with fees, laboratory testing and intense scrutiny of everything from preparation directions to packaging. Retailers can help not only the CPG companies who went through this but their customers and themselves by becoming a destination for health-conscious consumers who need help identifying healthy choices.
The AHA works with CPG companies and retailers to implement health and wellness programs through stores. And retailers can provide this link to find of certified foods that can help consumers with their planning and shopping.
The data on what constitutes healthy eating seems to change often, at the same time obesity rate in the U.S. continues to climb. More and more people are going to need clear, reliable, scientific support to create diets that will help them live longer and better and any retailer who steps up to make that happen is taking a step toward good for everybody.
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