Guiding Stars just celebrated our 4th anniversary by releasing the new search engine Food Finder into public beta. The search engine allows shoppers to search for any of 50,000 foods in the Guiding Stars database and view the zero, one, two or three star nutrition rating for that food.
Shoppers are encouraged to have conversations about food, exchange ideas and share ratings. You can write a review on a food item by logging in to the Food Finder using your email address, Facebook or Twitter account.
I recently sat down with John Eldredge, Director of Brand and Business Development at Guiding Stars to share some user questions.
Food Finder (BETA)
Jaica Kinsman: Is the Food Finder in its final version, or will there be additional changes and updates?
John Eldredge: The Food Finder is a “public beta release”, which means work is ongoing to make any necessary changes or modifications to ensure the site runs smoothly. There will continue to be regular changes, updates and improvements to the Food Finder for the foreseeable future. We welcome your feedback on the site, and if you have any comments or suggestions please fill out our contact form.
JK: Why are there multiple listings for certain products?
JE: The Food Finder reflects massive amounts of nutrition data that Guiding Stars continuously enters into its nutrition database for more than 50,000 products. Sometimes the same product (e.g. “blueberries”) will be entered into the database multiple times because it is carried by multiple retail partners of Guiding Stars.
JK: How can the Food Finder help me make healthier food choices?
JE: Search for foods in the Food Finder and the search results will typically rank the more nutritious foods in the category first and the less nutritious foods in the category later in the results. For example, a search for milk will provide skim and lowfat milk choices before whole milk choices. For healthier food choices, choose the foods earning more stars toward the top of your search results. We encourage you to use Guiding Stars in addition to the nutrition facts panel and ingredients list to help select the best products for you and/or your family.
JK: Why can’t I find my favorite food product?
JE: Currently, there are more than 50,000 rated foods in the Food Finder, and more foods are added each week. Guiding Stars rates all of the packaged, fresh and prepared foods carried by our retail and food service partners. However, there may be foods not carried by our partners that haven’t been entered into the database.
JK: How are the star ratings determined?
JE: The star ratings are based on the proprietary, evidence-based Guiding Stars nutrition rating algorithm developed by a team of nutrition science, food science and public health experts. Within the algorithm, each food receives credit for the presence of vitamins, minerals, whole grain and dietary fiber, and is debited for the presence of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, added sodium and added sugar. The resulting score determines whether a food receives a rating of 0, 1, 2 or 3 stars. One Guiding Stars indicates good nutritional value; two Guiding Stars, better nutritional value; three Guiding Stars, the best nutritional value.
JK: Why do you have certain supermarket products listed (Hannaford, Bloom, Food Lion, etc.)?
JE: Entered into the Guiding Stars database is all information related to a food product—including UPC number, category, product name, size, nutrition facts, ingredients, allergens and health claims. In the case of private label food products, the food name will often include the name of a specific retailer.
JK: The Food Finder rated my favorite food with zero stars. Should I avoid eating it?
JE: The purpose of Guiding Stars is not to tell you what to buy, but to help you make more nutritious choices by highlighting foods with higher nutrition density. Most nutrition experts agree that people are well served by eating in moderation and maintaining a balanced diet. Guiding Stars supports the notion that you should feel free to choose any foods you’d like based on individual preference, dietary need or purchase occasion.
JK: Why do only some of the products have photos?
JE: Guiding Stars has taken photos and/or found sources of photos for many of the more than 50,000 foods in the database. More photos will be added as they become available.
JK: Where can shoppers find Guiding Stars?
JE: Guiding Stars can be found in more than 1,600 supermarkets in 19 states on the east coast. Guiding Stars can also be found in hospitals, schools and universities.
Guiding Stars Locations
When shopping for food, look for Guiding Stars in these fine supermarkets:
- Homeland Stores
- Country Mart
- United Supermarkets
- Kings Super Market
- Hannaford Supermarkets
- Food Lion
- Sweetbay Supermarkets
Jaica Kinsmanis a Web Community Specialist for the Guiding Stars Licensing Company. She is responsible for Internet marketing, community engagement and whatever else is cool and happening on the Interwebs. She designed the website and serves as editor for the Guiding Stars Blog. Jaica is also one of the founders of Social Media FTW.