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Nielsen: U.S. consumer confidence up despite cash woes, saving strategies

BY Allison Cerra

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. — U.S. consumers are more optimistic about their finances despite cutting back to save money, according to Nielsen’s fourth-quarter global consumer confidence findings.

Nielsen said the U.S. consumer confidence index rose six points from 77 to 83 for fourth quarter 2011 (based on a baseline of 100), with 49% of consumers saying their personal finance prospects will be "good" or "excellent" over the next 12 months. But while nearly half of consumers said their personal finance prospects are in decent shape, almost one-third (32%) of U.S. respondents reported having no spare cash during the quarter. For those that did have funds to spare, however, most said they used the money toward savings (34%), followed by paying off debts (31%) and putting it toward retirement and stocks/mutual funds (8% each).

Nielsen also revealed consumers’ the top three strategies to save: nearly two-thirds of those surveyed (64%) cut back on gas and electricity, 58% opted not to buy new clothes and 56% elected to forgo out-of-home entertainment. When asked what they will continue to do when economic conditions improve, consumers’ top three answers were cutting back on gas/electricity (54%), cutting back on take-home meals (34%) and switching to cheaper grocery brands (29%).

The Nielsen Global Survey of Consumer Confidence and Spending Intentions was conducted between Nov. 23, 2011 and Dec. 9, 2011.

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Supervalu announces work force reduction

BY Michael Johnsen

MINNEAPOLIS — Supervalu on Tuesday announced plans to reduce its national work force by an estimated 800 positions. A majority of these reductions will take place by the close of the company’s fiscal year on Feb. 25, 2012. The reductions include both current positions and open jobs that will not be filled.

“These reductions are necessary to help further strengthen and accelerate Supervalu’s business turnaround in a very competitive marketplace," Supervalu president and CEO Craig Herkert said. “While the announcement of a work force reduction is difficult news to share, due to its direct impact on our associates, these changes will allow us to better connect with customers and put more authority in the hands of people who interact more closely with our customers.”

In general, store level associates are not affected by this announcement, the grocer stated.

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Walmart calls out healthy foods with ‘Great For You’ icon

BY Allison Cerra

WASHINGTON — In an effort to assure customers that private-label products are meeting the proper nutrition criteria, Walmart announced it is implementing a transparent initiative called "Great For You," an icon that calls out healthy foods sold in Walmart stores, Walmart announced on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

Initially appearing on fruits, vegetables and the retailer’s Walmart Great Value and Marketside brands this spring — and eventually made available to national brand products that qualify — Great For You is looking to make it easier for shoppers to build healthier diets. Items that tout the icon must meet criteria based on the latest nutrition science and authoritative guidance from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Institute of Medicine. Walmart said Great for You also "can be complementary to other nutrition labeling systems being used by the food industry."

“Walmart moms are telling us they want to make healthier choices for their families, but need help deciphering all the claims and information already displayed on products,” Walmart SVP sustainability Andrea Thomas said. “Our ‘Great For You’ icon provides customers with an easy way to quickly identify healthier food choices. As they continue to balance busy schedules and tight budgets, this simple tool encourages families to have a healthier diet.”

The announcement builds on the retailer’s declaration last year to make food healthier and more affordable. The initiative includes reformulating packaged food to reduce sodium and added sugars and eliminate industrially produced fats by 2015; making healthier food more affordable by providing savings on produce and reducing the price premium on better-for-you food items; developing solutions for food deserts; and increasing charitable support for nutrition education programs.

“Today’s announcement by Walmart is yet another step toward ensuring that our kids are given the chance to grow up healthy,” First Lady Michelle Obama said. “Just over a year ago, Walmart committed to save shoppers a billion dollars in their cost of fruits and vegetables and the fact that Walmart exceeded this number is a real accomplishment and a milestone in our efforts to support families eating better. In addition, the healthy seal will be another tool for parents to identify the best products for their kids. Giving parents the information they need to make healthy choices is a key piece of solving childhood obesity.”

Additional details about Walmart’s Great for You icon can be found here.

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