Walmart Launches Major Initiative to Make Food Healthier, More Affordable

January 20, 2011, 11:01 AM HST · Updated January 20, 11:01 AM
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By Sonia Isotov

At an event today in Washington, D.C., Walmart, unveiled a comprehensive effort to provide its customers with healthier and more affordable food choices.

The company was joined by First Lady Michelle Obama as it outlined the five key elements of the program including:

  1. Reformulating thousands of everyday packaged food items by 2015 by reducing sodium 25 percent and added sugars 10 percent, and by removing all remaining industrially produced trans fats. The company will work with suppliers to improve the nutritional quality of national food brands and its Great Value private brand in key product categories to complete the reformulations;
  2. Making healthier choices more affordable, Walmart will also dramatically reduce or eliminate the price premium on key “better-for-you” items, such as reduced sodium, sugar or fat products;
  3. Developing strong criteria for a simple front-of-package seal that will help consumers instantly identify truly healthier food options such as whole grain cereal, whole wheat pasta or unsweetened canned fruit;
  4. Providing solutions to address food deserts by building stores in underserved communities that are in need of fresh and affordable groceries; and
  5. Increasing charitable support for nutrition programs that help educate consumers about healthier food solutions and choices.

“No family should have to choose between food that is healthier for them and food they can afford,” said Bill Simon, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. “We are committed to working with suppliers, government and non-governmental organizations to provide solutions that help Americans eat healthier and live a better life.”

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This program builds on the success of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign to make healthy choices more convenient and affordable for families.

Walmart says it will reformulate key product categories of its Great Value private brand and collaborate with suppliers to reformulate national brands within the same categories by 2015. The effort is designed to help reduce the consumption of sodium, sugar and trans fats, which are major contributors to the epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases in America today, including high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. The reformulation initiative includes three components:

  • Reduce sodium by 25 percent in a broad category of grocery items, including grain products, luncheon meats, salad dressings and frozen entrees;
  • Reduce added sugars by 10 percent in dairy items, sauces and fruit drinks; and
  • Remove all remaining industrially produced trans fats (partially hydrogenated fats and oils) in all packaged food products.

Walmart says it will also dramatically reduce or eliminate the price premium on “better-for-you” options such as reduced sodium, sugar or fat on products from the same manufacturer.

“Our customers often ask us why whole wheat pasta sometimes costs more than regular pasta made by the same manufacturer,” added Thomas. “We will use our size and scale to reduce the price premium on these types of products whenever possible because customers shouldn’t have to pay more to eat healthier.”

In addition, Walmart will develop a simple front-of-package seal in consultation with health organizations to help customers identify healthier food for their families.

Later this year, Walmart says it will add this seal to its private branded food products that meet the strong criteria and will also offer the seal to its suppliers for their national brands that qualify. This effort will complement the front-of package nutrition labeling system already being discussed by the food industry.

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