Washington: At an event yesterday here, 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, saving customers approximately $1 billion per year on fresh fruits and vegetables through a variety of sourcing, pricing and transportation and logistics initiatives that will drive unnecessary costs out of the supply chain. 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. "With more than 140 million customer visits each week, Walmart is uniquely positioned to make a difference by making food healthier and more affordable to everyone. 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."
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 and is consistent with Walmart's commitment to lead on social issues that matter to its customers.
"We applaud First Lady Michelle Obama's leadership and commitment to this important cause," said Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart. "Few individuals have done more to raise awareness of the importance of healthier habits—especially among children—than she has. She was a catalyst that helped make today's announcement a reality and her spirit of collaboration made our commitment to bring better nutrition to kitchen tables across this country even stronger."
Walmart 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.
As its suppliers make choices on reformulating their products beyond the Walmart supply chain, the company expects millions of Americans to benefit whether they shop at Walmart or not.
"Our customers tell us they want a variety of food choices and need help feeding their families healthier foods. At Walmart, we are committed to doing both," said Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart. "We support consumer choice, so this is not about telling people what they should eat. Our customers understand that products like cookies and ice cream are meant to be an indulgent treat. This effort is aimed at eliminating sodium, sugar and trans fat in products where they are not really needed."
"I applaud Walmart for moving the food industry in a healthier direction," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. "Walmart's action should virtually eliminate artificial trans fat and significantly reduce salt in packaged foods, and, most importantly, prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks and strokes each year."
Walmart’s everyday low price business model will help make healthier food more affordable. The company will take a number of steps to provide customers even more savings on fresh produce through a variety of sourcing, pricing and transportation and logistics initiatives that will drive efficiencies throughout the supply chain and further reduce unnecessary costs. For example, one initiative will establish more direct relationships with farmers, which typically results in additional income for farmers and lower and more consistent prices for customers.
“If we are successful in our efforts to lower prices, we believe we can save Americans who shop at Walmart approximately $1 billion per year on fresh fruit and vegetables,” Thomas said.
Walmart 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. Customers should be able to choose knowing the biggest difference in these products is not the price, but rather that one is better for you."
In addition, Walmart will develop a simple front-of-package seal in conjunction with health organizations to help customers identify healthier food for their families. The seal will be supported by a nutritious food standard designed to increase vitamins, minerals, whole grains, fruits and vegetables in food products, while limiting saturated fats, sodium and added sugars.
Later this year, Walmart 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 products that qualify shortly thereafter. This effort will complement the front-of-package nutrition labeling system already being discussed by the food industry.
"The simple front-of-package seal will apply to a small number of healthier products and give customers an easy way to instantly identify food options that are better for them and save them time when shopping our stores," Thomas said.
Simon added: "We are committed to working collaboratively and in partnership with our suppliers in order to make this initiative a success. Many of them are already exhibiting strong leadership in this area and together we can have an enormous impact on the health and well being of our customers and their families."
The company has also made it a business priority to find innovative ways to provide fresh and affordable groceries to people in urban and rural communities across America that are living in food deserts.
"As we continue to expand in the U.S., we are focused on developing new formats and new approaches that will offer underserved communities fresh and affordable food options where they are needed most," Simon said.
Last year, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation launched a $2 billion effort to help fight hunger through 2015 by donating fresh, nutritious foods to food banks across the nation. This year the company will increase charitable support for food and nutrition programs by funding education efforts that teach consumers about healthier food options. The Walmart Foundation recently awarded Share Our Strength, a national organization dedicated to providing children facing hunger with nutritious food, a $1.5 million grant to fund the expansion of the "Cooking Matters" and launch of the "Shopping Matters" nutrition education programs.
Walmart will work with the Partnership for a Healthier America, a non-partisan convener of private-public sector efforts to solve the nation's obesity challenge, as part of its commitment to accountability and transparency.