January 21, 2011

Walmart Vows To Make Store Brand Foods Healthier

Walmart, the largest grocer in the United States, will reformulate many of the store brand products they offer to make them healthier, the company announced on Thursday.

Representatives from the Bentonville, Arkansas-based retail giant were joined by First Lady and anti-obesity crusader Michelle Obama as they announced the changes to their packaged food products during a press conference at the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC) in Washington D.C. on Thursday.

As part of the new initiative, Walmart is looking to reduce sodium in their "Great Value" products by 25% and added sugars by 10% by 2015. They will also strive to eliminate "all remaining industrially produced trans fat" from their products, and are vowing to reduce prices on healthier goods--including both fruits and vegetables, as well as low sodium, low sugar, and low fat foods.

Furthermore, Walmart said that they are looking to build stores "in underserved communities that are in need of fresh and affordable groceries" while also "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," Bill Simon, the president and CEO of Walmart in the U.S, said in a statement. "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," he added.

Obama praised the company's efforts, telling reporters that they have "the potential to transform the marketplace and help Americans put healthier foods on their tables every single day" and that seeing "a company like Wal-Mart launch an initiative like this" made her "feel more hopeful than ever before."

"We applaud First Lady Michelle Obama's leadership and commitment to this important cause," Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart, said. "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."

Ball State University Economics Professor Michael Hicks, the author of a book about Walmart's economic impact, called the announcement "a game changer."
"If Wal-Mart could reduce the prices on healthy food and provide access to them in more places, you could have a measurable effect on incidences of diabetes and heart-related ailments," he told Associated Press (AP) reporters Mary Clare Jalonick and Anne D'innocenzio Thursday.


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