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Thursday, January 20, 2011

A food revolution

This is an amazing story from the New York Times:

"Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, will announce a five-year plan on Thursday to make thousands of its packaged foods lower in unhealthy salts, fats and sugars, and to drop prices on fruits and vegetables.

"The initiative came out of discussions the company has been having with Michelle Obama, the first lady, who will attend the announcement in Washington and has made healthy eating and reducing childhood obesity the centerpiece of her agenda. Aides say it is the first time Mrs. Obama has thrown her support behind the work of a single company.

"The plan, similar to efforts by other companies and to public health initiatives by New York City, sets specific targets for lowering sodium, trans fats and added sugars in a broad array of foods — including rice, soups, canned beans, salad dressings and snacks like potato chips — packaged under the company’s house brand, Great Value.

"In interviews previewing the announcement, Wal-Mart and White House officials said the company was also pledging to press its major food suppliers, like Kraft, to follow its example. Wal-Mart does not disclose how much of its sales come from its house brand. But Kraft says about 16 percent of its global sales are through Wal-Mart.

"In addition, Wal-Mart will work to eliminate any extra cost to customers for healthy foods made with whole grains, said Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for corporate affairs. By lowering prices on fresh fruits and vegetables, Wal-Mart says it will cut into its own profits but hopes to make up for it in sales volume. “This is not about asking the farmers to accept less for their crops,” he said.

Is this a crime story? You better believe it is!

Poor nutrition and inactivity kill about 300,000 Americans a year, so says the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control). And much of that is due to the foods we eat, that are marketed to us and sold to us by large companies. When those companies change, so too, will we.

Wal-Mart is significant " ... because Wal-Mart sells more groceries than any other company in the country, and because it is such a large purchaser of foods produced by national suppliers." Thus, "nutrition experts say the changes could have a big impact on the affordability of healthy food and the health of American families and children."


  1. Well I think this will be great! I feel it is rare that we see Wal-mart portrayed in a positive light since usually it is people saying what an evil corporation it is. Every doctor and nutritionist will tell you how much better organic foods are for you; however, it will cost you an arm and a leg. If Wal-mart will be able to improve food WHILE cutting costs, I believe that obesity rates in America will go down. Although, this does seem to good to be true so I look forward to seeing if Wal-Mart can make this happen or not. It's nice to see the media focusing on a story that can relate to pretty much everyone.

  2. Even now at Wal-Mart, buying fruits and vegetables as snacks ends up being cheaper than most items found on the chip aisle. The most expensive part of my receipts are usually the less healthy foods. As we said in class today, Wal-Mart doing this would force grocery stores (even organic foods stores) to lower their prices enough to have a shot at competing or keeping their current customers.

  3. I find these proposed changes wonderful, especially since Wal-Mart is pledging to address the food deserts in economically disadvantaged areas. What a savvy way to combat the anti-Walmart sentiment in the world (sorry, the cynic in me). I have reservations about this, especially as my family’s sole source of income is from a distribution company that I imagine has already been affected by Walmart, and changes like this continue to make it hard for smaller companies to compete. Still, it’s really easy for me to say that with my easy access to quality grocery stores and enough money to feed my family. This really is a win for people who currently don’t have access to quality foods, either because of economic or geographic barriers.
    I do have to agree with a previous poster in that the processed foods are what drives up the food cost. This week I spent about $50 for my family of three that would easily fit within any health guidelines, and I have no “boxed” foods (other than some cereal). I just think education about nutrition and planning is necessary.
    However, I disagree with you on the point you made about companies changing first. I think that consumers have to be responsible for demanding change. Businesses will only make healthier decisions if that’s what we buy. Just as we discussed about media in class, a business will produce what people want to consume.

  4. Very good last point, a lot of what we do controls the market of wal-mart and any other grocery story. But I think until some people see the healthy stuff as the great deal and lower price, it is far less likely that diets/what we buy will be changing.
    We control the market, but I don't think we will change it unless healthier foods are around the same price.

  5. Yes, any other grocery story. Oops.
    Grocery Store, my apologies.

  6. Well as much as I dislike Wal-Mart this is a great thing they are doing. I honestly feel that Wal-Mart needed to try something to change their bad reputation, but like most who say bad things about Wal-Mart they still shop there, rather for convinience or saving money!