According to the company's website, first lady Michelle Obama joined Wal-Mart CEO Bill Simon as he outlined the five key parts of the program:
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- 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 brand in key product categories (reduce sodium 25 percent, reduce sugars by 10 percent, remove all industrially produced trans fats) to complete the reformulations.
- 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. Wal-Mart will also dramatically reduce or eliminate the price premium on key "better-for-you" items, such as reduced sodium, sugar or fat products.
- 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.
- Providing solutions to address "food deserts" by building stores in underserved communities that are in need of fresh and affordable groceries.
- Increasing charitable support for nutrition programs that help educate consumers about healthier food solutions and choices.
As stated in No. 2, Wal-Mart is finding ways to get fresh foods to the market more cheaply. Part of this initiative is to establish more direct relationships with farmers, which Wal-Mart officials say, will result in additional income for farmers and lower prices for consumers. If successful, Wal-Mart claims this initiative alone will save Americans approximately $1 billion annually.
The company also plans to use its considerable industry leverage to reduce the premium on healthier options from the same manufacturer. For example, bringing down prices on whole wheat pasta closer to white pasta.
"No family should have to choose between food that is healthier for them and food they can afford," Simon said in a Wal-Mart release.
Wal-Mart plans to achieve these goals and more by 2015. If a company can make this kind of massive move possible — it's Walmart.
The corporate juggernaut sees sales of $405 billion annually, in more than 8,700 stores, in 15 countries, employing more than $2 million worldwide.
The company is the world's largest grocer, so when they make a move, the entire industry moves with them.
People love or hate Wal-Mart for a multitude of reasons, but you have to applaud this new initiative. This healthier foods initiative is a revolutionary move by Wal-Mart, and I am pleasantly surprised by the unusually resolute and transparent revelation from a member of what I call "big corporate."
A congratulations to first lady Michelle Obama, and the Partnership For a Healthier America for a major win for American consumers.
Chad Smith is a Hagerstown personal trainer, and co-owner of Home Team Fitness LLC. Visit his website, www.hometeamfitness.net, or find him on Facebook www.facebook.com/hometeamfitness.