Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer, announced it would reformulate thousands of Private Brand Great Value products to make them healthier and encourage its national brand suppliers to do the same, joining first lady Michelle Obama’s effort to combat childhood obesity.
The first lady accompanied Walmart executives Thursday as they announced the effort in Washington, DC. The retailer plans to reduce sodium and added sugars in many food products, build stores in food deserts, reduce prices on produce and develop a sub-brand or endorser logo to simplify shopping selecting healthier foods.
“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.
As the largest grocer the company also has massive influence on products made by other manufacturers and sold at the store.
This is a significant and far reaching initiative that will be felt by manufacturers, customers and competitors alike, it is an impressive commitment to leverage both its Private Brands and its buying power to encourage better health and create differentiation for its stores. However Walmart’s impact is so far reaching that the differentiation may be short lived, as vendors by necessity will shift recipes for most if not all of the products they manufacture. This is a great opportunity for Private Brands to lead innovation and become the foods of choice for mom’s that want to serve healthier food.
“We are really gaining some momentum on this issue, we’re beginning to see things move,” she said.
The nation’s largest retailer plans to reduce sodium by a quarter and cut added sugars in some of its private label products by 2015. It also plans to remove remaining industrially produced trans fats. The foods Walmart will concentrate on our products like lunch meats, fruit juices and salad dressings, items that contain high levels of sugar or sodium that consumers don’t know they’re ingesting.”
During the press conference Wednesday, Andrea Thomas, Wal-Mart‘s senior vice president of sustainability and former senior vice president of private label brands said “We see our role as a convener and a catalyst. ”
“Our customers often ask us why whole wheat pasta sometimes costs more than regular pasta made by the same manufacturer,” said Thomas.