Home Health News What Do You Think? Walmart Making Healthy Eating Cheaper?

What Do You Think? Walmart Making Healthy Eating Cheaper?

by Erika Nicole Kendall

Last week, while BGG2WL was discussing ways to live and eat healthier on the cheap, this happened (the most important parts are in bold):

WASHINGTON — 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.

The changes will be introduced slowly, over a period of five years, to give the company time to overcome technical hurdles and to give consumers time to adjust to foods’ new taste, Mr. Dach said. “It doesn’t do you any good to have healthy food if people don’t eat it.”


But Wal-Mart is pushing only so far. The company’s proposed sugar reductions are “much less aggressive” than they could be, Mr. Jacobson said, noting that Wal-Mart is not proposing to tackle the problem of added sugars in soft drinks, which experts regard as a major contributor to childhood obesity. And he said it would be “nice if Wal-Mart’s timeline were speedier” than five years.

Wal-Mart has been planning the initiative for more than a year; the effort was in its early stages when Ms. Obama joined it. The first lady’s appearance with Mr. Dach and other Wal-Mart executives when they make the announcement at a community center in Washington’s Anacostia neighborhood on Thursday morning is out of the ordinary and a prominent effort by the administration to spur further moves toward healthier food.

“We’re not just aligning ourselves with one company; we’re aligning ourselves with people who are stepping up as leaders to take this country to a healthier place,” said Sam Kass, the White House chef who doubles as Mrs. Obama’s top adviser on matters of nutrition.

“There’s no qualms about that,” Mr. Kass said. “The only question that we have is do we think this is a significant step in that direction, and do we think there is a method in place to track progress, and do we think this will have the impact we are pushing for.”

Over the last year, Mr. Kass and other aides to the first lady have spent countless hours in meetings with company officials; both Mr. Kass and Mr. Dach said Mrs. Obama pushed the company to hold itself accountable by issuing public progress reports. The Partnership for a Healthier America, a nonprofit organization that works with the first lady on her Let’s Move initiative to reduce childhood obesity, will monitor the company’s progress.

The changes will not happen overnight. Wal-Mart is pledging to reduce sodium by 25 percent, eliminate industrially added trans fats and reduce added sugars by 10 percent by 2015. Its other plans are less specific. In addition to proposing to lower prices on healthy foods, Wal-Mart is planning to develop criteria, and ultimately a seal, that will go on truly healthier foods, as measured by their sodium, fat and sugar content.

The company says it will also address the problem of “food deserts” — a dearth of grocery stores selling fresh produce in rural and underserved urban areas like Anacostia — by building more stores. And it will increase charitable contributions for nutrition programs.

A range of studies has shown that low-income people, especially those who receive food stamps, face special dietary challenges because eating healthy costs more and healthier food is harder to get in their neighborhoods. James D. Weill, president of Food Research and Action Center, an organization that has discussed the problem with Wal-Mart, said the company  recognized “how much hunger and food insecurity there is in the country.”

Mr. Dach said the lower prices and food reformulations were motivated by the demands of Wal-Mart’s own customers. He said the company believed that, if it was successful, the price reductions would save Americans who shop at Wal-Mart approximately $1 billion a year on fresh fruits and vegetables alone.

“Our customers have always told us, ’We don’t understand why whole wheat macaroni and cheese costs more than regular macaroni and cheese,’ ” Mr. Dach said, adding, “We’ve always said that we don’t think the Wal-Mart shopper should have to choose between a product that is healthier for them and what they can afford.”

Mr. Jacobson, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said that reducing sodium was the trickiest of the food reformulation challenges. Sodium is in every food category, and it is more difficult to replace than the partly hydrogenated oil that composes trans fats, or than sugars, because there are easy substitutes for oils and sugars. But sodium, which contributes to hypertension and raises the risk of heart disease, must simply be reduced, which can greatly alter taste.

Mr. Dach said the company had yet to conquer its reformulation challenges, and described the goals as both aspirational and realistic. “We think it’s a realistic target, but it’s aspirational in the sense that we can’t tell you today how it’s all going to get done,” he said.

My thoughts on this are so long… that if I posted them today, I don’t think anyone would read them.

I would like to know your thoughts, though. How do you feel about Walmart’s new initiatives?

You may also like


manda January 25, 2011 - 11:10 AM

Wal-Mart, as usual is full of manure. I have nothing good to say about Wal-Mart. I have not stepped foot in a Wal-Mart in over a year. I made a conscious effort after we left Florida to do so, and I have stuck to my guns. From their practices to the way they treat the consumer and employees the can suck it.

Michelle January 27, 2011 - 7:03 PM

im not buying anything from walmart until they treat their employees better, they end up selling things so cheap that everything around them goes under when they dont even match the quality.

Shante January 25, 2011 - 11:50 AM

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand I think it is great and every step in the right direction is a great help. Growing up my mother both a lot of processed food because it was all she could afford, or really thought she could afford. I always begged her to let me do the shopping but that is another story. Anyway hopefully it will encourage people to make better decisions.
Now this worries me because I am pretty upset with myself for what I just noticed in my cabinet. I have peanut butter from “skipper” you know what I mean. Anyway it is all natural and is in the smart choices program. I hate to say it but i’ve been eating this stuff for years and never really thought of the palm oil. The extra bit of sugar is ok for me because I don’t eat a lot of it or a lot of extra sugar. However the deeper I have gotten into eating clean I have learned that this mess is no bueno.
So my point is these programs to help people make better choices are flawed. Business is business and they need to make money, so they will make somethings cheaper for the sake of making a buck. I’m sure it is going to be a lot of fake foods. Only time will tell though but like I said hopefully it will be the step in the right direction for some people with poor food choices.
The more people get behind eating clean, healthy foods the cheaper they will be in the end. So maybe if a bunch of people start doing it at Walmart it will take off everywhere else.

Eva January 25, 2011 - 11:59 AM

Wal-Mart is only saying that because they want to open up a store in NYC and there’s a lot of resistance. You should hear the radio commercials they’re putting out, making it look like the politicians don’t want New Yorkers to have cheaper places to shop.

Erika January 25, 2011 - 12:05 PM


Someone JUST put me onto this a few days ago. I need information – as much as I can get – surrounding this fight against Wal-Mart putting stores in NYC. There are lots of records of cities successfully fighting against walmart setting up shop (I live in one currently) but THIS in particular? THIS is interesting.

shimbir January 25, 2011 - 6:21 PM

Gawker has some articles about the Wal-Mart plan for NYC, including stories from commenters on how bad Wal-Mart really is to customers and patrons alike. The New York Times has an article on this as well.





FatSugarSalt January 30, 2011 - 8:10 PM

Last time I checked. Walmart is planning to setup shop at four locations in DC. (not Georgetown of course).

There’s a very nice Safeway nearby one proposed location, on Georgia Ave. Wonder about Safeway has to say about this hmmmm. The traffic will be murder– don’t think the neighborhood will like that. Who wants to live next door to a Walmart?

I’m also concerned about how this move will affect small businesses and especially Black businesses.Over the years too many Black businesses have been pushed out. Unfortunately when it comes to “the power of the people” DC residents have to suffer through the shenanigans of carpetbaggers & overseers. But that’s another story.

Tabitha January 25, 2011 - 1:47 PM



Erika January 25, 2011 - 4:02 PM

Got it covered. 🙂

Danielle January 25, 2011 - 7:09 PM

Haha I came on here to post about that too!
Great minds think alike 🙂

Michelle January 27, 2011 - 7:06 PM

Make sure you put the FDA on blast for allowing certain market serve this filled meat…I think they said something like 40 % meat is exceptable and people are mad at taco bell for being 35%….what happened to 100% they said it’s cheaper and they putting all kinds of unpronounceable crap in there to stretch the meat.

Erika January 27, 2011 - 7:21 PM

Don’t you worry… it’s coming. 🙂

Lorrie January 28, 2011 - 3:08 PM

Anyone who ate at Taco Bell who could not tell the meat was not really ground beef needs a check up. I knew the meat had additives because the ground beef I cooked at home was completely different. We do not need the media to bust a company to know they are wrong.

Green Afro Diva January 25, 2011 - 3:53 PM

This is what I’m talking about with taking corporate responsibility and ethics. Walmart does not have to pull this move and can just continue to sell the same items it does to it’s customers. A $1 billion dollar loss for them is a drop in the bucket. At least it shows that they are starting to listen to it’s customer base and are not so focused on maintaining their bottom line. I have my own personal gripes with Walmart, but I’d honestly would rather shop there than at Save-A-Lot or some other convience store in the hood. This is the first step in the right direction and as Walmart sets the tone, hopefully other companies will do the same.

Chintel January 25, 2011 - 4:27 PM

Well, I have a lot to say on the subject. I live in a small city in Texas and we have only Walmart or H.E.B as far as grocery stores go. I was dead set againt Walmart until about a year ago. The reason for that is the generic brands. Walmart generic brands are actually good. They aren’t exact on with the national brand but they are good. This other store HEB generics are horrible. So I got away spending less at walmart by buying generic.

Now i find it funny that Walmart says they want to start going low sodium and healty because the one that i go to stopped selling low sodium ham at the deli. I have called and complained but they still havent got it back yet.

I think that its a good plan to start selling healthy food at a resonable price. But idk why it should take 5 years to make it happen. They need to just start replacing certain items now. They just don’t want to stop that money flow so quick.

But i have found that when u first begin to eat clean u do spend a little extra. Now that i know what im doing i spend way less. I read labels a little closer and have researched things im not sure about. So just because the label says its healthy doesnt mean that it is. You have to read for urself. Like the “Chicken Sausage”.

Jas January 25, 2011 - 4:44 PM

The cons outweigh the pros with Walmart selling ‘healthier’ foods at discounted prices. While its great that they are acknowledging that their healthier foods are over priced and their efforts would ease the budgets of many people phasing into a healthier lifestyle, this seems like a push to become the one stop shopping arena that will eventually close smaller grocers that are currently doing what walmart wants to phase into in 5 years. Also, there is very little health benefit to Walmarts healthy options. They’re basically saying ‘our processed foods will give you diabetes in 8 yrs instead of 5, isn’t that great?’ Walmart will always have discounted items, but real health requires quality foods and dedicating the time to find and prepare nourishing meals.

Monika January 25, 2011 - 6:47 PM

I do not trust them. Not at all.
This sounds so dishonest…a “five year period” to install the new concept? Hoping that within these five years there will be another first lady in the white house who does not care about food choices and conscious eating?
Within these five years how many people will die or get seriously ill due to poor eating and/or poisoned food?
If they were sure they could make any profit out of it, the change would be literally overnight, having all employees working double shift for a low wage.
This feels wrong on so many levels, I cannot even figure out what is worst.
I am truly thankful that they closed their stores in germany years ago. I have never seen so much bad food in one place before.
Sorry for my bad english, but it is not my first language.

T.R. January 25, 2011 - 7:05 PM

Well I don’t have to add anything else because Manda, Shante, Eva, Chintel and Jas have pretty much covered some of my initial thoughts. And Erica I have a feeling you’ll round out my more processed thoughts. All these companies do this stuff and want us to buy into because the White House is backing it. Jas point was right on for me. We the consumer still have to do our work and read labels and MAKE our own meals. But I’ll take a wait and see approach. And to be fair and divulge my bias, I’m like Manda I trust Wal Mart like I trust a junkie who needs a fix.

Filippa January 25, 2011 - 9:13 PM

Hello, Erica

I truly enjoy your blog, You are an inspiration. Wal-Mart has been exposed in documentaries like The High Cost of Low Price. Although I applaud the First Lady and her campagin against obesity in children. Our president slammed them (Wal-Mart) earlier in his campaign for thier unfair wages and labor pratices..Politics make strange bedfellows.

P.S. Have you seen the Sister that is suing Mickey D’s about advertising ( marketing ) the toy with The Happy Meal hmm.

Erika January 25, 2011 - 10:52 PM

I’m trying to figure out whether or not posting “The High Cost Of Low Prices” on this blog would be me “jumping the shark,” but the reality is that a lot of my readership relies on walmart simply because there’s no other options for them to do their shopping (for one reason or another.)

Those of us who can afford to stand on our platitudes in regards to their labor practices absolutely should… I just don’t know whether or not it’s worth it to make a big deal out of it HERE, when we’re focusing on just trying to get by eating healthily and not breaking the bank doing it.. you know?

Jaci January 26, 2011 - 12:54 PM

“reduce sodium by 25 percent, eliminate industrially added trans fats and reduce added sugars by 10 percent by 2015.”

… “Measured by their sodium, fat and sugar content.”

… “Sodium is in every food category, and it is more difficult to replace than the partly hydrogenated oil that composes trans fats, or than sugars, because there are easy substitutes for oils and sugars. ”

So in other words they are still going to sell the processed yuck, only they are going to pad it with substitutes… Don’t believe that this is healthier for anyone!

Tabitha January 26, 2011 - 9:57 PM

@ Erica – I’m with you….I admit I shop @ Walmart proudly becuz I can fill my shopping cart with whole foods without emptying my bank account!

Paceon January 27, 2011 - 8:15 PM

Walmart’s business practices aside, the difficulty I’m having with all this is, that a campaign like this is likely to be unsuccessful reaching the people who need it most. While this initiative grants access to “better” foods, there is no mention of educating people about food choices. The reductions in sodium, sugar, etc., will be in packaged foods. The majority of these types of foods is still a “poor choice.” People will not likely be choosing these foods because of their increased ‘nutritional value’; they are likely choosing them out of convenience. (If someone has never eaten, or knows nothing about avacados, he is not likely to purchase them because they are suddenly cheaper.) It does not create a healthier lifestyle.

Rosalind January 28, 2011 - 1:00 PM

I think its good Wal-Mart is making this effort to have healthier selections in their stores at more affordable prices. I shop at Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and other stores because I’m looking for the quality foods at the best price. After that statement, you may ask, “why would I include Wal-Mart?” One of the things Wal-Mart has done is to carry more organic items in their stores and sometimes compared to Whole Foods it is a lot cheaper. Also, regardless of what and when Wal-Mart is phasing in their healthier food selection, I think education and being aware of what you are buying is still the biggest factor. The education piece about healthier foods and choices is extremely important and needs to continue regardless of how and when Wal-Mart rolls their healthier selection initiative. Wal-Mart is a corporation, which will spend millions of dollars on marketing and advertising as part of the solution to fight obesity and obesity-related diseases. However, we need to make sure we are ahead of them and educate our communities and ourselves about healthy eating before slick advertisement tells us what healthy eating is about.
What needs to happen in rural and urban areas is the continue push in making sure people understand what are healthy foods and make conscience choices to add those foods in their baskets when they shop.

Lorrie January 28, 2011 - 3:04 PM

The concept is a good one and with politics you can never please everyone. Partnering with grocers across America who have the ability to reach urban areas with cheap alternatives to healthy foods that middle class and wealthy Americans take for granted. Although Walmart is surrounded by controversy, the company is fiscally sound: it provides jobs, access to fresh foods in food deserts and have a wide variety of locations. Their sales generate sales taxes for city revenue and is an American business that promotes American products. Yes, they dont pay well and do not provide medical insurance however I see that as a policy issue that needs to be addressed by voter participation so the wrong candidates dont get voted into congressional offices! (Umm..ughmm anyone up for a tea party?) What people dont realize is those candidates who become our congressmen/women start out locally with city councils, DA’s offices and graduate up to Mayors and assemblyman/women. Once they get to congress there are NO term limits. Now we have elected officials who plan to or who are attempting to roll back insurance options for all that would not place the burden of insurance completely on private companies. Anyway, NO I dont work for Walmart, I just want anyone readnig to consider the fiscal impact of federal initiatives, the sustainability of them and analyze thoughtfully why Mrs. Obama would strategically choose Walmart. I think it is a smart choice although a bit ironic. Personally, I would like to see the administration partner with a company like Fresh & Easy however the problem with this company is that is not American owned to my knowledge, then you get into the question of whether or not our administration would want to politically support a foreign company for American initiatives. I support Michelle in this endeavor because we have to be willing to compromise and take the good with the bad not just the good. We must be “centered” not too far left or too far right or we will remain polarized as a nation and no work will every get done.

Chanel January 28, 2011 - 5:37 PM

I just saw an MSNBC documentary on supermarkets that stated that WALMART was the number one grocery chain IN THE COUNTRY! As much as I personally dislike Walmart, they are affordable and accessible. I think the initiatives intentions are well meaning but I don’t trust the folks at Walmart as far as I can throw them. To me, this is just another opportunity for them to get working class dollars.

Robyn May 8, 2011 - 1:28 PM

I have never shopped at Wal-Mart, because I’m from New York 😛

I hope Mrs. Obama is also focusing on getting farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) to more people, especially those who live in food deserts.

This is a great website for finding farmers markets and CSA’s in your area:

Eating fruits and veggies is great, but getting them locally assures that they are fresh and packed with nutrients.

I don’t know where Wal-Mart plans to get these cheap fruits and veggies from…. China?

Vee May 18, 2012 - 2:19 PM

I have found some good produce at Wal-Mart. I like buying their 20 oz 24 pks of water I typically buy 4 big containers of water.

Comments are closed.