Walmart To Cut Sodium And Reduce Produce Prices

Walmart has announced a massive plan to cut sodium and added sugar from thousands of products, add stores in poor areas that don’t currently have supermarkets, and slash prices on produce. The plans were announced in partnership with First Lady Michelle Obama, whose “Lets Move” campaign aims to cut childhood obesity rates.

The First Lady joined Walmart executives in making the announcement, and said the company’s plans offer “the potential to transform the marketplace and help Americans put healthier foods on their tables every single day.” While Walmart’s plan was praised by the First Lady, some critics see the company’s move as less than altruistic, and too tentative on the sugar front. As ABC News put it,

Walmart may have joined the first lady’s campaign ultimately to help its bottom line. The company has been trying to open stores in big cities and says if they’re allowed, they would bring healthier food to places with limited access to groceries….

[Michael Jacobson, executive director of the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, told ABC News that] the retailer took a baby step on sugar. “I’m disappointed they didn’t do anything with regard to soft drinks. They are the number one source of sugar and probably the biggest contributor in our diet to weight gain.”

Walmart plans to reduce sodium by 25%, cut added sugars, and eliminate trans fats from its private-label products. The company also expects to reduce produce prices by $1 billion a year, largely by pushing its suppliers to cut their costs.

Michelle Obama and Walmart join forces to promote healthy eating [ABC News]

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  1. ARP says:

    Well played WMT. Push for stores in food deserts and short circuit fair wage protesters.

  2. Bernardo says:

    I love walmart!
    The faster they come to NYC the better. First they bring fare prices to America, then they expand and with it crushing needless overpaid unions who stand in the way of what America is about. Then they start promoting the better light bulb and now this. Id rather buy my food there instead of an insanly priced whole foods and or everything else we have robbing the people of this city.

    • Alvis says:

      Fare prices? Walmart’s selling bus passes now?

    • dangerp says:

      I might agree with the fair prices portion, except that walmart historically (as well as in the above article) hasn’t lowered prices by reducing their margin. Instead, they pressure their suppliers to drop their prices for walmart exclusively, even at the cost of cutting corners. There are a lot of products sold in walmart that are inferior to their identical brethren in other stores, even from the same manufacturer. Of course, the worst offendors are walmart’s own brands.

      You can say they bring cheap prices, but I wouldn’t call them fair.

      Whole foods is the opposite side of the spectrum. How about something in the middle?

      • SuperSnackTime says:

        [citation needed]

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          NPR broadcast affirms that Walmart has a tendency to bully their suppliers into lowering prices.

          • Big Mama Pain says:

            There’s LOTS of documentation that Walmart bullies its providers into dropping their prices. There’s a documentary (it was on PBS, I believe) that featured Walmart’s annual inventor expo, a place where unknown inventors of little gadgets and home needs come to get Walmart to buy their product. It’s a REALLY cool idea because no one else gives these guys a chance, but once they sign onto Walmart, Walmart starts to squeeze their bottom line. The inventor is forced to make small cost cutting measures that ultimately result in a flimsier product. Anyone know what the hell I am talking about? This was years ago that I saw it…

    • photoguy622 says:

      Why do unions get such a bad rap? Both of my parents work for unions and they have pensions and great medical benefits.

      Fact of the matter is, not that long ago people who weren’t in a union got the same benefits, but all our benefits have been cut and we are angry at union employees because of they still have great benefits when we should really be angry at the corporations who took our benefits away. My company has stopped matching my 401k, the pension has been closed, our insurance goes up every year (not this year yet, but I’m not holding my breath).

      • JohnnyP says:

        Must be an employee of Wal-Mart. They use propaganda in training to convince their employees that unions are bad and nothing good comes from them. Everybody else understands the good that comes from them. If unions were so bad for the employees why does Wal-Mart close stores that turn union instead of just letting them suffer? That is because they would have to treat the employees fairly.

      • macruadhi says:

        (quote)Why do unions get such a bad rap? Both of my parents work for unions and they have pensions and great medical benefits.(end quote)
        Because they make sure people are paid more than they are worth, they artificially raise the price of goods, and they tend to have a mob mentality.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          Neither scenario is completely palpable. Unions tend to have too much power, and non-union laborers too much.

          A median situation is more desirable.

        • photoguy622 says:

          My parents do not get paid more than they are worth. My mom works for Stop and Shop and has for 35+ years. She makes $60,000/year. My father worked for Pfizer for 37 years and when he retired made $60,000/year as well. Hardly overpaid for all the years they put in.

          I’m not sure how much the price of goods gets raised since food at Stop & Shop costs about the same as it does at non-union supermarkets.

          Lastly, at least when you work for a union you can’t be fired for no good reason.

    • zzyzzx says:

      The food prices at my local WalMart aren’t particularly good. A few items are cheaper there, but just a few. Aldi is much cheaper.

  3. Alvis says:

    Shouldn’t her campaign be “Let’s Move”?

    Someone’s got to stand up for the little apostrophe!

  4. jamster says:

    Because paying $1.39 per pound of brocoli is breaking the bank, we clearly need to reduce that even further. It seems like produce is already the best bang for the buck.

    • catnapped says:

      Wow…you lucky…it’s double that here

    • ChuckECheese says:

      Produce is much more expensive than meat, because people eat larger quantities of it than meat, and there is more loss from trim and waste than with meat. 1 lb of broccoli at $1.39 probably means about 2 – 4″ heads with stalks attached. That’s enough to feed 2 people a serving of broccoli, not very many calories and not much nutrition. The way to look at this is the price per calorie. There are many sources of this information online, and they all make the point clear that a diet of low-calorie foods (i.e., veg & fruit) is far more expensive than a calorie-dense-foods diet.

      Examples: In my market, Phoenix, it’s hard to find an apple for less than $1.29/lb. This means an apple costs about 50¢. I can get a box of mac & cheese for the same price. If money is a concern – and it is for many – they’re going for the mac & cheese.

      Walmart around here is charging high prices for produce: $3/bag for salad greens, $2 for a bell pepper, $1+ per lb for potatoes. Thing is, WM’s veggie prices are as high as anywhere in town. I know they’re getting good deals from their suppliers, and other stores (ethnic groceries mostly) sell the same stuff for a lot less money, so why can’t WM?

      • Outrun1986 says:

        Fruit and veggies are very seasonal here, you can get sweet potatoes for 29 cents around thanksgiving or even late summer. However from November till April or May is winter here and produce prices shoot up during that time. Grapes are $4 a pound, you don’t get many grapes in a pound either :( We do have a small farmers market here however their prices are on par with the grocery store or just slightly cheaper. They are cheap for apples though, but that is about the only thing they are cheap for. Just about the only fruit you can get cheap year round here is bananas at 45 to 50 cents per pound but I hear the prices on bananas are going up soon, and I love bananas!

        Even when in season produce is very expensive compared to other foods, as you say you can get a box of mac & cheese for 50 cents but that same 50 cents might only buy one apple at the store. The Mac & Cheese might be enough for an entire lunch for someone, when an apple isn’t going to be enough for an entire lunch. The biggest joke is grapes at $4 a pound and I have seen even higher here, you get hardly any in a pound too, so even if you were to give a serving to a couple family members as a side dish by the time you fed a family of 4 that pound of grapes would be gone.

      • jamster says:

        Americans are short on calories.

        • ChuckECheese says:

          Your fat-ist, trite joke is also shallow, because people far more intelligent than yourself have already made the point that it isn’t really possible to eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables unless you have a lot of money. It has been my experience that people eating on a budget will try to buy some healthy things, like juice or a tomato or two and maybe a head of lettuce, but the problem with American diets is that we need to be eating a lot more fruits and vegetables and whole grains. We are eating some, but not nearly enough. So the issue is that it isn’t affordable to eat these healthier foodstuffs in sufficient quantity to realize nutritional and health gains.

  5. Kate says:

    The food you buy at Walmart is not nearly the quality of the same exact product at other grodery stores. I’ve noticed that the Stouffer casseroles are of lower quality with lower quality meat and more breading in them comparably. It comes off like a switcheroo, supposedly something you can compare prices with, but it’s not the same thing.

    • Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

      I seriously doubt Walmart gets their own inferior versions of name brand products.

      • Magspie says:

        Really? They demand a lower price and there are only so many ways to get that. I know there are several baby item brands that make a ‘Target version’ that’s cheaper and not as good. They readily admit that and I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t read it on their own sites.
        Here’s someone that has experience with Walmart selling inferior electronics under the same model number:
        http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/NussbaumOnDesign/archives/2007/02/can_this_be_true_of_wal-mart.html
        It’s not food, but I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to say it could happen.

        • keepher says:

          All you have to do to believe it is look at the more recent recalls of name brand products. They were made for Wal-Mart with the same name and model number as those sold in other retail outlets. You didn’t hear about recalls of GE coffee pots or space heaters from any other retailers, just Wal Mart.

          If they cut the salt in their meat then it will probably be no better than trying to eat leather. I quit buying meat from there several years ago. The salty taste was too dominate and the meat was still inferior.

      • ludwigk says:

        They absolutely do get inferior versions of name-brand products, mostly in consumer goods such as clothing, tools, and electronics.

        Charles Fishman’s “The Walmart Effect” chronicles several stories of Walmart doing exactly this. Walmart’s scale allows them to purchase so much of a company’s production that they will make a separate line just to meet Walmart’s demands (x amount at y price).

      • dangerp says:

        Wrong, as other commenters have pointed out.

        Problem is, most consumers have the same viewpoint as you:

        “Oh, I see my favorite brand XYZ is fifty cents cheaper here, I’ll shop here now!”

        When in fact walmart buyers have negotiated with brand XYZ to produce cheaper products specifically for walmart’s shelves.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        This week, I’ll be taking a look at product quality in relation to Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT. As you may have read by now, Adidas AG, the second-largest maker of sporting goods globally, has said that a house brand of shoes sold at Wal-Mart may injure those that wear them. Now that’s quite a statement about product quality, yes?

        Adidas specifically said that Wal-Mart’s Athletic Works shoes should not be worn or used by runners, as they may cause injury. I’ve never heard of a shoe or sporting goods manufacturer state that a particular type of show would injure a runner, but there you have it. These Athletic Works shows are “not suitable to run in,” according to Adidas. How was this claim determined — and what about other Wal-Mart products that may have inferior quality? Read on.

        Unlike Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F), where “Quality is job #1,” quality apparently is not even near the top when it comes to Wal- Mart’s Athletic Works brand of shoes. The reason for the potential of these shoes to injure runners, according to Adidas, is that Wal-Mart house brand shoes in question are made with substandard materials.

        http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2008/06/21/the-wal-mart-weekly-those-shoes-arent-fit-to-run-in/

    • Robertinark says:

      Your nuts and another Wal-Mart hater…oh how chic!

    • tbax929 says:

      While I’m a Walmart fan, I will give you this one. I don’t generally buy food there, even though my sister manages a Walmart Neighborhood Market because I don’t think the food tastes the way the stuff I buy at Safeway does.

      That being said, when I was poorer and on a much stricter budget, Walmart was a go-to place for food.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      It really depends on the grocery store. The Kroger near my house is absolutely abysmal but the one about 15 minutes away in the suburbs is incredibly nice. The prices at each supermarket are about the same.

      The quality of the food (specifically meat and produce)at Wal Mart is somewhere between each of the Krogers and the prices are significantly better.

    • zzyzzx says:

      That and for the types of cereal I like WalMart knockoff is garbage.

    • falnfenix says:

      fortunately, their staple goods are identical.

    • snowmanny says:

      While I have heard of this for consumer products, I have not heard of it or seen it with food. The only thing I have noticed is that produce is much more hit or miss at Walmart than other grocery stores. I’ve had bad luck in other grocery stores too, but it’s pretty close to a guarantee that if I’m not satisfied with Walmart’s selection then the grocery store on the way home will.

  6. BenChatt says:

    It’s sad—seems like “pushing its suppliers to cut their costs” is probably bad for the economy in general. It seems unlikely that “suppliers” have as much room to cut their profits as the People’s Republic of Walmart does.

    • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

      No, they most certainly do not. Walmart is a huge force behind the majority of the products we buy being shoddy fallapart garbage. WM is the pimp that suppliers can’t say no to, and WM pressure forces them to cut corners and produce crap at minuscule margins.

      Google walmart + vlasic pickles.

      WM is evil.

  7. sirwired says:

    In the NYT article, they specifically said that they were NOT going to be pressuring produce suppliers to cut prices, that they planned to simply take the revenue hit. (I’m not saying this is all true, but it is what WMT stated.)

    • catnapped says:

      Walmart 101…they don’t take a revenue hit. Either they’ll jack up prices in other departments or in other stores to make up for it. If you think they’re going to lose money I have a bridge to sell you.

      • Cocco says:

        Right? I can’t believe people (journalists included) actually buy Walmart’s not-so-subtle PR moves, especially while they’re trying to maneuver their way into NYC, one of the three places in the country that actually eats real food.

  8. momtimestwo says:

    This is a good thing! I don’t see anything wrong with making products healthier, no matter where it is sold.

    • asok says:

      It improves the image of a company that is evil.

      Reason # 43: they pay little per hour and give few hours to avoid things like paying healthcare and overtime. That means many of their employees are eligible for public assistance. Public assistance is paid for by you the taxpayer. That means Walmart is a state and federal government subsidized company.

      • 99 1/2 Days says:

        How is that different from any retail establishment?

      • jesusofcool says:

        First of all, there are lots of retail stores that fail to pay a living wage, not to mention other industries. Walmart isn’t the only company which has employees on public assistance.
        I don’t love Walmart – their business practices leave much to be desired and they have negative affect on many communities. And I agree, they’re probably only doing this to approve their crap public image. But I don’t think any of that makes this a bad deal or one that reflects badly on the First Lady. I think it actually shows some brains – politicians these days are so rarely willing to make compromises and work with forces their opposed to, even if it will push them closer to acheiving their goal. Better work with the Evil Empire to create change than acheive nothing.

      • tbax929 says:

        That’s actually not true. Both of my (retired) parents work at Walmart, as does my older sister. Their wages are comparable to other retail employees who just happen to work at other companies that it’s not so chic to hate.

        The last time I checked, it’s a free country. I can’t possibly sympathize with someone who chooses to work somewhere that won’t pay them what they feel they’re worth. It’s just another one of those lies people tell in order to bash Walmart.

        • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

          While I have disagreed with you on other aspects of Walmart, I agree with you on this. I can’t stand WM for a lot of reasons, but the whole fair wage this is not one of them. A minumum wage job is just that, a minumum wage job. It should be for kids and older people who don’t need a larger income; no one should be trying to support a household on what they make running a register at Walmart or anyone else. If the fair wage people got their way and suddenly retail stores were paying $15 an hour, then just as suddenly people couldn’t afford to buy the groceries at their own store. That seems very obvious to me.

          • Rebecca K-S says:

            ” no one should be trying to support a household on what they make running a register at Walmart or anyone else.”

            But you know what? A lot of them do. A lot of them have to.

  9. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Subsidize fresh fruits and vegetables, and tax junk food. Problem solved.

    • ecwis says:

      …or just don’t let people buy junk food with their food stamps. Last time I was at Walmart, I saw someone buying 48 cans of soda with their food stamps. Why do I have to pay for that!? Drink water or pay for soda with your own money.

      • kmw2 says:

        Most people that get food stamps also work and pay taxes. They are paying with “their own money” at least as much as they are with yours. I’m sure you really suffer for that fraction of a cent of your taxes that goes to social programs, though. As for how you’d notice someone paying with “food stamps” anyway, I’ve no idea, since EBT benefits are put on a card that looks like a credit card these days.

        • tbax929 says:

          Thank you for this response. I’m really tired of people making this same complaint. For the brief time I was on food stamps, I was working – just not making enough to make ends meet. It boggles the mind that the judgmental asshole behind me may have been “inspecting” my cart to see what I was buying and then, on top of that, paying enough attention to what I was doing to know how I paid.

          Mind your own damn business.

          • Doubts42 says:

            Sorry, but what is bought with taxpayer money is every taxpayer’s business.
            and it is still incredibly easy to tell who in front of you is paying with an EBT card. they have their purchases separated and are using multiple cards to pay for different parts. There is a >50% probability that there will be a further delay because they want to have the argument with the cashier over what they can pay with using the EBT card.
            While I don’t personally care if soft drinks are purchased or not, I do get mad when they then proceed to but a $50.00 carton of cigarettes. if they have $50.00 for smokes then they don’t need my money to but their food.

            • Youngfrankenstein says:

              I see this all the time. I am not judging anyone, but I see it happen over and over. I don’t know their whole story so I can’t comment, it’s really none of my business, but I’ve see the “good” food paid for with the “Food Stamps” and the “bad” food paid for out of pocket. Many, many times.

  10. unsmith says:
  11. HighontheHill says:

    I believe this corporate juggernaut is pure evil and for signing a deal with the devil I think significantly less of the First Lady; they are motivated by the dollar and that is all, somewhere in the details lurks the devil.

    As an aside, as far as brand names go, I am convinced that this is a fact that their are name brand items of lesser quality at these stores than elsewhere; not unlike the lumber at HD. I worked one Christmas break there and though we were trained that all the lumber was top grade, have you ever tried to find a straight board in a pile there? Hard work.

    Ever go to a good local lumberyard and try to find a crooked board? Hard work.

    • ludwigk says:

      Oh man, I used to do quite a bit of wood working, and we got most of our wood from Home Depot. The lumber is cheap as hell, but only 1/10 or 1/15 pieces of lumber were acceptably straight for my needs. We tore the place apart to get to the usable lumber.

      Went to a proper lumber yard nearby. Prices were much higher, but I could just pull 20 2x4s off a shelf and have them all be fine.

  12. EverCynicalTHX says:

    So now those Walmart SOBS are robbing us of salt, sugar and monkeying with the TF!

    This aggression will not stand man…ggrrrr

  13. Beeker26 says:

    Geez people, just a tad bit of Walmart hate around here?

    • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

      There are very good reasons why many consumers find Walmart’s business practices a disgrace.

      • Beeker26 says:

        I think you’d be hard pressed to find any major American corporation whose business practices aren’t a disgrace. When your single goal is to make as much money as you possibly can it precludes any sense of decency or morality. Walmart is no different than any other.

        • kmw2 says:

          Except that Wal-mart very much is different than any other – they drive suppliers out of business, don’t pay employees for time worked, and produce in the absolute cheapest possible way, leading to a culture built around mountains of cheap, disposable trash instead of durable goods. Think it’s normal to buy a new toaster or vacuum cleaner every year, or replace jeans after three months a year? It didn’t used to be before Wal-mart. Wal-mart has been at the forefront of lowering the bar in its relentless pursuit of profit at any cost.

          • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

            Thank you. Agreed 100% with your nice summary.

          • tbax929 says:

            Don’t like it, don’t shop there. When did Americans become so pushy as to think it’s their jobs to keep other people from soliciting businesses they don’t like?

            I’m sure Target would welcome you with open arms (provided you’re not gay).

            • Erika'sPowerMinute says:

              But the problem is that WM’s practices affect every other retailer and supplier, so there is absolutely no way to avoid them and their influence.

              WM controls so much retail that if mainstream suppliers’ products aren’t on their shelves, it’s often curtains for those suppliers. That gives them the power to force Acme Widgets to cut costs so dramatically to meet the price that WM is willing to pay, that the widgets are now 20% smaller and of a quality to last two years instead of ten. Yes, I can go buy my widgets at Target or the mom & pop store, but now I’m stuck with the encrapulated version because that’s all the supplier can manage to put out there. Except I can’t buy them at the mom & pop store, because Walmart drove it out of business ten years ago.

              As a consumer, are you really ok with the increasing phenomenon that the only goods available on the market are the ones that Walmart can make a profit on?

          • Beeker26 says:

            Open your eyes. You think this is exclusive to Walmart? EVERY major American corporation does this. Whatever it takes to cut a penny they’ll do it. You just target Walmart because they are the #1 retailer. But it’s everywhere, at every company, in every corner of business.

    • Intheknow says:

      If you know much about how Wal*Mart operates and what their business practices REALLY are, you know why people think poorly of them. On the other hand, people shop there for everyday items because you can get everything there in one stop and their prices are low for staples – at least lower than the competition in most cases. Personally, I hate going there, but I do. Milk at 99 cents a gallon versus 3 dollars at my local Kroger?

    • tbax929 says:

      Oh, it’s hip to hate Walmart. Personally, I vote with my feet and don’t shop at places whose practices I abhor. Walmart just doesn’t happen to be one of those places. Big companies do evil things, even ones that aren’t Walmart. It’s business; not an altruistic endeavor.

      But if buying overpriced groceries at Whole Foods makes them feel better, so be it.

  14. evnmorlo says:

    Walmart will have to backtrack after the Secret Service arrests Michelle for attempting to assassinate Barack by means of starvation.

  15. stevied says:

    The Wal-Mart You Don’t Know

    http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/77/walmart.html?page=0%2C0

    The Man Who Said No to Wal-Mart

    http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/102/open_snapper.html?page=0%2C0

    Never believe everything the Walmart PR say.

    • nybiker says:

      When I did exactly what “Erika’sPowerMinute” told us to do, that was the top story in the search results. And I read all 7 pages. Powerful stuff. I think it still rings true even 7 years later.

  16. EvaCortez says:

    I think this is a good idea. A lot of people now are more conscious on what they were eating that’s why it’s a good idea that they make their products healthier. But I think they will have an issue about their suppliers by pushing them to cut their costs.

  17. MEoip says:

    Did I miss the news story where walmart bought or invested in a salt and sugar alternative company?

    • catnapped says:

      You can count on the prices of that healthy(er) stuff going up, regardless of what they claim to the contrary.

  18. snowmanny says:

    One of my biggest Walmart brand purchases is canned tomato products (sauce, paste, diced, etc.). They almost always have a “No Salt Added” option at a lower price than any name brand.

  19. White Scorpion says:

    Boycott Walmart! And copy all the photos from http://www.peopleofwalmart.com for reminiscing.