Walmart Realizes Buying Local Produce Can Be Good For Business

Now that Walmart has become the world’s largest grocer, it has realized there are both economic and environmental reasons to purchase and re-sell locally grown produce. As part of its latest sustainability efforts announced earlier today, the retail behemoth detailed a plan to increase the percentage of its produce that it gets from local growers.

However, while Walmart does plan a significant uptick in local produce purchases between now and 2015, the NY Times reports that the goals for U.S. stores are nowhere near as lofty as those for Walmarts elsewhere:

In the United States, Wal-Mart plans to double the percentage of locally grown produce, to 9 percent. Wal-Mart defines local produce as that grown and sold in the same state. Still, the program is far less ambitious than in some other countries — in Canada, for instance, Wal-Mart expects to buy 30 percent of produce locally by the end of 2013, and, when local produce is available, increase that to 100 percent.

In emerging markets, Walmart has pledged to sell $1 billion of food from farmers with fewer than 50 acres. It will also provide training for farmers on choosing crops, irrigation and pesticides.

The company is also investing $1 billion to improve its supply chain for perishable foods, with the goal of decreasing food waste by 15% in emerging markets and 10% elsewhere.

Walmart also announced that sustainably sourced palm oil be used in all its private-label products and that any beef it sells not contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon.

In addition to these new initiatives, Walmart’s Sam’s Club warehouse stores also received a handful of new goals, like increasing sales of fair-trade certified produce and flowers by 15%, requiring all seafood suppliers to become certified as sustainable, and reducing food waste in clubs and distribution centers by 11% a year.

Said a professor of ecological engineering who worked on the new goals with Walmart:

The impact of not just Wal-Mart but the entire food and agricultural sector starting to define what is acceptable practice in their supply chain, and then what is unacceptable practice, will move agricultural producers en masse.

Wal-Mart to Buy More Local Produce [NY Times]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Grogey says:

    Already happens around where I am during Apple picking season but that doesn’t count for much else in my area. Apples, Corn, and Grapes.

  2. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    This is why I shop at Meijer. Almost all the veg that can be grown here is available from here.

  3. Hoss says:

    Sounds good. Although grown in the same state as sold is a bit arbitrary. A definition of 200 miles out works for me

  4. stock2mal says:

    Great, now they can start nickel and diming local farmers until the only one making a sizeable profit is Wal-mart.

    • Gramin says:

      Where have you been??? Farmers are already nickel and dimed. The only reason they make any money is because of HEAVY subsidies from the government. Wal-Mart isn’t going to change this, for better or worse.

      • stock2mal says:

        I agree with you, but given Wal-mart’s past history with suppliers, I only expect the problem to get worse.

  5. dg says:

    While the goals are laudable – don’t get suckered into believing that WalMart is acting in the best interest of everyone. They’re not.

    They’re solely focused on supply chain efficiencies and to that end, sourcing produce locally means you reduce logistics costs and time, and because the items are fresher – they can sit on the shelf longer – so that reduces labor costs.

    The reason they’re not getting as much from the US as in other countries is subsidies, and the fact that there’s probably not enough local producers left that can supply an operation the size of WallyWorld…

    Meat from the Amazon – bad for business because it’s a PITA to ship, and killing the rainforests just to raise cheap beef is an illogical idea anyway – it causes great harm to the Planet, which, ummm, we still kinda need to live. Besides, we have great beef available here in the States – so it makes them look good and contributes to their bottom line…

  6. dulcinea47 says:

    Their definition of local is stupid. I can get stuff from “out of state” that’s from 50 miles away, and stuff from the same state that’s from 400 miles away.

    • Can't Buy a Thrill says:

      I would imagine the ‘in state’ designation is easier to confirm and its politically smart. Wal-Mart often needs local political help and even state level political help when changing zoning, getting tax breaks, etc.

  7. perkonkrusts says:

    I don’t know, I think the taste benefit is a little exaggerated. I grow tomatoes, apples, blueberries, etc. at home with no pesticides, and they’re better than store-bought, but not insanely better. In fact, my mind just might be telling me they’re better because I grew them. I do think it’s good to support local small farmers, though.

    • Gramin says:

      Agreed. And for those that are easily freaked by insects, I suggest sticking with produce that’s been sprayed. I routinely pick up produce at local farmers markets and I expect that at least one ear of corn will have a caterpillar in it. I generally try to locate it before buying the corn. Nothing like getting home to find out the caterpillar has already devoured half an ear of corn.

  8. Suaveydavey says:

    So does this mean my local Northern Michigan Walmart is going to sell swamp cedar and pot?

  9. Dieflatermous says:

    Weird as it sounds, Walmart will actually listen to customers if there are things that they want in large enough quantities. Mine has an organic grocery section, and here the word “organic” is very heavily regulated so it’s not just slapped on.

  10. Dinhilion says:

    old news- they have been quietly testing this for a year or so.

  11. FrugalFreak says:

    Grocery store Local means higher price than farmers market since it will be marketed as such. They look at local as profit.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I don’t think this is necessarily the case – one of my local grocery stores sells locally-grown zucchini for $.99 to $1.45 a pound, and lists the location on the sign. If you were inclined to check to make sure it was actually locally grown, you could easily call the farms out there and ask them whether they ship to the grocery store.

      • P=mv says:

        I also have a local grocery store near me that sells only locally grown produce which tends to be at least half the price of the big chains. You can watch the farmers in their pickups and small trailers bringing in the harvest to put on the shelves. Considering the sheer number of farms in my county alone, I have been conitnually surprised that the big stores haven’t considered sourcing from nearby.

  12. human_shield says:

    Wow, they’re the worlds largest grocer? Never saw that coming. I would never buy food from Walmart and don’t personally know anyone who would. Maybe canned goods.

  13. Darkneuro says:

    Nope. Can’t go to 30% in the U.S….it’d piss off the corporate farms.

  14. sonneillon says:

    I imagine this is because every Walmart I have been too has nasty produce. Nobody I know buys fruits or veggies from Walmart. Other food maybe, but not that. I think that their problem is poorly paid employees and not the supplier.

    • Foodie92 says:

      It depends on your area, though. Where I live, the produce selection at Wal-mart is much fresher than other stores, most likely due to the higher product turnover. They also have more variety. They are the only place I’ve seen that has Muscadines, for example.

  15. buzz86us says:

    Oddly every grocery store (wal-mart, price chopper I’m looking at you) I go to charges upwards of $1.79 a pound for something like red/green bell peppers but when I went to NYC they had some pretty large peppers at 2 for $1 at carts on the streets of Manhattan, am I missing something here? Do grocery stores really mark their items up that much, or do the local grocery stores just not have enough competition?

  16. Foodie92 says:
  17. JF says:

    I never buy fresh fruits or vegetables at Walmart. They always seem to rot a lot faster than any other store I get them at.

  18. peebozi says:

    there are only economic reasons for a corporation to do anything.

  19. lulu says:

    I think this is a great idea on the part of WalMart. As a matter of fact, I think it would help the economy, and other large grocery chains should follow.