Making Food Healthier and Healthier Food More Affordable

Leslie Dach, EVP of Corporate Affairs and Andrea Thomas, VP of Sustainability
Healthier Food Initiative Announcement, Washington, D.C.

Thursday, Jan 20, 2011

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery for Leslie Dach:

Good morning.

My name is Leslie Dach and I am executive vice president of Corporate Affairs at Walmart. Almost two years ago, a garden was planted in this city, on a lawn on Pennsylvania Avenue. In that garden were the seeds of a movement. An initiative that would grow...to focus the nation as never before...on improving the health and nutrition of all Americans.

It is an incredible honor to have the person who spawned that movement...with us today, the First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama.

As Mrs. Obama would tell you, her advocacy for better nutrition for America’s children began with her own role as a mom—talking to her daughters’ pediatrician about their wellness.

Today, as both a mom and as First Lady, Mrs. Obama is leading the effort to solve the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation. And through the Let’s Move campaign, she is engaging every sector of society that impacts the lives of kids to make progress. It is the exact type of engagement our nation needs.

At Walmart, our journey with nutrition began where everything does—and that is with our customers and our mission.

If you think about it, 140 million Americans walk through our doors each week.

Our mission ... is not only to help these customers save money, but to help them live better, too. To more and more of our customers, living better means the ability to walk into our stores and find foods that will help their families live healthier lives. And importantly, to find these foods at prices they can afford.

And so today Walmart is announcing a five point initiative to make the foods we sell healthier...and to make healthier food more affordable for Americans to buy.

We have enormous respect and admiration for the First Lady’s leadership on this important issue. She was a catalyst that helped make today’s announcement a reality and her spirit of collaboration made our commitment to bring better nutrition to kitchen tables across this country even stronger.

To walk through these five commitments, I invite Andrea Thomas—our senior vice president of sustainability and a Walmart mom herself—and who by the way has worked tirelessly over the last several months to make this vision a reality—to come forward.

Remarks for Andrea Thomas:

Thank you, Leslie.

As you might imagine, the top concern for moms across the country is saving money. Never before has the need to save money been more important to our customers than it is today…than it has been over the last year.

But what you may not know…is that another concern is buying foods that will keep her family healthy. As a mom, I know I can definitely relate to this.

Every day, millions of customers walk into our stores with these twin—and sometimes competing—objectives in mind.

At Walmart, we don’t believe that any customer—in fact any American—should have to choose between doing what is realistic and affordable…and doing what is healthier for her family.

Each of our objectives is rooted in this simple philosophy.

First, we are going to improve the nutritional quality of the food we sell—both branded products and our own Great Value products.

Between now and 2015, we will work with suppliers to reformulate thousands of packaged food items … with the end goal of reducing sodium by 25 percent, added sugars by 10 percent ... and completely removing all remaining industrially produced trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils.

We will begin reducing these elements in certain categories of foods that contribute the highest levels of sodium, sugar or trans fat in the everyday diets of Americans.

At Walmart, we support consumer choice so this is not about telling people what they should eat. Our customers understand that products like cookies and ice cream are meant to be an indulgent treat.

This effort is aimed at eliminating sodium, sugar and trans fat in products.

Often, it’s sodium or sugar that people don’t even know they are ingesting—for instance, when they are putting dressing on a salad, or making a turkey sandwich.

Already, many of our suppliers have made important progress in this area. Our goal is not to supplant these efforts, but to encourage their widespread adoption. We see our role as a convener and a catalyst.

Our estimates indicate that if the reformulations are adopted by the entire grocery industry, adults in the U.S. will consume approximately 47 million fewer pounds of sodium each year.

47 million pounds of sodium is the equivalent of the entire sodium intake by every resident of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago per year.

Second, we will make healthier choices more affordable by providing customers even more savings on fresh produce and reducing or removing the price premium on key “better-for-you” items, including reduced sodium, sugar and fat products.

Through a variety of sourcing…pricing…and transportation and logistics initiatives we believe we can drive unnecessary costs out of the supply chain and result in even lower prices on fresh produce for our customers.

For instance, we’re building more direct relationships with farmers…a move which we will generate more income for farmers… and lower, more consistent prices for our customers.

If we are successful in our efforts to lower prices, we believe we can save Americans who shop at Walmart approximately $1 billion per year on fresh fruit and vegetables.

We will also dramatically reduce or eliminate the price premium on key “better-for-you” items, including reduced sodium, sugar or fat products.

Our customers often ask us why whole-wheat pasta sometimes costs more than regular pasta made by the same manufacturer.

Moving forward, we will work with our supply chain to reduce the price premium on these types of products whenever possible … because customers shouldn’t have to pay more to eat healthier.

Third, to help customers instantly identify the truly healthier food options … we will develop strong criteria for a simple front-of-package seal.

We know from talking to customers that convenience can be a powerful catalyst to healthier eating. But the reality today … is that choosing the healthy item is too often inconvenient. It takes time—time that many of our customers don’t have—to compare nutrition labels and weed through multiple claims.

This simple front-of-package seal will apply to a small number of healthier products and give customers an easy way to instantly identify food options that are better for them and save them time when shopping our stores.

We’ll launch this seal for Great Value products this year and will also make it available to suppliers for use on national brands.

Fourth, we will increase charitable support for nutrition programs that help educate consumers about healthier food choices.

And lastly, we will provide solutions to address the food deserts that exist all across this country today.

These are the neighborhoods in urban and rural communities where too many Americans don’t eat well … because they don’t have the same access to healthy foods that other Americans do.

We are focused on bringing our mission of “save money, live better” to these underserved areas. First, we are working to design formats to meet the needs of these communities.

But in a larger sense—by impacting the entire marketplace—we believe that our initiative can make healthy, affordable food more accessible in the nation’s food deserts. The reality is that as more people start eating healthier, healthier eating becomes more affordable to all.

It is now my pleasure to introduce to you the President and CEO of Walmart U.S., Bill Simon, to say a few words about this commitment.