Friday, January 21, 2011

Walmart Joins Weight Loss Success Effort

Walmart is the largest grocery chain in the US and they have now pledged their support of First Lady Michelle Obama's fight against childhood obesity. They say they will change the formulas of many of their Great Value brand items to lower the amount of sodium and sugar they contain. This could really help Americans in the efforts to achieve weight loss success.

This is a great move for consumers as the "hidden" sugar in these goods has a direct link to many of our health issues and this country's obesity epidemic. In fact, the starting place is to focus on things like salad dressing, fruit juice and lunch meat--products that when you read the label you will often see have sugar in the top 5 ingredients.

Sales of Great Value label products amount to roughly 20% of Walmart's sales--so this is not a small promise. But don't expect to see the change on products tomorrow--reformulation will take some time. The goal is to reduce soium by 25% and reduce or remove added sugar from "some" of their label products by 2015.

Even if you don't buy your groceries at Walmart, this move will likely have an affect on you because of the power Walmart yields with suppliers. The chain gets this power because it controls roughly 15% of the grocery sales in the US--the closest competitor is Kroger, the parent company of King Soopers here in Colorado, which is about 1/2 the size of Walmart.

It is likely that suppliers and even competitors will follow Walmart's lead as they did when the giant encouraged a reduction in packaging.

Also in the plan is removing more trans fats (hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils) from the line which will also be a big health benefit.

In another health-positive move, Walmart is pledging to lower prices on fresh produce.

Since we won't see these changes overnight, it is still up to us to make conscious food choices and to read labels. As more of us vote with our wallets and stop buying foods that contain unnecessary sugar, sodium and trans fats, the grocery industry will scramble to meet the demand for healthier foods.

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