Whole Foods they are not, but some interesting maneuvering regardless:

Of the “key elements” Walmart announced, several are ones I reported on last March: shorten travel distances between farm and distribution centers, support smaller farmers than it had previously bought from, bring back staple crops to areas where they had vanished because of competition from California and Florida, and bring fresh food into “food deserts” both in cities and, importantly, rural areas without supermarkets. {…}

But the company did give a timeline for the main news: reformulating its private-label “Great Value” foods over the next five years to reduce sodium by 25 percent, added sugars by 10 percent, and removing “all industrially produced trans fats.” This is what the nutrition community will be parsing for months, and where Walmart can preempt, and even help, industry initiatives like ConAgra’s announcement that it will reduce sodium in its foods by 20 percent over the same period, or the New York City health department’s National Salt Reduction Initiative, which is building public awareness of hidden sodium and trying to coordinate industry to reduce it voluntarily. The long timelines for sodium reduction are a recognition of how hard it can be to make lower-sodium foods taste “good” to people used to high sodium: unlike trans fats and sugars, where there are easy or easyish substitutes, lowering sodium really does change familiar packaged-food flavors. {…}

The announced target for added sugars will disappoint many who would like sodas and soft drinks abolished, and the soft-drink question came up immediately (okay, I was the first question on the first conference call, and I brought it up). Sodas are turning into a third rail, and her reply deftly avoided it. Consumers already know they can buy diet soda, she said. When they buy candy or cake (she didn’t mention soda—that came under “choices” they know are already available), they want to have an occasional indulgence. “Our focus,” she told me, “is where the customer doesn’t expect added sugar: flavored milks and puddings, fruit juice and canned fruit, breakfast items like muffins, granola, and French toast.” In a second conference call she ticked off more items, and added that breakfast pastries, breads, crackers, cottage cheese, and yogurts are often sources of hidden sodium and sugars. Dr. John Agwunobi, the company’s vice president of health and wellness added that another of the company’s promises this morning is to eliminate the price difference in reduced-fat, reduced-sugar, and whole-grain items, so that these will not cost more more than ones with higher fat and sodium, as is often the case now. (This equaling of price does not mean, as some have hopefully thought, that Walmart will make healthier options less expensive than less-healthy ones. Dream on!)

Category: Market

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6 Responses to Walmaneuvering

  1. Brandon Berg says:

    “Our focus,” she told me, “is where the customer doesn’t expect added sugar: flavored milks and puddings, fruit juice and canned fruit, breakfast items like muffins, granola, and French toast.”

    What? What do people think makes these things sweet?

  2. SFG says:

    Y’know, this is one of these cases for government intervention. The country is just getting too fat.

  3. trumwill says:

    “Did you know that Slim-Fast [Chocolate and Vanilla milk shakes have SUGAR in them?!” -The girl who lived down the hall from me in college.

    Some people don’t think these things through. They think of sugar as something that comes mostly in sugar-designated things. That muffins and french toast is just bread. That granola bars are healthy.

  4. Maria says:

    Yeah, anybody who doesn’t realize that there’s sugar in pudding mix and strawberry milk has got a brain functioning problem. Fortunately there’s a remedy for this already — just read the list of ingredients on the packages.

  5. Mike Hunt says:

    I am surprised that SlimFast has sugar in it. I would have thought they used some sort of artificial sweetener.

    That granola bars are healthy.

    Once upon a time granola bars WERE healthy, but they didn’t sell very well. To make them more palatable, sugar was added.

  6. trumwill says:

    Slimfast was introduced at a time when fat, not carbs, were the enemy. Not that sugar was considered good for you at the time or anything, but it wasn’t what people were looking at. If you ever tasted one, though, you’d simply have to know there was sugar in it. Artificial sweeteners don’t taste that good.

    They did introduce a sugar free variant. It tasted like it had blendered leaves in it. I think the sugar hid the taste of leaves in a way that the artificial sweetener did not.

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