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Walmart, Michelle Obama celebrate progress on push for healthier, more affordable foods

BY Mike Troy

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — First Lady Michelle Obama paid a special visit to a local Walmart Neighborhood Market store on Thursday to praise the efforts of the retail giant on its initiatives to put healthier, more affordable items on its shelves and thus, into the shopping carts of its millions of customers.

Three years ago, the First Lady created the "Let’s Move" healthy food initiative and the following year Walmart unveiled five broad commitments that aligned with her vision for ending childhood obesity within a generation.

As Walmart EVP of corporate affairs Leslie Dach noted during a media briefing that preceded the First Lady’s store visit, Walmart recognized that shoppers want to eat healthier food, but don’t always know or have the information available to make the right choices, and oftentimes cost is a consideration, especially given lingering economic challenges, surging gas prices and the impact of payroll tax changes.

"For years, the conventional wisdom said that healthy products simply didn’t sell – that the demand wasn’t there, that higher profits were found elsewhere, so it just wasn’t worth the investment," the First Lady said while standing at a podium in the store’s produce section. "Thanks to Walmart and so many other great American businesses, we are proving the conventional wisdom wrong. Every day, with their success, these companies are showin us that what’s good for kids and good for family budgets can also be good for business."

One of the goals Walmart set two years ago was to help customers save $1 billion on healthy foods and that goal has already been surpassed, according to SVP of sustainability Andrea Thomas. Walmart has helped shoppers save $2.3 billion on healthy food through lower prices with three years remaining on the company’s five year timetable for accomplishing its five main objectives.

Another key initiative involved the creation of an icon that could be used to alert shoppers to healthier options. The "Great For You" icon was launched last year and today can be found on 1,300 items including fruits, vegetables and select private label products under the Great Value banner.

"The icon is really helpful for parents because it gives them a simple tool to make healthy choices," Thomas said.

She added that Walmart evaluated more than 4,000 of its private label products and found that 32% of them were worthy of the "Great For You," distinction. More are on the way as Walmart opens up usage of the icon to branded suppliers next week during an event in Orlando known internally as the Year Beginning Meeting.

Another of Walmart’s commitment involved opening stores in areas known as food deserts where residents lack access to affordable fresh foods. The Neighborhood Market visited by the First Lady was one of 86 such stores Walmart has opened in food deserts during the past two years and plans call for a total of 300.

As a result of those 86 openings, Thomas said 264,000 Americans now have improved access to fresh, healthy and affordable food.

To make food healthier, Walmart also sought to reduce sugar, salt and eliminate trans-fats by reformulating products. The company took a targeted approach by category and managed to reformulate private label and branded items without altering the flavor profile in a way that would disrupt sales. In the bread category, Thomas said sodium was reduced by 13%.

"We are proud of our work, but we have more to do. Our suppliers have been very positive and cooperative with us," Thomas said.

 


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Reports: Flowers Foods to buy Wonder Bread

BY Jason Owen

NEW YORK — According to published reports, Flowers Foods is set to buy Hostess bread brands, including Wonder bread, for $360 million after no other bidder came forward with a competing offer, a source familiar with the sale acknowledged Wednesday.

According to a Reuters report, Hostess, which went bankrupt last year, was scheduled to host an auction on Thursday for the brands — which also include Butternut, Home Pride, Merita and Nature’s Pride — but as no other bids were announced, the company will not go through with an auction.

There will be an auction for the Beefsteak brand, for which Flowers bid $30 million, since Hostess received a higher bid from Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo, said the source, who declined to be named as the process is private.

Hostess expects to run two more auctions next month. One would be for the Hostess snack cake brands, including Hostess Twinkies and Dolly Madison, for which private equity firms Apollo Global Management and C. Dean Metropoulos set the bidding at $410 million.

The other would be for its Drake’s cake business and additional bread brands. So far, McKee Foods, maker of Little Debbie snack cakes, offered $27.5 million for Drake’s, which includes Ring Dings, Yodels and Devil Dogs.

Though no other bids were made, the deal with Flowers is still subject to approval by a bankruptcy court.


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RightSize Health and Nutrition introduces new smoothies

BY Jason Owen

CHICAGO — As part of its 10th anniversary celebration, RightSize Health and Nutrition has introduced three new smoothie formulas, new packaging and a new website loaded with smoothie recipes and weight-loss tips and advice.

The new RightSize smoothies formula contains more protein and fiber to help curb hunger, as well as natural ingredients, such as green tea and ginger root extracts. Each serving of RightSize contains 15 g of protein and 6 g of fiber when prepared with skim milk, as well as more than 20 essential vitamins and minerals. The smoothies are gluten-free and contain no added caffeine.

“When we were developing the new formula, our goal was to create a great-tasting smoothie that really helps fight cravings while providing the nutrition of a meal,” explained Andrew Dun, VP marketing for RightSize. “So many weight loss products taste like ‘diet food,’ but RightSize smoothies taste like rich, creamy shakes so people actually enjoy them and look forward to their next one.”

RightSize is available in three flavors: Lean Cocoa Bean (chocolate), SkinniVanilli (vanilla) and Slend-A-Berry (strawberry, blueberry and raspberry). The product is packaged in 20.5-oz. canisters (each canister contains 20 servings, or about a 10-day supply) with a suggested retail price of $29.99. The contemporary package design pairs bright colors and a new logo to make it easier to find RightSize on retail shelves.

As the company noted, RightSize smoothies also are backed by recent research that shows they really work. A recent clinical trial published in the November 2012 issue of Current Nutrition and Food Science found that participants who replaced two meals a day with RightSize smoothies and consistently followed their assigned reduced calorie diets lost an average of 15 lbs to 18 lbs in 12 weeks. More information on the clinical study can be found on the new RightSize website, Myrightsize.com, which also supports dieters’ personal weight loss goals by providing diet plans, interactive weight loss tools, and more than 100 smoothie recipes.


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