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    Wal-Mart Expands Selection of Organic Products for Infants

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- In one of Wal-Mart's first moves to give serious attention to the growing organic segment, the retailer said yesterday it is expanding its organic baby product lineup.

    BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- In one of Wal-Mart's first moves to give serious attention to the growing organic segment, the retailer said yesterday it is expanding its organic baby product lineup.

    The retailer is adding George Baby Organic Cotton apparel and Parent's Choice Organic Infant Formula to its organic infant offerings. Both items are both found exclusively at Wal-Mart. These products join Gerber Tender Harvest organic baby food already on shelves.

    "We hope to make these products accessible to parents who might not have chosen organic in the past due to cost or availability," said Beth Schommer, Wal-Mart's divisional merchandise manager for infants and toddlers, in a statement.

    Wal-Mart cited a recent survey it commissioned that found that 60 percent of parents are interested in organic options for their infants. Additionally, 74 percent said they would be more likely to purchase organic products for their infants if they were more readily available or more affordable.

    Wal-Mart said Parent's Choice Organic Infant Formula is the first organic infant formula available at a mass retailer. It contains the lipids DHA and ARA, nutrients found naturally in mother's milk proven to aid in infant brain and eye development.

    The retailer will introduce Wal-Mart George Baby Organic cotton clothing in May. The line includes rompers, dresses, t-shirts, and shorts for infants to age 9 months. The apparel is made with 100 percent certified organic cotton.

    Gerber Tender Harvest organic baby food, currently sold at Wal-Mart stores, is available for babies in three stages:

    -- 1st Foods: Pureed, single-ingredient fruits and vegetables with special consistency to help babies learn to swallow solid food

    -- 2nd Foods: "Adventurous" multi-ingredient combinations for older babies

    -- 3rd Foods: Unique varieties with just the right texture for babies learning to chew and mash.

    In other Wal-Mart news, the retailer said yesterday that the pioneering work it has done to mine the supply chain benefits of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) will continue unabated under the Wal-Mart Information Systems Division's new leader.

    Rollin Ford, Wal-Mart's new e.v.p. and c.i.o., who previously served as the company's e.v.p. of logistics and supply chain, strongly endorsed RFID technology at the biannual CIO summit, hosted by Wal-Mart on Wednesday in Bentonville.

    Ford told the audience of CIOs he was thrilled to be in his new position and that both logistics and information systems were at the center of Wal-Mart's competitive advantage. Ford said he intended to build on the success of his predecessor, Linda Dillman, who was named e.v.p. of risk management and benefits administration at Wal-Mart.

    Ford said he was unequivocally committed to Dillman's vision and to the pioneering work in RFID that she led at Wal-Mart.

    "Like Linda, I view RFID as a strategy that offers tremendous competitive advantage," he said. "There will be no slowing down. I have been a member of the Wal-Mart RFID executive steering committee for the past three years, so I know firsthand that we have a great team working on RFID. I am as excited about what lies ahead as they are."

    Ford reaffirmed the company's commitment to the EPC standard, and said he was impressed with the step change in performance the company had seen through the use of the EPC Gen 2 standard. "When Gen 2 was released we planned to make it our standard at the beginning of this year," Ford said. "We have done that, and I can confirm that we will be sunsetting Gen 1 on June 30."

    Ford also confirmed his enthusiasm for the advancements he had witnessed only a couple of weeks earlier in UHF Gen 2 tags specially produced for pharmaceuticals. "Many thought UHF tags could not be read around water or metal and that only HF tags could meet these tests. However our team and our technology partners proved that the new UHF Gen 2 tags could, in fact, be read in water and on metal. That's nothing short of a breakthrough."

    He closed by saying: "RFID will transform the way we do business, and I am privileged to be a part of this technology that is bringing positive change to Wal-Mart, the retail industry and many other sectors as well."

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