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One year after promising to create a front-of-pack label that would enable customers to find healthier food more easily, mega-retailer Walmart introduced the “Great For You” icon as part of its healthier-food initiative. The icon (left) will initially appear on select Walmart Great Value and Marketside items, along with fresh and packaged fruits and vegetables at Walmart U.S. stores nationwide this spring.
“Walmart moms are telling us they want to make healthier choices for their families, but need help deciphering all the claims and information already displayed on products,” explained Andrea Thomas, SVP of sustainability at the Bentonville, Ark.-based company. “Our ‘Great For You’ icon provides customers with an easy way to quickly identify healthier food choices. As they continue to balance busy schedules and tight budgets, this simple tool encourages families to have a healthier diet.”
“Today’s announcement by Walmart is yet another step toward ensuring that our kids are given the chance to grow up healthy,” said First Lady Michelle Obama at a Feb. 7 event in Washington at which the icon was unveiled. “Just over a year ago, Walmart committed to save shoppers $1 billion in their cost of fruits and vegetables, and the fact that Walmart exceeded this number is a real accomplishment and a milestone in our efforts to support families eating better. In addition, the healthy seal will be another tool for parents to identify the best products for their kids. Giving parents the information they need to make healthy choices is a key piece of solving childhood obesity.”
Items with the “Great For You” icon must comply with stringent nutrition criteria developed in accordance with the latest nutrition science and authoritative guidance from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Institute of Medicine (IOM). Developed in collaboration with food and nutrition experts from the public and private sectors, in addition to top health organizations, the “Great For You” nutrition criteria can be viewed on the Web, with the goal of bringing transparency to, and inspiring confidence in, the new program. The icon will also be made available to qualifying national-brand items, and can be used in tandem with other food industry nutrition labeling systems.
“Walmart’s effort to bring healthier food to kitchen tables nationwide was inspired by our customers and informed by the latest food science and policy,” noted Leslie Dach, Walmart EVP of corporate affairs. “Last year, we stood with the First Lady and showed how Walmart, working with its suppliers, the public sector and non-governmental organizations, can truly make a difference in people’s lives.”
The icon aims to help people make gradual changes to their diets by making them aware of more nutritious food choices. Step one of the process is to encourage people to eat more fruits, vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts and seeds and lean meats. Step two limits the amount of total trans and saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars that are in items such as sweetened oatmeal, granola bars, flavored yogurt and frozen meals.
“When it comes to food, our customers want a variety of choices, but they also want help identifying healthier options,” said Jack Sinclair, Walmart EVP of grocery. “Customers asked us to make healthier food choices easy while keeping prices low,” The nutritionists we engaged told us to make the criteria tough and significant. We feel confident the ‘Great For You’ icon balances those objectives, and will become an important tool Walmart shoppers can use to fill their pantries with healthier food at prices our customers can afford.”
The development of the “Great For You” icon is part of an initiative Walmart launched in 2011 to make food healthier and healthier food more affordable. The initiative includes reformulating packaged food to reduce sodium and added sugars and eliminate industrially produced fats by 2015; making healthier food more affordable by providing savings on produce and reducing the price premium on better-for-you food items; developing solutions for food deserts by opening between 275 and 300 stores in underserved areas; and boosting charitable support for nutrition education programs.
The company’s progress on these goals will be detailed in Walmart’s annual Global Responsibility Report.