You know how when California passes a new car emission standard or something all the manufacturers comply with all of their fleet even though they don’t sell them all in CA?  That’s because the car makers can’t afford to miss out on the California market.   Well, Walmart is kinda like that when it comes to retail food.  A food processor can’t miss out on selling to Walmart because they’re such a big part of the retail market.

This week Walmart announced that they’re implementing an effort to provide its customers with healthier and more affordable food choices. The key elements of the program include:

  1. Reformulating thousands of everyday packaged food items by 2015 by reducing sodium by 25% and sugars by 10%,
  2. Removing industrially produced trans fats;
  3. Reducing the prices of fruits and vegetables through a variety of sourcing, pricing, and transportation and logistics initiatives;
  4. Developing strong criteria for a simple front-of-package seal that will help consumers instantly identify truly healthier food options;
  5. Providing solutions to address food deserts by building stores in underserved communities that are in need of fresh and affordable groceries; and
  6. Increasing charitable support for nutrition programs that help educate consumers about healthier food solutions and choices.

They’ll have a new “front-of-the-pack” seal identifying healthy food choices on all their private brand products by the end of this year and complete nutrition reformulations for their national brand products by 2015.

To be sure, many food retailers already provide healthy options for folks.  I’m highlighting this initiative because the sheer size of this retailer’s market penetration makes this a potentially transformative event.  We applaud Walmart’s efforts to align food industry standards with public health recommendations and we hope to see many other manufacturers and suppliers follow.