Walmart says price cuts helped shoppers save billions on produce

Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:31pm EST
 
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By Jessica Wohl

(Reuters) - Walmart shoppers have saved $2.3 billion by buying produce at its stores in the first two years of its push to sell more healthful fare and more of it, the largest U.S. grocer said on Thursday.

Walmart U.S., the largest division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote), also said it has exceeded its goal of reducing the amount of sugar in some products.

Walmart said in January 2011 that it wanted to improve the nutritional value of the food it sells, make healthier fare less expensive and make it easier for Americans to access such goods.

Walmart's customers are struggling to put healthful food on the table, especially with higher gasoline prices and payroll taxes.

"They've repeatedly told us that while they want to feed their families healthier food, they don't always know how to do that and they worry that it is simply too expensive," said Leslie Dach, Walmart's executive vice president of corporate affairs.

Grocers, restaurants and food makers are under pressure from consumers and public health officials to sell more healthful food in an effort to address the nation's obesity crisis. More than two-thirds of U.S. adults and nearly one-third of youth aged 2 to 19 are overweight or obese.

Food is a huge business for the world's largest retailer, which has been lowering prices, along with its healthier makeover, to boost sales. Groceries, including goods such as paper towels, account for roughly 55 percent of Walmart's sales.

Walmart said its shoppers saved $1.2 billion on fresh fruits and vegetables in 2012 and $1.1 billion in 2011, based on third-party verified pricing comparisons between its stores and those of unidentified rivals. Efforts such as buying more local produce and cutting supply chain costs have helped it keep a lid on prices.   Continued...

 
Two people walk outside a Wal-Mart store in Mexico City January 11, 2013. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido