The Changing Face of Wal-Mart

Sure it’s the largest of retailers, able to totally up-end entire communities in a single day with its low prices, but amongst the big-box boys in this country, it seems to be Walmart – and not Whole Foods or Target, etc – that’s lately leading the semi-aggressive, progressive charge for more accessible, healthier food.

This morning’s New York Times reports that Walmart has just announced a Michelle Obama-backed plan to lower the levels of sugars, salts and fats in its “Great Value” brand along with the price of fruits and vegetables.  Here are a few more specifics from the article…

Wal-Mart will work to eliminate any extra cost to customers for healthy foods made with whole grains, said Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president for corporate affairs. By lowering prices on fresh fruits and vegetables, Wal-Mart says it will cut into its own profits but hopes to make up for it in sales volume. “This is not about asking the farmers to accept less for their crops,” he said.

…The changes will not happen overnight. Wal-Mart is pledging to reduce sodium by 25 percent, eliminate industrially added trans fats and reduce added sugars by 10 percent by 2015. Its other plans are less specific. In addition to proposing to lower prices on healthy foods, Wal-Mart is planning to develop criteria, and ultimately a seal, that will go on truly healthier foods, as measured by their sodium, fat and sugar content.

The company says it will also address the problem of “food deserts” — a dearth of grocery stores selling fresh produce in rural and underserved urban areas like Anacostia — by building more stores. And it will increase charitable contributions for nutrition programs.

Now of course, there are aspects of Wal-Mart that will never taste good on the palate of today’s “progressives”, myself included.  Labor practices always seem to come up, though whether WMT is any worse than the other large retailers has been debated here in the past.  And we also can’t ignore the countless instances of communities decrying Wal-Mart’s entrance into their towns and cities.  But honestly, this seems to be more a symptom of the ever-clashing national vs. local capitalism in our post-industrial society than anything else.

So, I’m wondering whether anyone else is beginning to have more mixed feelings about Wal-Mart.  Not in relation to what it can do to a local community, but in relation to all the other big-box stores we shamefully frequent.

Basically, with these changes will Wal-Mart become a more satisfying choice for the left-leaning crowd?