Health & Wellness

Making Organic Foods a Reality For All

We spend a lot of time talking to our customers. They tell us that one of the challenges they face is feeding their families on a budget. And when it comes to purchasing organic options, cost is often one of the biggest barriers. At the same time, there’s a shift happening at the dinner table. Interest in food that is organic is growing.

At Walmart, our perspective on this consumer demand is simple: we don’t think that people who want to eat organic should have to pay more for their food. That’s why we’re proud to announce the launch of Wild Oats, a line of organic foods to be sold at Walmart stores, without the price premium typically associated with these products.

Beginning this month, we’re rolling out approximately 100 different items – foods like organic pasta sauce, spices, chicken broth, canned beans, salsa and other grocery products.  With the introduction of Wild Oats, we estimate customers who purchase organic items at Walmart can save nearly 25% or more on their grocery bill when compared to other organic products on our shelves.*

While you may not think of Walmart as a destination for organic groceries, we are.  We offer more than 1,600 organic grocery items including produce, dairy products like milk and yogurt, and national branded packaged goods. Organic food is also becoming more popular among our customers. Internal research found that 91% of our shoppers would purchase affordable organic products in our stores.

This is why we're using our scale to deliver quality, organic groceries to our customers for less. When we do this, it’s a win, win, win -- for our customers, our suppliers and our company. Our customers can trust that they will save money at Walmart, our suppliers can count on us for the demand and we are able to offer innovative new products. 

This isn’t about telling our customers what to eat, nor is it an endorsement of certain foods. It’s about leveraging our scale to provide access to the choices that currently elude too many families in our country. It’s just one more way we’re helping our customers save money so they can live better. 

Editor’s Note:  Savings claim is based on item price comparisons (per ounce) of 26 nationally branded organic products available at Walmart stores. Research was conducted in April 2014. 

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Life

From Lanterns to Lions, Ringing in Chinese New Year

Feb. 8 marks the start of Chinese New Year, China’s most important celebration for families. Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is a weeklong public holiday during which families celebrate a year of hard work and wish for good luck in the coming year.

Those shopping in our stores in China see lots of Chinese New Year decorations and traditional foods stocked for this busy time. For readers who aren’t in China, here’s some background on the celebrations.

Traditional Family Meals

Before the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, people all over China travel to their hometowns to unite with their families and decorate their homes in red — a color that symbolizes good luck and joy — and prepare for Chinese New Year celebrations. The night before the Chinese New Year, we prepare a feast made up of symbolic foods:

  • In Chinese culture, a fish course represents wealth in the future, while peanuts signify longevity and good health.
  • Some food symbolism in Chinese New Year dishes is more visual, such as hot pot, which involves simmering meat and vegetables in a round pot at the center of the table. The shape of the pot represents perfection and satisfaction.
  • Dumplings are an example of a food with a more historical tie because they resemble the gold currency — Yuanbao — used in ancient China. Today, dumplings are still thought to signify wealth in the coming year and are a delicious treat stuffed with different fillings.

Celebrations

Like with New Year’s Eve in the U.S. and other western countries, Chinese New Year involves staying up late. We light firecrackers at midnight, a tradition that dates back to ancient folklore. Though the New Year is a cause for celebration now, legend has it that Chinese villagers used to stoke their fires with bamboo to keep away a terrifying, sharp-toothed monster that arose from the sea at the end of the lunar year to prey on people and livestock. Now, we use firecrackers to celebrate the new year and also scare off any bad luck that might be on the horizon.

Celebrations culminate in the Lantern Festival, where people gather to admire the illuminated lanterns (some floating, some carried by children, some fixed as decorations) and guess riddles written on them. On New Year’s Day, people also watch lion dances, in which participants don elaborate, mythical lion costumes that seem larger than life — and eat rice dumplings.

One of our family traditions is for children and grandchildren to wish elders in the family good wishes for the new year and, in turn, the elders will give children a red envelope of money for good luck and to buy toys and books.  Children often sleep with the red envelope under the pillow to bring good luck throughout the year.

The Year of the Monkey

This year is the year of the monkey, the ninth of 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. People born in the year of the monkey are believed to be energetic, witty and mischievous. I look forward to greeting the year of the monkey surrounded by my family and enjoying the snacks and festivities that come with the celebrations. No matter your Chinese zodiac, may the New Year bring good fortune to you and your family!

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Health & Wellness

Losing Weight, But Gaining New Perspective

My struggles with weight started around the time my last child — my son, Drake — was born.

He was premature; he weighed just 3 pounds and 3 ounces when he was born and was in the neonatal ICU for six weeks. Each day, my wife and I shuttled to the hospital, eating nothing but fast food, living in complete fear. It was the most terrifying time in my life, and I emerged from it changed in many ways.

For one, I was a lot heavier.

Before Drake was born, I weighed roughly 225 pounds. I’m 5 feet 9 inches tall, so I wasn’t exactly slim to begin with. In the months after his birth, my weight climbed to more than 265 pounds. While it’s true that I had lots of things to worry about then, I always knew that I needed to make real changes. 

First Steps

When Drake was about a year old, in June 2011, he was taking his first steps; coincidentally, my wife and I were taking some of our own. We started working out on our Xbox; shortly after that, we joined a gym. I began to lose weight doing cardio and strength training, and I started getting in shape — mentally as well as physically. Customers and colleagues alike started noticing and talking to me about my weight loss. It made me feel much closer to them. Their support made the effort easier.

As my wife and I grew healthier, we aimed to eat healthier. That wasn’t easy: We were used to eating whatever we wanted — pizza, burgers, ice cream, soda, you name it. To make a change, we had to clean out our cabinets completely. It was a total pantry makeover.

Now I’m a Guide

About a year after we started our journey to better health, one of my store’s co-managers mentioned the ZP Challenge to me — ZP for “zip” or zero, meaning, you make it what you want it to be — specifically because he knew about my efforts. But he didn’t just ask me to look into the program, which is basically a friendly competition to inspire better wellbeing. He asked if I could set it up in the store and introduce other associates to it. That was a big deal.

That was three years ago, and I’ve participated in the Challenge, a program for Walmart associates, their families and friends, ever since. I even won a prize for my success story — the very one I’m telling now. But to be honest, it wasn’t the biggest gift I received. I’ve also been honored to help more than 30 of my fellow associates with the program.

Paying It Forward

I now weigh about 180 pounds, perfect for my size (at one point I was at 153, but that wasn’t realistic). More than that, my life and my perspective have changed. I have more energy. I’m more outgoing. I enjoy life, and I share that enthusiasm. One of the things I’ve started doing is telling people in my life they’re doing a good job. When you tell people they’re doing awesome, it changes their day, and your own. Even more, it changes your world. Honestly, because of all these changes, I’m a nicer person.

I’m also one of the first 10 official ZP guides, so I’m ready with support and information whenever anyone needs either. I’m paying it forward. The support I’ve gotten in the store and online has been nothing short of tremendous. And I want to let others know they can be tremendous, too. Because you can. Everyone can.

I’m living proof.

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates. Read other associates’ stories of encouragement and motivation at ZPChallenge.com.  

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Sustainability

Hold the Salt: A Story of Reformulating Food

Big change is coming to the grocery aisles.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has mandated that partially hydrogenated oils – most commonly found in industrially produced fats and oils – be eliminated as a food ingredient by June 2018. Research clearly shows a link between trans fats and cardiovascular disease. So a timetable has been set to take action.

A big reason why I work for Walmart is that we’re constantly looking for ways we can help people live better – oftentimes, before federal mandates like these are handed down. In fact, by the end of this month, we anticipate having successfully removed all partially hydrogenated oils from Walmart private brand food – such as Great Value – sold in our U.S. stores, a goal we’ve been working toward since 2011. But we’re not stopping there.

Simultaneously, we’ve been working to reduce sodium in Walmart’s private brand foods and national brand food products by 25% and added sugars by 10% by the end of December 2015. We’ve long since surpassed our sugar-related reformulation goal. And, while we’re tracking about 5% behind our sodium reduction goal – results through December 2015 are being vetted and will be announced publicly this spring – we continue to work toward completion and are proud of the precedent we're setting across the grocery industry.

There have been some big wins along the way to help us move the needle. One example was when we set out to reduce sodium in all varieties of Great Value Potato Chips and Great Value Kettle Cooked Chips. We successfully removed a combined 30 tons of sodium from 36 million bags of chips annually. And, according to test data, we did so without compromising taste. To put that into perspective, 30 tons is equivalent to an entire Walmart truck (cab and trailer) or about 70 Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

In the end, every slice of progress in the reformulation of the thousands of private and national brand food items Walmart sells contributes to a healthier tomorrow for our customers. But the reality is, you can’t simply go out and turn the dial down on sodium, sugar and trans fats and say, ‘We’re there. We did it.’ Our palates are accustomed to certain tastes, so the key is taking small, incremental steps toward long-term change. You're basically giving consumers’ palates a chance to adjust rather than shocking them all at once.

Every step forward involves extensive time, testing, evaluation and more. Many of the wins we’re realizing today are several years in the making – and, in most cases, there was no road map for how to get there. As senior director of private brand food initiatives, I’ve been deeply entrenched in helping develop a road map. We recognized, for example, that the majority of sodium in the diet of the average American comes from processed foods. So we’ve focused our efforts on the 47 most popular processed food categories, which include such examples as cheeses, cereal, crackers, canned tomatoes and more.

One interesting discovery along the way was that the sodium within the recipes of our own Great Value breads varied from one production facility to another. So by working with each facility to understand needs and challenges, we were able to develop a standardized process that, in turn, helped produce long-term results in sodium reduction. There are a variety of hurdles and challenges to reformulation work within private brands, and there is the potential for even more with national brands. But we’ve already proven that, with a relentless work ethic, real progress can be made in the areas of sodium, sugar and trans fat reformulation. We continue to identify and zero in on additional opportunities.

There was a day when all of this seemed so overwhelming. But we’re creating a road map. We’re building best practices. We’re growing relationships, learning from our experiences and helping to influence a healthier tomorrow. 

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Opportunity

Path from Army to NASA Leads to Walmart

I can still remember how the walls shook each time one of the space shuttles launched. Even though the launch pad was seven miles away, everything around me shook like an earthquake.

As a satellite engineer, I got to be close to the action. I had a lot of great experiences during my 13 years with NASA. I worked as a satellite controller – including the Hubble – and even built and tested rocket launching systems. It’s something I will never forget!

When my shuttle site was deactivated in 2012, that left me needing to find another job. I ended up moving from Florida to Wyoming to work as an engineer for a satellite TV company for a year. After experiencing a harsh winter and a nearly fatal car accident, I was ready to move back. 

I was excited to be coming back to what I considered my home state. I wasn’t born there, but Florida felt like home from the instant I arrived. It’s also where I wanted to start life with my soon-to-be husband. It was easy to make the decision to move back, but what I didn’t expect was how hard it would be to start a brand-new career there. 

I was very fortunate to have had a solid work history and had even spent eight years in the Army supporting communications for the Pentagon and the White House. I thought I had a great background that would help me easily find a new career, but I was trying to find a new job right when unemployment was high. It was hard for everyone to find work. I went on interview after interview, a lot of them hourly jobs, each one telling me that I was overqualified. What none of them understood was how badly I wanted to work and contribute to something bigger. It was hard being without a job and to be continually told no.

I applied at Walmart, but expected the same answer. It was an hourly job in a store – there was no way they’d tell me yes when so many others had said no. I’m so glad they proved me wrong.

Because Walmart gave me a chance, I can make Florida my permanent home and build a life here. They knew that the leadership and problem-solving skills I’d learned in the Army and at NASA would help me be a great associate. My experiences taught me how to manage people well and get them focused on the task at hand. And being in the Army taught me how to take the resources I had, analyze the situation and create quick and efficient solutions. All of these things really help you when working in a store.

I was hired as an electronics associate at store 1172 in Jacksonville, Florida. It was challenging and fast-paced. I loved helping people and I brought that attitude to work with me every day. After only a year, I was promoted to Homelines department manager. I’ve been with Walmart for just over two years now. I tell every associate that if you work hard, are conscientious, use initiative and quickly take care of the problems you see – you’ll be recognized. I only see opportunity here – there’s no limit to where you can go. What’s my next step? I love people and leading teams, so I hope to work my way up to be an assistant store manager soon.

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