Inspired by Michelle Obama, Walmart Introduces ‘Healthier’ Food Logo, Plans to Track ‘Behavior Shift’

By Penny Starr | February 7, 2012 | 3:10 PM EST

Andrea Thomas, senior vice president of sustainability at Walmart, spoke on Feb. 7, 2012 in Washington, D.C. at an event to unveil the corporation's new “Great for You” icon that will be used to identify “healthier” foods in its retail stores. ( Starr)

( – Shoppers in the grocery aisles of Walmart will soon see a new icon popping up on foods deemed healthier by the retail giant, which will also track how many of those items make it to the checkout counter.

Corporate officials unveiled the “Great for You” icon at an event in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.

The new signage is part of a wider Walmart campaign, announced last year alongside First Lady Michelle Obama.

Andrea Thomas, the company’s vice-president of sustainability, said the company would monitor how shoppers react.

“We will have actual learning now of when you put an icon on a package and when you have criteria such as ours, does that shift behaviors?” Thomas said. “We’ll be able to track when the icon goes on a particular product; what happens to sales within that category, what happens to sales across categories.”

Thomas said the green-and-white logo featuring a leaping or exercising stick figure will be rolled out in the produce section of Walmart grocery isles in April and will then be added to packaging over the next year.

“We’ll be able to see, as soon as those signs roll out, how does the purchase behavior shift because of that information?” Thomas said.

The Walmart campaign announced last July with the First Lady includes the labeling on products and plans to build stores in areas which the Department of Agriculture has determined to be “food deserts.”

The USDA defines a food desert as a “low-income community” that has “at least 500 people and/or at least 33 percent of the census tract's population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.”

Walmart officials said products that will carry the “Great for You” logo must meet certain criteria, including containing limited amounts of fat, trans fat, saturated fat, sodium and “added sugar.”

Foods that make the grade include most fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and pasta, eggs, seafood, and poultry and meats that meet the USDA definition of “lean.”

Potatoes do not appear on a list of approved foods on the Walmart Web site.

Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Walmart, said mothers want to feed their families healthy food but are confused by labeling and don't have time for research. ( Starr)

The officials and invited panelists spoke in front of a backdrop of a simulated Walmart grocery aisle.

Leslie Dach, executive vice president of corporate affairs, said Walmart customers – especially moms – want to feed their families healthy food, “but they’re confused on what they see on the labels and the conflicting advice they often see and hear in the news.”

“They don’t have time to study and research the options,” he said. “So they’re asking all of us to make the food in our stores healthier and to give them the simple tools they need to find that healthy food.”

Dach credited the First Lady for Walmart’s campaign, saying Obama had told the corporation’s managers “to keep our focus on the most important table in America – the kitchen table.”

Walmart customers are “living the new normal,” he declared. “The family dinner table is where the issues of the economy and raising a family come together every night.”