Walmart and Other Food Retail Chains

Trends and Disparities in the Nutritional Profile of Packaged Food Purchases
Published:October 20, 2015DOI:


      Proliferation of food retail chains has created an environment in which a few food retailers account for the majority of U.S. packaged food purchases (PFPs). Despite the major potential for these food retail chains (FRCs) to impact what U.S. consumers buy and eat, little is known about the nutritional profile of PFPs from these retailers, particularly PFPs from Walmart, the largest U.S. grocer.


      A data set of household PFPs from Nielsen Homescan was linked to data from the Nutrition Facts Panel (N=164,315), analyzed in 2014. Fixed effects models and inverse probability weights accounting for selectivity of shopping at a retailer were used to examine shifts in nutrient densities and key food groups purchased at Walmart and other FRCs from 2000 to 2013, and whether these changes differed for low-income or racial/ethnic-minority households.


      There were substantial declines in energy (–73 kcal/100 g); total sugar (–8 g/100 g); and sodium density (–33 mg/100 g) of Walmart PFPs, coupled with decreases in percentage volume purchased from sweets (–11%); grain-based desserts (–2%); and savory snacks (–3%) and increases in fruits (+3%) and vegetables (+1%). PFPs from other FRCs had a more favorable nutritional profile than Walmart PFPs in 2000, but demonstrated smaller shifts over time. Disparities in the nutritional profile of Walmart PFPs by race/ethnicity but not by income level shrank over time.


      The nutritional profile of Walmart purchases has improved over time and in 2013 was similar to PFPs from other FRCs.
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