Corporations can do responsible marketing to improve people's nutrition behaviors (or call it social marketing). Walmart announces a new point-of-choice food labeling program that will add 'Great for You' on many of its own products and at the fruit and vegetable counter; it will also be made available for free to other brands - though I would not expect a stampede to that offer. In the NYT article today, the usual suspects are herded to proclaim that "the label will only go on a fifth of their products" and "in the midst of all this clutter of competing [food labeling] systems, how helpful [will] its approach...be"? Eeyore has competition too, especailly when it comes to improving food choices.
When you look beyond the new label (and it is admittedly hard for people who only have information and communication hammers to solve problems), let's look at some other Walmart initiatives mentioned in this same article and use some marketing benchmarks:
Audience - Walmart focuses on the budget-conscious family, a very different group from what many health educators choose - the 'ready-to-change,' nutrition-aware, woman.
Product - Walmart has been working with suppliers of national brands and private label products to reduce sodium, added sugar and trans fats in 165 products it offers.
Place - It has built 23 stores to specifically serve food deserts where people lack access to full-service grocery stores.
Price - It has lower prices for fresh fruits and vegetables (Walmart claims last year its shoppers would have spent $1 billion more buying similar products at competing stores). It has also worked with suppliers to cut the costs of items like reduced-fat peanut butter and fat-free salad dressing.
Promotion - And yes, it does have a point-of-choice promotion effort along with all the other communication it does around healthier food.
What the self-styled critics of this Walmart initiative may be missing is the total picture. They will nitpick on the communication, the validity of the labeling criteria, whether it is "exploitative" to build Walmarts in neighborhoods with no access to grocery stores, why ALL products are not created equal (no fat, no salt, no sugars for example), and why prices are STILL as high as they are for fresh fruits and vegertables. They will miss how the social marketing approach can be employed to address a number of pieces of the nutrition and obesity puzzle rather than focusing on just (their preferred) one.
Read the article for yourself, but first ask yourself: "are eggs a healthy food?" Now you are primed.