Michelle Obama op-ed: Healthy food is good business

February 28, 2013

First lady Michelle Obama is out with a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, in which she argues that health food options are a growth industry and, thus, businesses should focus on them.

Here's the crux:

Take the example of Wal-Mart . In just the past two years, the company reports that it has cut the costs to its consumers of fruits and vegetables by $2.3 billion and reduced the amount of sugar in its products by 10%. Wal-Mart has also opened 86 new stores in underserved communities and launched a labeling program that helps customers spot healthy items on the shelf. And today, the company is not only seeing increased sales of fresh produce, but also building better relationships with its customers and stronger connections to the communities it serves.

Wal-Mart isn't alone in discovering that healthier products sell. Disney is eliminating ads for junk foods from its children's programming and improving the food served in Disney theme parks. Walgreens is adding fresh fruits and vegetables to its stores in underserved communities. And restaurants around the country are cutting calories, fat and sodium from menus and offering healthier kids' meals.

These companies and so many others are responding to clear trends in consumer demand. Today, 82% of consumers feel that it's important for companies to offer healthy products that fit family budgets, according to the Edelman public relations firm. Meanwhile, a study conducted by Nielsen revealed that even when many families are operating on tight budgets, sales of fresh produce actually increased by 6% in 2012. And in 2011, the Hudson Institute reported that in recent years, healthier foods have generated more than 70% of the growth in sales for consumer packaged-goods companies—and when these companies sell a high percentage of healthier foods, they deliver significantly higher returns to their shareholders.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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