Walmart links sustainability initiative to higher seafood sales

Published on
October 27, 2020

Walmart stores that ran a targeted sustainable seafood campaign have seen a significant lift in fresh seafood sales, an executive with the leading global retailer said.

Starting this spring, Walmart launched a massive store signage campaign for both fresh and frozen seafood “to communicate more clearly to customers the quality, value, and sustainability of the seafood they buy at Walmart,” Jacqui Lyons, divisional merchandise manager for seafood and seasonal meat for Walmart U.S. said in a press release from FMI - The Food Industry Association.

Stores running the campaign and investing in sustainable seafood space and assortment changes have realized around a 25 percent improvement in fresh seafood sales compared to the rest of Walmart’s U.S. stores, according to Lyons.

“Consumers are responding positively,” Lyons said. “Providing more transparency is clearly what the customer has been asking for and we will continue to find ways to do so.”

Walmart is also stepping up sustainable seafood marketing for National Seafood Month, with its Online Grocery program is featuring sustainable seafood throughout October.

“We’re sharing online recipes, entertaining ideas, a shopping guide with information about seafood certifications, and newly launched ‘ready-to-eat’ meals that include high-quality, budget-friendly sustainable seafood offerings with lots of flavor,” said Jessica Baldini, Walmart’s merchant for shelf stable proteins.
Lyons also praised certification programs’ National Seafood Month consumer education initiatives, such as the Marine Stewardship Council’s "Good for You and the Ocean Too" campaign, which is focused on deepening understanding of its Blue Fish eco-label. In addition, the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Instagram influencer campaign is urging dietitians and nutritionists post certified sustainable seafood recipes, Lyons said.

Walmart began working toward sourcing certified, wild-caught seafood in 2006. Now, around 98 percent of its wild-caught seafood is certified sustainable or from a fishery improvement project (FIP), according to Lyons.

In 2016, Walmart announced a goal to sustainably source at least 20 key commodities by 2025, including seafood, according to Baldini. One of the key 2025 goals was sourcing its Great Value canned tuna either from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fisheries or time-bound FIPs actively working toward MSC approval. Walmart reached that goal earlier than expected, it announced in June on World Oceans Day. The tuna change came about much earlier than expected due to “a lot of planning and preparing across the full supply chain,” Baldini said.

“After gaining internal alignment and support from Walmart’s leaders, the seafood buying team communicated the roadmap across the supply chain, which we believe was key to seeing progression and results,” Baldini said. “Being able to pull all stakeholders into a room together to learn from each other and discuss milestones, goals and challenges was – and will remain – an important step in our journey.”

Through the initiative, Walmart’s seafood suppliers are  being encouraged to obtain sustainability certification, Lyons said.

“People want to feel good about the products they buy, and our customers count on us to deliver access to safe, healthier, and affordable products in a way that is sustainable,” Lyons said. “That’s why Walmart encourages suppliers to certify their products and works with them to increase transparency and traceability back to products’ origins.”

Seafood suppliers should also report their progress using the Seafood Metrics System, managed by Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, Lyons said.

“This system helps measure and track supplier performance on sustainable sourcing,” she said.

Based on the SFP supplier reports, Walmart shares aggregated seafood data publicly through the Ocean Disclosure Project as well as Walmart’s annual ESG report.

Photos courtesy of FMI - The Food Industry Assocation

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