The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Wal-Mart launches efforts to increase produce freshness

Jennifer Gonzales, manager of the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Altadena, in the store's fresh produce section.
Jennifer Gonzales, manager of the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Altadena, in the store's fresh produce section. KPCC/Wendy Lee

Wal-Mart Inc. said Monday it has launched efforts to improve the freshness and quality of the fruit and vegetables at its stores.

The nation’s largest retailer said it plans to work more with local farmers and will ultimately save customers money by cutting out the middlemen. It will also offer employees training on how to handle fruits and vegetables. 

Wal-Mart plans to double its locally grown produce sales by December 2015. 

"Our fresh produce promise follows recent commitments by the company to make food healthier and healthier food more affordable," said company spokeswoman Danit Marquardt.

Marquardt did not say how much produce it currently buys from local growers or how much that might increase.  

Britt Beemer, CEO of America’s Research Group, said he believes Wal-Mart is going after the more affluent customer. As part of Wal-Mart’s campaign, the retailer is offering customers their money back if they believe the produce isn’t fresh.

"They're trying to speak to [affluent customers]," Beemer said. "They get them in their stores already to buy some things, but just don't get them in the stores to buy the produce."

Beemer said some customers have complained Wal-Mart's produce wasn’t as fresh, especially in stores in locations with smaller populations, where items may sit out longer.

He said it is possible Wal-Mart could take away customers from Target with its new initiative. About 45 percent of Target’s customers shop at Wal-Mart, while only 25 percent of Wal-Mart customers shop at Target, he said.

Wal-Mart has more than 150 stores in California that sell groceries. 

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