Tuna is one of the most popular types of seafood in the United States. With its mild flavor, lean protein, and omega-3 fatty acids, tuna has become a staple item for many households. As the largest retailer in the U.S., Walmart sells a significant amount of tuna to meet consumer demand. But where exactly does Walmart source its tuna? Let’s take a closer look at the origins and supply chain for Walmart tuna products.
Overview of Walmart Tuna Products
Walmart sells tuna in three main product categories:
- Canned tuna – Classic canned tuna, available in chunk light and solid white varieties, packed in water or oil
- Pouches – Pre-flavored or seasoned tuna in resealable pouches, like tuna creations and tuna salad kits
- Frozen tuna steaks – Vacuum-sealed, frozen yellowfin or albacore tuna steaks
Within these categories, Walmart carries its everyday Great Value store brand along with major national brands like StarKist, Chicken of the Sea, and Bumble Bee. Canned and pouched tuna are by far the most popular options, while tuna steaks make up a smaller segment of sales.
Countries Supplying Tuna to Walmart
Walmart sources tuna from all over the world. Here are some of the major countries supplying tuna to Walmart brand products:
- Thailand – A major source of canned tuna. Thailand has a robust seafood processing industry and exports a large quantity of canned tuna.
- Vietnam – Another major hub for canned tuna exports. Like Thailand, Vietnam produces significant amounts of canned tuna for foreign markets.
- Ecuador – A leading source of tuna for pouched tuna creations. Ecuadorian tuna is prized for its sustainable fishing practices.
- Indonesia – Known for exporting frozen tuna steaks and loins. Indonesian tuna fisheries supply high-quality tuna for sashimi and sushi as well.
- Philippines – The Philippines produces canned and pouched tuna for export. Its coastal tuna canneries process tuna for major brands.
Other countries like Mexico, Colombia, and Taiwan also export some quantities of tuna to Walmart and other major U.S. retailers.
Tuna is primarily caught in one of two ways at an industrial scale:
- Longlining – Longlines are lines that can be over 60 miles long with thousands of baited hooks. They catch tuna effectively, but have high bycatch of vulnerable species like sharks and sea turtles.
- Purse seining – Uses large nets up to 6,500 feet around that are drawn closed like a purse to encircle schools of tuna. More targeted than longlines but can still result in bycatch issues.
Less common methods include pole-and-line fishing, trolling with baited lines, and fish aggregating devices (FADs) that attract tuna for easier harvesting.
Many environmental groups have raised concerns about the sustainability of some common tuna fishing techniques. In response, some Walmart tuna suppliers have taken steps to use more responsible practices certified by groups like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the ISSF ProActive Vessel Register (PVR).
Major Tuna Suppliers for Walmart Brands
Walmart works with select major suppliers to source tuna for its Great Value products. Here are a few of the main suppliers:
- Thai Union – Thailand’s largest seafood company. Owns the Chicken of the Sea brand and operates canneries in Thailand.
- Century Pacific Food – Leading canned food company in the Philippines and major tuna exporter.
- Tri Marine – Global tuna supply company with fishing vessels and processing plants around the world.
- Starkist – Largest U.S. tuna company, owned by South Korea’s Dongwon Group. Has plants in Ecuador and American Samoa.
By leveraging the scale and sourcing power of suppliers like these, Walmart can source canned and pouched tuna for its everyday low price strategy.
Tuna Species at Walmart
There are several species of tuna commonly harvested for commercial use:
|Skipjack||Canned||Most widely fished tuna, used for canned light tuna.|
|Yellowfin||Canned & Frozen||Mild flavor, used for steaks and canned white tuna.|
|Albacore||Canned & Frozen||Richer flavor, common in canned white tuna.|
|Bigeye||Canned & Frozen||Prized for sashimi, also used for steaks and canned tuna.|
Skipjack makes up most of the canned light tuna, while yellowfin and albacore are preferred for white tuna and tuna steaks. Walmart Great Value tuna contains a mix of these species based on availability.
Given concerns over tuna fishing practices, Walmart has implemented several initiatives around sustainable tuna sourcing:
- Committing to source all store brand canned light tuna from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries by 2025.
- Prioritizing procurement from vessels listed in the PVR to reduce illegal fishing and bycatch issues.
- Joining industry groups like the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) to support responsible tuna fisheries management.
However, environmental groups argue Walmart needs to do more to eliminate destructive fishing from their supply chains entirely. The pressures of Walmart’s scale and continued low pricing make it difficult to rapidly overhaul tuna sourcing practices. Implementing sustainability initiatives across global tuna supply chains is an ongoing process.
Tuna Prices at Walmart
Here is an overview of the pricing on select Walmart tuna products:
|Great Value Chunk Light Tuna in Water (5 oz.)||$0.98|
|Great Value Albacore Solid White Tuna in Water (5 oz.)||$1.28|
|StarKist Solid White Albacore Tuna Pouch (2.6 oz.)||$1.98|
|Chicken of the Sea Skinless & Boneless Yellowfin Tuna Steaks (4 oz.)||$3.98|
Walmart tuna prices are generally 20-50% lower than major grocery chains. Store brands like Great Value offer additional savings compared to national brands.
Factors Affecting Tuna Prices
There are several key factors that impact the retail pricing of tuna:
- Raw material costs – Price fluctuations for fresh or frozen tuna.
- Fuel costs – Affects fishing and transportation expenses.
- Processing costs – Labor, canning/pouching, freezing, etc.
- Exchange rates -usd versus foreign currencies where tuna is produced.
- Tariffs & trade policies – Import taxes and quotas can raise costs.
- Inventory levels – Whether suppliers have enough stock on hand.
If input costs rise for suppliers, it typically results in higher wholesale prices that get passed onto retailers like Walmart. However, Walmart’s scale allows some insulation from price fluctuations.
Quality Control and Food Safety
All seafood sold at Walmart must adhere to their strict Seafood Quality Standards, which include:
- Facility audits and certification requirements for suppliers.
- Product testing for contaminants, microbes, and other adulterants.
- Regulatory compliance checks to ensure adherence to FDA/USDA standards.
- Traceability documentation to track chain of custody.
- Cold chain management to ensure proper refrigeration.
By requiring suppliers to follow these procedures and subjecting products to additional testing upon arrival at Walmart warehouses, they aim to ensure the quality and safety of all seafood, including tuna products.
Walmart sources tuna from well-established fishing grounds and processing facilities around the world. Canned and pouched tuna originate primarily from Thailand, Vietnam, and coastal countries in Latin America. Frozen tuna steaks and sushi cuts are sourced largely from Indonesia and the Pacific. While Walmart still has room for improvement in responsible sourcing, they have made public commitments and helped support initiatives around sustainability. Leveraging their massive scale, they are able to keep tuna prices affordable for most consumers. Strict quality control procedures also help ensure the tuna sold at Walmart is safe to eat.