It has been more than a month since I first experienced the Great Value relaunch in store and wrote a post about it, “Great Brand, Great Pizza, Great Value?” This first post focused on the only products I found in store, Great Value frozen pizzas. Our local Walmart is about 20 miles from my home so to visit it requires a planned trip, and that is exactly what I did this weekend. What I discovered is a brand that is beginning to roll into the store and a brand strategy that still leaves more questions than answers. Frozen molten dessert cakes seem to compliment the upscale, unique pizzas well, while Styrofoam plates scream Value Brand. Meanwhile six to seven types of (Ralcorp?) breakfast cereal clearly occupy the National Brand Equivalent arena, and premium lactose free half gallons of milk stand alone with the new design in the dairy case.
The stark white design seems to be doing its job and standing out from the chaos of national brand package design. I am still not sure how I feel about it but as it permeates the aisles it begins to grow on me and somehow feel appropriate.
I also continue to notice the quality of the packaging; the printing seems to be on par with national brands however the substrate on many of the packages feels flimsy and noticeably less than the similar national brands. This is an interesting choice given the tactical nature of the brand experience both at shelf and at home.
Great Value appears to be getting improved merchandising placement. The new Great Value Pizzas had a prominent position in one of the first frozen end caps along with its inline merchandising. The Great Value foam plates occupied an entire end cap just before the dairy section on the meat side of the aisle.
These questions remain:
How far can or should a Private Brand stretch?
How far can a brand, so clearly saddled, with a Value Tier name stretch?
How are Great Value and Sam’s Choice differentiated?
In other Great Value news, this past Saturday, March 16, 2009, Business Week published an article on the relaunch, reformulation and redesign of Great Value. Below is a excerpt from the article.
Wal-Mart Gives Its Store Brand a Makeover
Wal-Mart is changing the formula for many of its Great Value products, adding new items and rolling out updated packaging
Wal-Mart Stores has completely overhauled its oldest and biggest store brand, a move likely to send shock waves through the ranks of branded grocery manufacturers around the globe.
For the past year, Wal-Mart has worked with suppliers and consumers to test the quality of more than 5,250 of its Great Value private-label products against leading national brands. With thousands of products spanning 100 categories, Great Value is not only the biggest brand Wal-Mart carries, it’s the biggest grocery brand in the entire country.
The extensive testing prompted the company to change the formulas for 750 everyday items, mostly foods, such as its kids’ breakfast cereal, which was made crisper, for example. Senior Vice-President Andrea Thomas, an innovation specialist who worked on new product development at Frito-Lay (PEP) and Hershey (HSY) before joining Wal-Mart in 2007, has also launched more than 80 new products under the Great Value line, such as thin-crust pizza, fat-free caramel swirl ice cream, and organic cage-free eggs.
Unusual Ice Cream Flavors
Some of the new products were designed using consumer feedback, which Thomas hopes will make them unique and perhaps even more attractive than national brands. “We trained customers to do comparisons for us and talk to us about what they were looking for,” she says. For example, the Great Value all-natural ice cream now features unusual flavors like mocha mud slide and cake batter. “The national brands are not designing items [exclusively] for the Wal-Mart customer,” she says. “We are.”
Will the Consumer Shift Stick?
As for whether the new Great Value items will receive more prominent shelf space inside Wal-Mart’s stores, Thomas was noncommittal. “The Great Value items earn their position just like the branded stuff does,” she says. “We pay attention to what sells.”
The big question now is whether consumers will keep buying store brands when economic conditions improve, or return to national brands. By improving Great Value, Wal-Mart hopes to make that decision more difficult.