Wegmans Transparently Great Private Brand

\"WegmasnMany people talk about private brand at Wegmans, and the conversation is most often focused on products and product development. Over the last few months I have run several stories that focus on a refreshing transparency from the retailer that is honestly surprising given that most retailers prefer to be shrouded in secrets.

The stories have come courtesy of the official Wegmans blog “Fresh Stories” and the column written by their Senior Vice President, Consumer Affairs, Mary Ellen Burris – “Join the Conversation with Mary Ellen Burris.”The latest story also comes from Burris’ column and features a frank conversation about the return of discontinued Private Brand products.

Tangy marinade back…Woo Hoo!

It’s no secret to you, I’m sure, that we’ve been paring down the number of products in each category over the last several years. The goal is to have a more streamlined assortment, less redundancy instead of endless shelves of same-o, same-o. However, we know that individuals have strong favorites based on purchase over time, and when we drop one of those, we hear about it. These are not always well known national brands; sometimes they are Wegmans brand.

Last year Wegmans Tangy Marinade was discontinued. We received 130 customer requests to please bring it back, and in June we did, based on those pleas that we had ruined their favorite family meals. We did notify those 130 people who had emailed or called us, and it was fun to read their feedback. Here are a couple of them:

“I received a letter that Wegmans Tangy Marinade is making a return appearance. This is just wonderful! We had been doing some grilling but it was just NOT THE SAME without this wonderful marinade. I am buying several bottles and even shipping some to my daughters in California and Florida who miss it.”

“I am beyond thrilled that you are once again carrying Tangy Marinade. My whole family, all five of us, THANK YOU VERY MUCH. WooHoo.”

Streamlining the assortment is hard, because people do have strong preferences. The items to discontinue are those with fewer sales (less popular). Consumer Reports in their March issue had a story titled “Too Many Choices?” with the subtitle “the downside to oodles of eggs and tons of toothpaste.” It quoted author Barry Schwartz of “The Paradox of Choice,” published 10 years ago, who pointed out that an abundance of choice can complicate decision making. A survey he had done showed that people who found too many options said they had walked away empty handed because the scope of choices made selection too hard. Why are there so many similar choices? Many manufacturers, under pressure to increase growth, try to increase sales by introducing line extensions rather than innovations.It’s complicated but we count on hearing from you when we do things that disappoint. We do listen. Other examples of changes made due to customer feedback included bringing back Wegmans bone-in half hams and modifying the Petite Pastry selection. A few product improvements made based on your feedback include Wegmans Burrito Tortillas (less sticky), Wegmans Blueberry Waffles (more blueberries), and Wegmans Italian Classics Grilled Vegetable Pizza (better veggie coverage).

I had to smile recently when Bob Maybee, formerly head of our grocery, dairy and frozen departments moved to a new assignment, and told his successor that he had never had a single day in all the years he oversaw these areas when he had the “right assortment.” We continue to work at this and to have what adds the best value for you, as we try to get the “right assortment.”

Mary Ellen Burris
Senior Vice President, Consumer Affairs
Incredible Service since 1971

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.