Innovation has long been part of Walmart’s culture. Testing items, listening to the Walmart customers and coming up with new product ideas – like Mystery Peeps and the new Sam’s Choice premium ice creams. The retailer announced the opening of its new Culinary and Innovation Center, dedicated to this very process late last week.

The Walmart private brands team (the people behind Great Value, Marketside and the like) hit a home run by making this new facility a reality. It represents the heart of what they do – advocating for customers by creating exciting items, ensuring quality and always delivering low prices.

WalmartWalmart’s team tests thousands of items a year – helping food merchants act as a strong voice for customers, both within Walmart and in conversations with suppliers.

At the new Culinary & Innovation Center, the retailer has a fresh set of capabilities to both imagine the next great items, and maintain quality long after the products arrive on shelves. For example, the test kitchens are designed as if they were going into customers’ homes. From ovens and grills to microwaves and stoves, these varied setups help Walmart understand the experience customers will have when they bring an item home. This new center also includes a sensory lab where they will collect direct, honest feedback from customers and associates in real time. The new facility builds on the success the have seen through a similar facility at our Sam’s Club headquarters. exciting aspect of this new center? Kitchens that replicate in store bakeries and service delis, helping Walmart think through real-life execution for store associates and get increased feedback from them. After all, many of the best ideas across Walmart come from associates.

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Christopher Durham
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.