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Wal-Mart includes frozens, ice cream in Great Value private label program.

Line rolled out in food departments at Supercenters operated by largest retail chain in USA -- or perhaps the world. It remains to be seen if serious shelf space will be devoted to frozen products.

Wal-Mart is the biggest retail chain in the world, and getting bigger. With $45 billion in sales last year, the discount operator is making a direct challenge to supermarket chains for the grocery market with the Supercenter combination store concept and a Great Value line of private label products to go with it.

Frozen foods and ice cream were among the first 350 Great Value products rolled out this spring, and the program is expected to grow to more than 1,000 items by the turn of the century. The number of Supercenter outlets, now about 50, is expected to reach 500 at the same time. Based in Bentonville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart acquired a wholesale grocery operation, McLane Co, Temple, Texas, a few years ago, as a lever to move into the food business on a large scale.

Even before the McLane acquisition, Wal-Mart had opened Hypermart USA, a gigantic combination store in Arlington, Texas, just outside Dallas. While it remains one of a kind, it was a prototype of sorts for the Supercenters, and is thus also now carrying Great Value. Hypermart used to carry groceries under the TV and Rainbow private labels from Fleming Companies, Oklahoma City, Okla., while the Supercenters carried black and white generics. Both are now being replaced by Great Value.

A Fort Worth, Texas, resident who shopped Hypermart USA for Quick Frozen Foods International reported that the only frozen items in the first wave of Great Value there were ice cream and waffles. There may be more at Supercenter outlets, and there certainly will be more before long. QFFI's man in Fort Worth said he was impressed with the quality of both the waffles and the ice cream. Sam's American Choice, an upscale private line for all Wal-Mart stores introduced last year, has been limited to snack and specialty foods.

Sam's American Choice and Great Value are seen by industry analysts as complements to each other in a Wal-Mart master plan to master the food retailing business. Great Value is the standard quality line, for items ranging from canned vegetables to ice cream, whereas Sam's American Choice is Wal-Mart's answer to President's Choice of Loblaw International Merchants: it includes gourmet chocolate chip cookies, specialty snacks such as blue tortilla chips and peanut butter pretzels, and a cola said to have beaten Coke in taste tests. A motif common to packaging for both lines is the private label logo turned on its side - which isn't surprising, since both were designed by the Watt Group of Toronto, the outfit behind the No Name and President's Choice designs for Loblaw.

At Loblaw, No Name came first, and helped revive a struggling chain that seemed to be on the verge of collapse. President's Choice, with its decadent chocolate chip cookies and the like, was then developed to give Loblaw a whole new identity. It not only achieved that goal, but inspired other upscale private label lines like World Classics at Topco Associates, Skokie, Ill., and Sensational at First National Supermarkets, Windsor Locks, Conn. But with Sam's American Choice at Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, the upscale cart came before the standard horse. That was undoubtedly because Wal-Mart was only testing the waters in food retailing at the time: besides the Hypermart, it had just six Supercenters in operation at the end of 1991. Its standard discount format had room only for specialty foods.

That's changing fast, with the current pace of Supercenter openings (some of which are remodeled conventional discount stores) and Wal-Mart evidently wanted to take advantage of it even faster when it went to Don Watt, head of the Watt Group, on development of its Great Value line. "We designed 350 different products in just two and a half months," he told Food Business recently. Early reports were that the first wave of Great Value would be limited to shelf-stable products, but Advertising Age was soon heralding the introduction of frozen food, dairy and deli items. The range of the latter three, of course, will depend on how much space Wal-Mart wants to devote to frozen and refrigerated products.

Packaging for the ice cream (although not, so far, for the waffle), includes a guarantee statement that also appears on the latest packaging (designed since new regulations by the US Food and Drug Administration for nutritional statements took effect) for shelf-stable foods.

"'Great Value.' It's more than just a name -- it's a promise.

"When you buy a 'Great Value' product, you can be sure that you're getting both the quality and the value you deserve as a Wal-Mart customer. We've shopped around, so you don't have to.

"We think you'll be pleased when you compare our 'Great Value' products to any of the National Brands -- in fact, we guarantee it.

"If you're not completely satisfied with any 'Great Value' product, simply return it, and we'll refund your money."

Borscht to Honey Garlic -- Toronto-Made Ice Creams

Patrons attending the annual Toronto Film Festival earlier this year found themselves in for an unusual taste treat -- Beet Borscht Ice Cream. The frozen concoction was made by the Metropolitan Ice Cream Co., a small Canadian manufacturer that has become well known in the Toronto area for packing off-beat creations. Among its more exotic flavors have been Honey Garlic for the Harbour Front Garlic Festival, Maple Syrup for the CN Tower, and Green Tea for the Skydome.
COPYRIGHT 1993 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Author:Pierce, J.J.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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