- Walmart has developed fruit-punch flavored pickles, extra durable tomatoes and cantaloupes that stay sweet all year in an effort to differentiate its assortment from Amazon, according to NPR.
- To get customers interested in these new offerings, Walmart is increasing its in-store sampling, according to Business Insider.
- "When a piece of fruit or vegetable looks odd, at first, you know, people really have to try hard, you know, to taste it," Victor Verlage, senior director of sourcing at Walmart, told NPR. "But if we put demos in the stores, and they love it, then that becomes your best friend because your kid will tell you, mommy, bring me the yellow watermelon that I love."
Walmart isn’t known for having a unique assortment of products — it’s known for offering more products than its competitors, and at lower prices.
But the mega retailer is starting to realize that in order to compete with Amazon, which offers an endless aisle of products at very low prices, it needs to carry more exclusive items, too.
Back in June, Walmart began selling the “Sweet Spark,” a cantaloupe it developed with German seed company Bayer that's 40% sweeter than conventional varieties. Bringing the fruit to market wasn’t easy. Walmart spent more than two years testing 20 different seeds and 150 different names, and then faced the daunting task of producing and distributing the melon to hundreds of stores nationwide. But the end result gave Walmart a competitive edge in the produce space, and a signature product that could help build a more premium reputation.
This drive for exclusivity has inspired other creations developed at Walmart’s Culinary and Innovation Center in Bentonville. Fruit-punch flavored pickles may not appeal to everyone — “it tastes like a salty CapriSun,” as one NPR host put it — but it’s apparently a favorite among barbecue lovers, and so wholly unique that it edges Walmart into that whimsical, inventive territory that Trader Joe’s and a select few other grocers occupy.
Walmart is also accelerating its private brand strategy overall. Last month, it came out with the Sam’s Choice Italia line of pastas, sauces and other Italian staples. Also last month, Walmart’s Jet.com arm rolled out its first exclusive grocery brand, Uniquely J.
Because Walmart’s true strength lies in its national brand dealings and selection, the company is also inking exclusive deals with major suppliers. It recently debuted Hostess’ Deep Fried Twinkies, a frozen creation that resulted from a year-long collaboration between the two companies. And Walmart is the only retailer to carry Oreo's new Jelly Donut Oreo cookie.
Doug McMillon, Walmart’s chief executive, has said that having a private label assortment “has always been important, but it is even more important now.” Walmart has the resources to quickly scale a unique selection of products. That could mean higher margins for the mega retailer and lower prices for consumers, but a further squeeze on beleaguered manufacturers.