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Walmart has made two powerful moves over the past couple weeks that should make traditional grocers sit up, take notice and wonder if these moves have put Walmart on the right track.
Walmart has opened their Culinary & Innovation Center to test, taste and develop new branded and private label food products. It’s a toe in the water, as the facility is just 3,000 square feet. At the grand opening, the company showcased products ranging from the indulgent and questionably healthful (Fried Hostess Twinkies and a half-pound frozen breakfast sandwiches under the Great Value Big Burly label) to distinctive label exclusives (Trouble Brewing Co. beers), and high-end cheeses and charcuterie.
There is a new line of Street Kitchen brand meal-kits, a line of 20 easy meal packages including pre-measured spices and marinades for three-step preparation (add your own protein) designed to bring global cuisine to their shoppers with ancho chile and lime tacos, kung pao chicken, Malaysian satay chicken and Moroccan lemon chicken.
Walmart and its spokespeople on the launch are talking “high-end and affordable,” “permission to premiumize,” “healthier products,” and “millennial.” My question is whether Walmart shoppers want these foods, and whether these new offerings, many of which will be sold under the Great Value and Great Value Organic, will attract the new shoppers they want into their stores?
And it could be their second announcement as reported by the BBC has the answer, delivery by Uber and Lyft. At Walmart’s annual shareholder meeting, CEO Doug McMillon announced the partnership, which will launch in Denver and Phoenix, two very different demographic markets. If Walmart is in fact serious about pushing premium culinary to Millennials we have to wonder why in these two markets are the pilot.
Walmart continues to try to innovate and evolve; the key is moving beyond the concept and trying to “doing.”