Wal-mart's new private-label look

With new formulas and a uniformity to its packaging, Great Value hopes to appeal to more consumers.

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NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Wal-Mart is relaunching its Great Value private brand, the largest food label in the country, in an attempt to woo even more cash strapped consumers. Citing a study conducted by Gfk, a market research firm, Wal-Mart says that more consumers are switching from national brands to private label products as they look to curb costs. Andrea Thomas, Wal-Mart's senior vice president of private brands, talked to FORTUNE about the overhaul, which was 18 months in the making.

The Great Value brand was originally introduced in 1993. Why re-launch it now? This is an opportunity for us to provide solutions to our customers at a time when they need to save money.

Are private label brands always less expensive than national brands? On average, private label brands cost between 5% and 20% less than national brands.

You tested more than 5,250 of your private brand products against leading national brands. Who were the guinea pigs? We took panels of our customers through 12 hours of training so that they could talk to us about flavor, texture and aroma. When they noticed a difference between our private label products and the national brands, we sent those products to a lab to work on some of the things we needed to change.

You ended up changing the formulas on 750 items. What's different? Some of the national brands were using natural colorings in their ice pops. We reformulated our ice pops to use natural colorings. Also, we have a fat free sour cream. We worked on the texture. We wanted to make sure it was creamy enough.

What are some of the 80 new products you introduced? We launched an all-natural line of ice cream in flavors that Wal-Mart customers had requested such as "cake batter." We also added two new varieties to our Twist & Shout chocolate sandwich cookie. We now have one with extra filling and another that is vanilla flavored.

You also simplified the packaging to feature pictures of food on a white background so that the brand has a uniformed look across categories. What else has changed? We introduced bilingual packaging. And we did a better job of flagging allergens.

When can customers expect to see these changes on stores shelves? Beginning this month.

Wal-Mart also sells other private label brands, including Ol' Roy dog food, named for one of Sam Walton's hunting dogs, and Equate health and beauty products. Any chance these other brands will get a facelift? We started with the largest of our private brands and will continue to look at the entire portfolio for opportunities.  To top of page

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