Walmart puts its fresh foot forward

Retailer revamps grocery department to carry more fresh food offerings

In relationships, they say complacency kills. So to help keep the spark alive with longtime customers (and attract some new ones), Walmart is showing it’s got a side shoppers haven’t seen before–a fresher side.

In May, Walmart revamped the grocery departments in all of its 280 Canadian supercentres to carry a larger assortment and more premium product.

Walmart EVP of marketing, Sandra Sanderson, says the produce department has doubled its local organic selection and is placing more emphasis on local, in-season assortment. The expanded meat selection now carries 100% Canadian-raised Angus beef and Canadian salmon. And now Walmart is baking fresh bagels, artisanal-style breads and custom cakes in more than half of its supercentres.

Walmart’s been gaining share in fresh since it began rolling out its supercentre program nine years ago, says Stewart Samuel, program director at IGD Canada. In February, Walmart International’s president and CEO, David Cheesewright, said that the Canadian division’s sale of fresh food reached its highest level of the year in Q4 of 2014.

To that end, Walmart Canada is spending $75 million on distribution this year, including the construction of a new fresh food warehouse.

“Many consumers still see Walmart as a destination for non-food items and grocery basics, but the new initiative should help bring more of its shoppers into fresh,” says Samuel.

Walmart’s counting on it, and it’s pulling out all the stops to make sure customers know about its fresh face. To help coincide with May’s launch, Walmart promoted the new offerings in an in-store magalogue, Walmart Live Better magazine and on its website. And in-store signage was refurbished with bright photos of fresh items in the produce department’s wet wall.

Even the parking lot cart corral got the new sign treatment. “It was a matter of capturing the essence of fresh and quality,”says George Christidis of St. Joseph, the agency behind the signs and print material. Promotions also emphasize a new fresh-quality 100% guarantee.

Throughout the summer, Walmart has rolled out a series of 30-second TV spots and held a series of experiential events and tailgate parties with celebrity chef Corbin Tomaszeski. He will go on to host four Walmart-sponsored broadcast spots to air on Shaw Media’s TV channels, and will host a new Food Network Canada show in the fall along with Canadian celebrity Rick Campanelli. The show pits families against each other in a series of food challenges. The winning family receives free Walmart fresh groceries for the year.

Seems Walmart is committed to a fresh relationship, after all.

A version of this story appeared in the August 2015 edition of Canadian Grocer

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