Walmart said a year ago that it would make it easier for its customers to identify which foods on its shelves are healthier than others. This spring it will make good on that pledge by adding “Great For You” icons to hundreds of packages of foods in its stores.
Walmart already has millions of loyal customers simply because it has good prices at a good value. Now the question is: Can an icon that identifies healthier foods be an unconventional way to encourage, even build, customer loyalty for the retailer?
I believe it can. You need only go to your local grocery store to find consumers standing around the aisles reading packaging labels to decipher whether or not what’s inside is going to be a healthy choice. It’s not something we all did years ago, but the focus on healthy living and healthy lifestyles has turned many of us into more picky shoppers.
Walmart’s idea is a sound one that will intensify shopper loyalty by making it easier and quicker for people to move through its stores purchasing healthy items. But that will only be so if people trust that what the front-of-pack icon represents is truly what’s inside.
To address that, Walmart has made the nutrition criteria available at a dedicated website. The company said it spent the past year developing the criteria for foods that will carry the icon in consultation with food and nutrition experts. The healthy seals will initially appear on fresh and packaged fruits and vegetables and Walmart’s store brands Great Value and Marketside. At some point the seal will also be made available to national brand products that qualify.
The new icon is part of a healthier food initiative by Walmart, which also made good on a pledge to save shoppers a billion dollars in their cost of fruits and vegetables.
Walmart says it should not cost more to eat things that are better for you, a statement that will certainly hit home with many consumers. It is also working to eliminate price premiums often charged on healthier items.
The announcement was even endorsed by First Lady Michelle Obama in support of her “Get Moving” fitness campaign. Walmart is not the only brand to identify certain food product packaging as a healthier alternative, but because of its girth and foot traffic the impact will be significant.
Earning loyalty has gained in importance for marketers working to keep customers in its corner as share of wallet spreads due to pricing discounts and other promotions, as well as consumers who are short on cash and trading down from national brands to store brands. For Walmart, while this may not be a conventional way to build loyalty, it can in this way: Its customers asked for a way to identify healthier products and Walmart delivered.