Walmart is literally reinventing food in a secret laboratory at its corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. It’s part of the retailer’s strategy to differentiate its grocery offering from Amazon’s.
Recent innovations include tomatoes that can be shipped long distances without rotting, cantaloupes that taste sweet all year-round and yellow watermelons. NPR’s Julia Dewitt explained that the fruits and vegetables used to invent these re-engineered foods are all grown from seeds. She also got to sample some of Walmart’s new food pairings, including fruit punch-flavored pickles, which the company named Tropickles and began selling earlier this year under its private-label Great Value brand.
In developing these re-engineered foods, Walmart has found a way to literally grow produce that can only be purchased at its stores. If these unique foods resonate with its consumers, Walmart will not only have an advantage in the so-called grocery wars but also a vehicle by which to drive sales across its other categories. Of course, it all hinges on the willingness of consumers to give these new products a chance. Walmart is, therefore, increasing its in-store sampling, according to several reports. “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.”