Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What Wal-Mart Wants Wal-Mart Gets

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has decided that it wants to sell organic food. They made the "big" announcement last week. Having shopped Wal-Mart looking for a natural or organics food section, I find this declaration to be long overdue. Currently, most of the nation's major food producers are hard at work developing organic versions of their best-selling products. Look for new organic products from as Kellogg’s Rice Krispies or Kraft macaroni and cheese later this year.

All things "organic" has become the new rage. There are some very successful retailers trading on this fact including Whole Foods and Wild Oats Markets. A new study conducted by Grapentine Company, Inc. revealed that a majority of consumers rank the concept of purchasing fresh food in natural-based packaging on par with two of grocery retails highest-selling product trends, fresh herbs and spices, and organic meats and produce.

Seems that Wal-Mart, along with other retailers, is trying to modernize and improve their image with more contemporary offerings, "organic" being one.

But what does this mean to you? I just came back from giving the keynote, "If You Package It will They Buy," at Cal Poly Poly Pack 06 last week. All of the audience’s (the largest ever) questions revolved around the "green" movement in packaging.
Everyone wanted to know what the future is for the current environmental movement in package development. As you know, I have dedicated several past PNYCU issues to that very topic. Remember "Earth Day Battle: Packaging VS. The Environment" and "It's Easy Being Green - Packaging Your "Green" Brand" which give numerous examples of new package introductions?

If you recall I wrote last fall about "How Wal-Mart Rocked The Packaging World" by placing a very large order for corn based plastic clamshells in its produce department. This action has spurred a bevy on new "green" packaging products.

Wal-Mart even hosted the Wal-Mart Environmental Sustainability Packaging Fair, held April 12 through 14 in Bentonville, Ark. (If you were lucky enough to be invited to participate, be sure and let me know the outcome.) Some claim this support for "environmental sustainability" by Wal-Mart is political whitewashing. Who knows the reality; I only know that the number of new "green" product announcements has increased dramatically and Wal-Mart is leading the charge.

Logically it makes sense that organic products would be packaged in some kind of environmentally friendly or natural material. After all, the very word organic means food produced without chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics or pesticides. Most likely the food producers would prefer "green" packaging to complement their organic offerings. This presents a growth opportunity for packaging to develop new materials and packaging concepts.

When one company can drive packaging innovation, it’s critical to pay attention where they are going and how this can impact the future of your business. Other retail drivers are companies like Home Depot and Costco or even the fast food giant McDonalds that are eyeing ways to attract new consumers or keep the ones they have. It’s important to recognize a shift in the focus of these giant retailers their direction drives where the majority of the business will go. Most important of all take in to consideration: What Wal-Mart Wants Wal-Mart Gets.

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