(March 17) Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark., plans to increase its organic offerings in late April, but how much organic produce shows up in your local Wal-Mart Supercenter or Neighborhood Market will depend a lot on where you live.
“All the stores will have more organics than they used to have,” said Ron McCormick, vice president and divisional merchandise manager for produce and floral.
Some will have more than others. McCormick said the 300 stores in Wal-Mart’s top tier of organic sales will carry more than 100 organic stock-keeping units during peak periods.
“We were surprised at how scattered they are,” he said of the company’s biggest organic sellers. “When we were doing the research, we thought they would be East Coast, West Coast and big-city urban. When we printed out the map, we were kind of shocked at how spread out it is.”
McCormick said the biggest area of increased volume and variety would be in packaged salads.
“That’s a good product that’s not drastically more expensive than conventional, and it’s readily available,” he said.
The increase in organics isn’t limited to produce. Wal-Mart is increasing its offerings in packaged groceries, dairy and apparel made from organic cotton.
“We want to be more relevant to more customers,” McCormick said. “We’re expanding our organic offerings across the entire food department.”
McCormick said Sam’s Club stores also would increase organic offerings, but he said organics would remain a “tiny percentage” of the company’s produce sales. McCormick declined to provided specific numbers but said that organic sales at Wal-Mart stores has been increasing by double digits every month and triple digits in some instances.
“The supercenters aren’t going to compete with a local organic store,” he said. “We won’t have as many SKUs as someone like that. What we’re trying to do is help the organic category grow and cater to customers that are one-stop shoppers.”
Wal-Mart has built a following by offering low-cost products, but organics generally are premium-priced products.
“We want to handle organics the same way we do any other pricing structure,” McCormick said. “We want be noticeably cheaper than the competition.”
McCormick said Wal-Mart’s biggest organic suppliers included:
- Earthbound Farm, San Juan Bautista, Calif.;
- Newman’s Own Organics Fresh Produce LLC, Monterey, Calif.;
- Schoenmann Produce Co., Houston; and
- Stemilt Growers Inc., Wenatchee, Wash.