Walmart Testing New Produce Varieties in "Secret" Food Lab
BENTONVILLE, AR - What goes on in Walmart’s secret food lab? It turns out, a lot of experiments with fresh fruits and vegetables. In a new report from NPR’s Julia Dewitt, the journalist goes in depth with Victor Verlage, Senior Director of Sourcing, to find out what new produce inventions are in the pipeline and how they might give the retailer a competitive edge in the age of Amazon.
“Some of these seeds are for a new tomato that Walmart can ship long distances, but it still tastes really good,” said Dewitt about the retailer’s seed and technology trials in her report. “Some are for a brand-new kind of cantaloupe. They named it the Sweet Spark, which is sweet even in the winter—apparently, a big problem for cantaloupe. And the rest of the seeds were a new kind of watermelon.”
These experiments, including easily-shippable tomatoes, winter-sweet cantaloupes, fruit punch-flavored pickles, and a new watermelon that is yellow-skinned and striped with bright red flesh, are reportedly part of a strategy by Walmart to hold onto its place as one of the top retailers in the industry. As those in grocery have been mesmerized by the high profile moves made by Amazon over the past several months, Walmart has been working in its “Sensory Lab” to create memorable produce varieties that will help create a loyal customer base.
"When a piece of fruit or vegetable looks odd, at first, you know, people really have to try hard, you know, to taste it," Verlage 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."
This yellow watermelon, which will be sold exclusively in Walmart stores, could be the secret weapon Walmart will need to wield against Amazon, NPR reports. Exclusive varieties can help a retailer become a “destination” rather than just one of many places to buy your generic grocery purchases, the broadcast suggests.
“Imagine you could only buy something like the baby carrot at Walmart. Like, that would be a huge advantage,” NPR Host Kenny Malone commented during the report.
Dewitt added, “If you're a parent, and you have to go to Walmart to buy baby carrots, may as well buy your socks there, too, and toothpaste, and everything else you might need.”
Will Walmart be able to develop the next must-have produce item in this secret Sensory Lab? You can bet AndNowUKnow will be there to report if they do.