Walmart Goodies: retail giant goes gourmet

Walmart has launched Goodies, a monthly food service that delivers boxes of gourmet food samples to subscribers for the Walmart-cheap price of $7 per month. Can Goodies help Walmart attract a new customer base? 

Wal-Mart/AP
This still frame made from an undated video advertisement provided by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., shows the logo for the company's new mail subscription service, Goodies. The program will officially launch on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. For a monthly fee of $7 that includes tax and shipping, customers get a box of five to eight sample-size food items, ranging from organic to ethnic products that are not currently carried on Walmart shelves.

“Gourmet” and “artisan” are probably not the first words that come to mind when you see a Walmart logo.  But Walmart is trying to change that.

The world’s largest retailer is jumping into the gourmet game with “Goodies,” a service that delivers monthly subscribers samplings of high-end snacks. November’s “Easy Entertainment”-themed offering features white cheddar popcorn, chocolate soufflé mix, and pumpkin pie spice tea, among others.  Like any food-of-the-month club, subscribers don’t know what they’re getting until it shows up at their address. The products are not sold at Walmart stores. 

“For only $7 a month, including tax and shipping, subscribers receive a gift box at their doorstep filled with five to eight hand-picked taster samples ranging from healthy and organic to artisan and ethnic,” Walmart said in a statement Wednesday. “The new Goodies Co. box underscores Walmart’s commitment to e-commerce and its use of social innovations to create new offerings for consumers.”

Goodies has been in beta testing for a few months, and now has over 3,000 subscribers, according to the company.

Safe to say, Walmart is the last place most foodies think of to try new, high quality food products. But the retailer’s big advantage (typically) is price: “Unlike current offerings, Goodies Co. is the first to offer a large assortment of products for a total price that is almost half of the total value of the items if they were purchased separately,” the Walmart release says. “The total price for all of the items in the November box would be approximately $15 compared to the Goodies Co. $7 price.”

The products are sample size, but subscribers can purchase full portions of the products they like at the Goodies website, www.goodies.co, and post reviews and redeem loyalty points toward future Goodies purchases.

The service also doubles as a bit of paid market testing for the retailer: Ravi Raj, vice president of products at Walmart Labs, told CNNMoney that the more popular products have a good chance at eventually being offered in Walmart stores.

Walmart’s main selling point as a shopping destination has long been price, often at the cost of quality and appearances. Goodies is the company’s latest effort to try and change that image and attract a new set of tech savvy, conscientious (and probably younger) customers. The company has been touting efforts to offer more organic, locally grown grocery items for years and has launched a number of efforts to increase its online footprint. Last year’s holiday season brought Shopycat, a social media app that uses Facebook to recommend gifts. This year’s Black Friday ad includes deals on Apple products including the iPad 2 and iPod Touch.

It’s unclear whether or not Walmart can balance attracting those new customers with its prevailing status as the place for the best deals, but as the largest and most profitable retailer in the world (pulling in $447 billion in global revenue last year), it has some room to experiment.  

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