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"Super Savers," Value Brands Mean Bigger Commissary

By Timothy C. Ford
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT LEE, Va., July 28, 1998 – Commissary shoppers will see bigger savings and more choices as stores expand the Super Saver program and test the popularity of "value brand" items.

"Super Savers" are promotions --similar to private grocery chains' weekly specials. The products are category leaders, and commissaries sell them at prices comparable to the lowest available anywhere, said Gina Klimpel, chief of special programs in the Defense Commissary Agency Marketing Business Unit here.

"We are working closely with our grocery suppliers to get Super Saver prices in addition to our usual low prices across the store," she said. During the Back to School Sale Aug. 17 to Sept. 6, for instance, shoppers will find Super Saver prices on certain brands of peanut butter, jelly, fruit punch and sandwich bags. Super Savers Sept. 21 through Oct. 4 will include snack crackers, canned goods, cereal and microwave popcorn.

Value brand lines will be introduced in large commissaries in the southeastern United States and may expand if they prove popular, said agency director Richard E. Beale Jr. Value brands, the agency's answer to grocery-chain house brands, are cheaper than national brands. They are quality goods, but manufacturers may not advertise them widely.

Stores for several years have carried value brands in categories such as bleach, detergent, soda pop and cereal, he said. By late August or September, new lines on the shelves will include peanut butter, canned pasta, olives, pasta sauce, salsa, juice, applesauce, canned beans, tea and dog food.

"We are providing more of the choices our customers tell us they want," Beale said. "Our young military families, especially, tell us they need more low-cost, quality items. Expanding our value brand program will help them maximize their commissary savings."

Even though commissaries sell major brands at cost, comparable items wearing house labels can cost less, he said. Customer surveys and focus groups consistently show commissary shoppers, particularly young families and retirees, want the option to choose between brand names and lower prices, he said.

"We always want to give our customers the opportunity to choose the products that best meet their needs," he said. "If the lower priced alternative products are accepted by patrons, the value brand program will be expanded." He said the agency will evaluate value brand items from all manufacturers who offer them and may test various items in other geographic areas.

"When we satisfy our customers, they shop and save more," Beale said. "This is important because the commissary is more than a grocery store -- it's one of the most valued benefits of the military community. When we make our customers happy, we maximize the commissary portion of their military pay and benefits."

Commissary prices are cost plus a 5 percent surcharge that covers store construction, renovation, maintenance, supplies and other expenses. Beale said agency surveys consistently show shoppers save 25 percent to 30 percent annually on their purchases -- about $2,000 for a typical family of four.

(Timothy C. Ford is the Defense Commissary Agency public affairs officer.)

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