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Commissary's "Best Value" Promises Quality at Lowest Prices

By Bonnie Powell
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT LEE, Va., June 9, 2000 – What's in a name? For some shoppers, everything. For others, price is the most important factor in their grocery-buying decisions.

The Defense Commissary Agency is kicking off its "Best Value" program in July to make the job of bargain hunting easier for military shoppers. "Best Value Item" signs at store entrances and on grocery shelves will assure shoppers they're getting a great price on a quality product.

"The Best Value program identifies items that are the lowest price at the name-brand quality our customers expect," said Gary Duell, manager of the agency's Marketing Business Unit. The program responds to the many customers who've indicated that saving money is their No. 1 priority, he said.

Best Value prices will also be lower than premium quality store brands sold at retail groceries, he added. Retail grocers often have "store" or "private label" brands that vary in quality and price. Commissaries, by regulation, are only permitted to carry widely available "name brands," which might not be the least expensive choice.

The Best Value program won't apply to every size and type of grocery item carried by commissaries, according to Duell. The number of signs displayed and pricing comparisons needed would be overwhelming for customers and employees. In addition, the item list may change frequently according to market conditions.

"To kick off the program, we're focusing on approximately 50 popular products in the most frequently purchased sizes," Duell said. A customer who wants the rock-bottom price on a quality 30-count box of garbage bags can simply look for the "Best Value" sign. The price, he said, will be lower than the same size of any other brand in the commissary -- or any other local grocery store.

"We're working hard to help our shoppers save money," said Duell. "We already average 27 percent savings overall, but we want even more for our customers. Surveys show that the commissary is ranked among the top two benefits, and the agency's job is to make that benefit even more valuable."

The Defense Commissary Agency operates a worldwide chain of 290 commissaries for military personnel, retirees and their families.

(Bonnie Powell works for the Defense Commissary Agency, Fort Lee, Va.)

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