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Commissary expands its value brand program

Commissary expands its value brand program

Source: Army Family Publication

Some commissary shoppers are enjoying more low-cost choices as their military grocery stores began stocking additional value brand items. The program was started in large commissaries in the southeastern United States in late August and September 1998 and, depending on consumer response, may be expanded.

"We want to be the military community's marketplace of choice," said Richard E. Beale Jr., director of the Defense Commissary Agency, "so we are providing more of the choices our customers tell us they want. Our young military families especially tell us they need more low-cost, quality items, and expanding our value brand program will help them maximize their commissary savings."

For several years commissaries have carried value brand items in a number of categories, such as bleach and detergent, soda pop and cereal. The idea in expanding the program is to give commissary shoppers a value brand choice in nearly every category across the store.

Additional value brand items started showing up on the shelves of large commissaries in the southeastern United States. Items include peanut butter and jelly, canned pasta, olives, pasta sauce, salsa, juice, "new age" beverages, apple sauce, canned beans, tea, and dog food.

"When we give our customers what they want, 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."

Even with DeCA selling major brand-name items at cost, the price of comparable items under a private or controlled label at downtown grocery stores can be less. Customer survey and focus group results consistently show commissary patrons, particularly young military families and retirees living on tight budgets, want a similar choice at their commissary.

Will more commissaries begin to see additional value brand items offered across more categories? It depends on shopper response.

"If the lower priced alternative products are accepted by patrons, the value brand program will be expanded," Beale said. "Our goal is to provide our patrons with the same kind of choices that are available to all citizens when they go shopping for their groceries."

Commissary patrons purchase items at cost plus a 5 percent surcharge that covers store construction, renovation, maintenance, supplies and other costs. Patrons enjoy savings ranging 25 to 30 percent on their purchases. A typical family of four regularly shopping the commissary can save about $2,000 per year. These savings enhance the quality of life for America's military and their families, and help the United States recruit and keep the best and brightest men and women in the service of their country.

The Defense Commissary Agency, with headquarters at Fort Lee, Va., operates a worldwide chain of nearly 300 commissaries on government installations to provide groceries to military personnel, retirees and their families, as a valued portion of military pay and benefits. DeCA received an Achievement Award in the 1998 President's Quality Award Program for improving customer service and saving tax dollars.

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