Make a standout first impression

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Make a standout first impression

By Carolyn Schierhorn - 09/20/2017

My go-to store for convenience is my local Walgreens, which doesn’t have a wide assortment of frozen meals and snacks but does have a few items my family enjoys regularly. Several months ago, this store began carrying the Walgreens’ Nice! brand of individually packaged, inexpensively priced 4.9-ounce frozen heat-and-serve cheeseburgers.

When I first saw the product in the original Nice! packaging, in which the bold type and product image overlay a white background decorated with a single color-coded stripe (see image above), I automatically assumed it would be a good value. But I wasn’t sure how the product would taste or whether the bun might become mushy in the microwave.

Still, I’d been pleased with Nice! chicken wings and other frozen appetizers from Walgreens in the past, so I thought I’d give the cheeseburger a try. To my delight, it was much more delicious than I expected, and the warmed bun remained flaky. As a result, I went back to the store and bought a few more of the cheeseburgers, which I later noticed have received rave customer reviews online.

As a mom, I especially like that my middle school-age children can now quickly microwave full-size cheeseburgers for themselves, which from a safety and time standpoint beats having to grill ground beef patties on the stove. On a number of occasions, I’ve also recently purchased the Nice! breaded frozen chicken sandwich, which my daughter particularly likes. Last night, I noticed that both the frozen chicken sandwich and cheeseburger were priced at two for $2 for Balance Rewards members, a bargain I couldn’t resist.

Because they are so convenient and easy to prepare, I’m not surprised that frozen heat-and-serve sandwiches and other hand-held non-breakfast entrées represent a strong growth category for store brands, increasing 20 percent in retail sales in the past year compared to flat growth for all brands, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI. Since private brands account for just over 5 percent value share in this category, the opportunities for successful new product development are clear.

But along with developing high-quality frozen sandwiches, retailers need to pay attention to packaging design. This summer, Walgreens Boots Alliance began rolling out redesigned packaging for Nice! food products, a huge initiative that involves dividing the brand into three tiers (everyday, premium and organic) and expanding or reformulating certain lines, as the retailer describes in a YouTube video. Although not mentioned in the video, the frozen cheeseburger will soon sport a newly designed box, Walgreens’ website indicates, and will be part of the everyday tier.

If I had initially encountered the product in the new package, I think I would have bought several upfront without feeling the need to try one first. I would have presumed the product to be top-notch and tasty based on the appealing photography, attractive blue background, and new logo that features “nice!” in cursive surrounding the claims “simple – honest – delicious.” Walgreens is definitely upping its game when it comes to private brand packaging and product positioning.

The newly designed Nice! products also meet the requirements of the FDA’s revised Nutrition Facts Label (not likely to mandated until the end of 2019) and call out calories per serving and other key information prominently on the front of the package. For example, a quick glance at the new frozen cheeseburger box (as seen online) tells me that the product contains 400 calories and 16 grams of protein. In the original package design, this information is buried in the old format Nutrition Facts Label on the back of the product.

Walgreens should be commended for boldly redesigning its packaging and being an early adopter of the new Nutrition Facts Label, which will be costly for retailers with multitudinous private brand products to implement. (To learn more about the label requirements, read the cover story in the upcoming October issue of Store Brands.)

Meanwhile, I continue to buy the Nice! frozen cheeseburgers for my kids as usual. But I’m looking forward to the time when my local Walgreens starts selling the product in the newly designed box. It will have a little bit more cachet. I will feel a little prouder to purchase it. I hope it will have the same great taste and low price.