business news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Associated Press this morning has a story about a new 12,000-square-foot culinary and innovation center that Walmart has opened at its Arkansas headquarters, describing it as a place "where the nation's largest food retailer can work with major suppliers to come up with new food ideas, and develop ideas on its own to bolster its store-brand selection."

According to the story, the center has "10 test kitchens including a studio-style chef's kitchen and replicas of the bakery and deli kitchens found in most of its stores. It has stoves, ovens and microwaves so the staff can cook the same ways customers do at home. There's also a sensory lab where Wal-Mart can collect feedback from customers and employees, who answer questions about the texture, saltiness or sweetness of a food or beverage."

In the past, the story says, Walmart "had tested products at kitchens throughout its headquarters, but that effort was limited and the feedback it provided was fairly general. Now, Wal-Mart gets specific feedback from customers that it can share with suppliers to help decide if an item is ready or needs changes. That collaboration saves money and cuts several months off a product launch, which can last a year from idea to an item landing on store shelves."

This all is important, the AP writes, because Walmart "derives 56 percent of its total sales from food and other grocery items."
KC's View: