Better late than sorry: Name review of Walmart Bettergoods

The new private label grocery brand follows Target's lead 5 years later
Catchword name review of Walmart Bettergoods - Bettergoods ice cream in a freezer case

Walmart rolled out a new private label brand last week, its biggest in 20 years. The Bettergoods grocery line launched with 300 mostly under-$5 items. The modern visual identity and package design align with a contemporary, relatively upmarket aesthetic, in stark contrast with the look and feel of existing Walmart brands like Sam’s Choice and Great Value. The company stated in its release that many items are completely unique to Walmart, “introducing customers to new and exciting flavors and concepts,” rather than lower-priced alternatives to big brands. The choice to divide products into the category pillars “culinary experiences,” “plant-based,” and “made without” further reinforces that this line is targeted at selective consumers more than budget shoppers.

Catchword name review of Walmart's Bettergoods: Great Value ice cream in freezer

This positioning clearly signals Bettergoods is meant to go head-to-head with Target’s Good & Gather, the highly successful grocery private label that launched in 2019. The Target language for G&G—“Discover delicious every day”™ “Trusted ingredients & tastes you’ll love, all at prices that inspire”—is even echoed by the Walmart release, “a new elevated experience that delivers quality, unique, chef-inspired food at an incredible value.”

It’s surprising that Walmart took five years to field a competing food brand, particularly given that the company responded quickly to Target’s growing portfolio of apparel lines designed for this demographic with the launch of Time and Tru, Terra & Sky, Wonder Nation, and George in February 2018. (We explored this explosion of “X and Y” names back in June of that year.)

Although Walmart dominates its much smaller competitor in terms of brick-and-mortar stores (4,623 vs 1,956) and online sales ($161.6B vs $24.8B), Target’s ability to brand itself as “discount that’s cool” has kept customers loyal and competitors watching closely.

All this is to say it’s no wonder that Walmart keeps taking a page from Target’s book on private label branding. The bold solid colors and simple images of the Bettergoods packaging look a lot like those of the Target brand. It even shares part of its name with Good & Gather, and with Target’s menswear brand Goodfellow & Co. and Amazon’s private label for menswear, Goodthreads.

And like both of those apparel line names, the Bettergoods construction is what we call telegraphic compound: two real words put together to instantly communicate a brand message. From Airbnb to Headspace to Madewell and Everlane, this approach has been a favorite since the early 2000s for brands that want to feel contemporary, even hip, and engage Millennials seeking authentic value.

Given this similarity, it’s tempting to stop at the Bettergoods–Good & Gather comparison, but Target isn’t the only player in the grocery private label game. Every chain has one or more. How does Bettergoods stack up with other US grocery private label names? To answer this question, let’s review a little house brand history.

In the past, most private label brands for grocery came in three pricing tiers: budget value, general-mid value, and gourmet-premium value. Each had a corresponding brand name and design style:

  • Budget: descriptive names and bare bones design (Walmart’s Great Value, Albertsons’s Value Corner, Kroger’s Smart Way)
  • Mid: descriptive or eponymous names and traditional design (Walmart’s Sam’s Choice, Albertsons Signature Select, CVS’s Gold Emblem, Kroger’s Kroger brand)
  • Premium: suggestive names and classic or European-inspired design (Stop & Shop’s Taste of Inspirations, ALDI’s Grandessa, Raley’s Nob Hill Trading Co.).

Many smaller chains chose to go all-in on their company brand, labeling house products eponymously (Trader Joe’s, Publix, Sprouts), or chose one subbrand for all lines (Whole Foods’s 365, Costco’s Kirkland Signature, Sam’s Club Member’s Mark). That’s a reasonable decision given the marketing dollars involved. We noticed, however, that even though the logo stays the same on all products, the packaging design typically varies with the value category just as it does for the large chains.

In response to concerns about health and the planet, supermarkets next introduced the natural-organic category, aimed at customers for whom price wasn’t the most important criterion. This different worldview also had a different aesthetic: enhanced descriptive names (Albertsons group’s O Organics, Ahold-Stop & Shop group’s Nature’s Promise, Kroger group’s Simple Truth, ALDI’s Simply Nature) plus contemporary design—simple but not plain.

Then Target’s discount-but-cool positioning gave rise to a new category, let’s call “contemporary value,” which repackaged certain middle value, natural-organic, and gourmet products for a younger, more modern customer, one who’s also concerned about more than price, overlapping significantly but not completely with the natural-organic shopper.

We were surprised to see in a quick survey of the big chains that the contemporary value category isn’t being well served (though the natural-organic category typically is), which may explain why Walmart didn’t feel the need to rush into the space with Bettergoods.

Albertsons group, Stop & Shop-Ahold group, ALDI, and Kroger group don’t appear to offer any analog to Bettergoods or Good & Gather and have continued with their budget, general, premium, and natural lines.

Discounter ALDI follows a different model, with individual private label brands for each type of food (dairy, cereal, chips, processed meat, etc.), plus a natural line. But it has also stuck with these categories and their correlating design styles with the exception of its relatively new dairy brand (Happy Farms), which follows a contemporary value aesthetic, a shift that may indicate ALDI is moving more products in this direction.

So that’s the background. Now back to the big question: how does the new Walmart name stack up?

Bettergoods is deceptively simple—and for anyone familiar with the Target brand comes across as derivative—but it works. When heard, it conveys goods that are better—which encompasses better for you, better tasting, better value, and more. It’s styled all lowercase, emphasizing “for the people” accessibility, and the use of the plural goods (in contrast with the singular in the Target name) highlights the noun meaning (products) rather than the adjective (good quality). Unlike its Target counterpart, it features no alliteration, but the wordplay of good and better provides a similar aid to memorability.

In general, we at Catchword caution against making a quality claim in your brand name. “We’re better” as your unique selling proposition is generic, boring, vague, usually hard to prove and/or maintain, and wastes your most important opportunity to make a memorable impression.

However, given the breadth and nature of this product line, the parent brand, and the target audience, the positioning works. A critical choice was to use a one-word spelling with no intercap, which suggests an all-in-one experience, an essential quality, and turns a rather mundane phrase into a brand.

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