The story behind the reinvention of Member’s Mark

Some private labels are like one hit wonders. They may grab your attention for a brief second but before you know it, they’re gone. Every now and then, you may hear them on the radio but for the most part, you have a hard time remembering the name or title of the song.

At Sam’s Club, we admit we have had our fair share of one hit wonders in our efforts to define our private brand. Our one hit wonders were really good at one time but not long enough. That’s why we are reinvesting in one familiar name and introducing 300 new items under the Member’s Mark brand.

We believe this is our rock star.

“At one point, we had 21 private labels,” explains Chandra Holt, Vice President of Private Brands at Sam’s Club. “So the first thing I set out to do was to simplify for our members. We now have one private brand - Member's Mark.”

Making Her Mark

Meet Chandra Holt. She is the leading force behind the dramatic change and major overhaul of Member’s Mark, an exclusive line of products available at Sam’s Club.

So how did this busy wife and career mom approach the major task of overhauling a private brand that has been around since the late 90s? It all started with a lot of listening.

Chandra says she spent countless hours in focus groups hearing from Sam’s Club members on what products they want to see the company offer. The takeaways were clear, especially when it came to groceries. Members said they wanted “premium products made with simple ingredients and they wanted to know they were getting the best bang for the buck.”

Quality First

“Saying we want to have better quality in an item is one thing, and doing it is another. That’s why we've assembled an all-star team to drive our private brand efforts at Sam’s Club,” explains Holt. “Our Member’s Mark team is made up of product developers, food scientists, and culinary experts to make sure our products are truly amazing.”

The private brand team travels the globe with seasoned buyers in nearly every category in search of best-in-class ingredients, processing methods and the best sourcing channels possible to help develop premium products for our members.

Presentation Matters

Back in the day, private brands were viewed as generics or just unappealing knock-offs of national brands. Remember those plain white packages with bold black fonts? That’s not the case with the revamped Member’s Mark.

“We are very proud of our packaging. We wanted to make sure we were communicating the great quality and uniqueness of items so we took a different approach to packaging than most other labels,” says Holt. “We wanted to make sure that every item stood out on its own with creative designs. The product is the hero and our Member’s Mark logo is just the stamp of approval.”

The biggest comment Chandra says she receives is from members who say they bought an item, took it home and then realized after the fact the item was Member’s Mark.

“It's a huge compliment for us for people to be shocked at what the private label is at Sam's Club.”

Looking back through the early days when Member’s Mark launched in 1997, we think you’ll agree we’ve come a long way. Our goal is to keep churning out the ‘hits’ that surprise and delight you - not just now or every once in a while - but every time a member shops online or walks inside a club.

Every Item has a Story: So which new item is Chandra most excited about bringing to Sam’s Club members? Well she couldn’t decide on just one but here are a few of her favorites:

  • Wine: “One of the first wines we launched was a chardonnay for less than eight dollars and it received a 92 rating from the Beverage Testing Institute. Our members are smart and they know they don't have to pay a high dollar amount for a great bottle of wine so with Member’s Mark, we wanted to deliver just that: a great wine and a great price.”
  • Spanakopita: “This is an item that not only tastes great, it looks amazing too. It did well under the Daily Chef name, but since updating the item and adding a quirky and cool design, we’ve seen a major increase in the number of members buying it.”
  • Lasagna: “We just introduced a new lasagna based on an amazing Italian family recipe that is absolutely outstanding. In my opinion, it blows the socks off the national brand competition!”
  • All Natural Pulled Pork: “We worked with world-renowned pitmasters from the Kansas City Barbeque Society to create a pre-smoked barbeque with just a few simple ingredients: pork, water and seasoning. Since launching last month, the item is already one of our top sellers.”
  • Sea Salt Caramels: “We try to find unique items that surprise members. We have these sea salt caramels that are amazingly addictive. If you buy one jar, you'll absolutely come back for another.”