Some Commissary Brand Items Will Not Appear in All Stores

A shopper sizes up her commissary discounts at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commissary. (Photo: Arthur Mondale.)
A shopper sizes up her commissary discounts at the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Commissary. (Photo: Arthur Mondale.)

The commissary continues to roll out products for its new in-house brands, but customers stationed overseas may see fewer options.

Commissaries in Europe will not carry "Freedom's Choice" bottled water, the first product that was scheduled to hit store shelves, due to the cost of shipping the product. Stores in Alaska and Hawaii may receive the product later, officials said.

Since June three types of products have been stocked at stateside stores under the commissary's new "Freedom's Choice" and "HomeBase" brands, commissary officials said.

"All stateside stores are receiving and selling some variety of Freedom's Choice bottled water, HomeBase kitchen and trash bags, and Top Care health and beauty care items," said Kevin Robinson, a spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA).

But overseas stores in the Pacific won't receive those items until late in July, he said, and stores in Europe won't get commissary branded water at all.

"Stores in Europe will not receive bottled water because DeCA will continue receiving water supplied by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service water packaging operation in Germany and other local sources," Robinson said.

Stores in Alaska and Hawaii do not yet have the water option either, due to the high cost of shipping it to those locations. Officials said the contractor in charge of producing and supply the products, SpartanNash, is instead looking for ways to source the Freedom's Choice bottled water locally.

Eventually commissary officials plan to stock shelves with 4,000 private label products. Roll-out of the items will continue gradually, Robinson said, with rice and dry beans, foam and plastic plates, shelf stable juices, water enhancers and powdered soft drinks, paper towels and bath tissue in the fall of 2017.

"Our roll-out of commissary brands will be a gradual process as a number of commissary brand products are still in development," he said.

Going forward, stores overseas will receive the new products about six weeks behind stateside stores, he said.

The addition of an in-house commissary brand, commonly known as a "generic," is part of a wider attempt by DeCA to increase profits and lower the system's reliance on taxpayer funding.

Currently the commissary, which traditionally sells items at cost plus a five percent surcharge, receives about $1.3 billion each year to operate. But Congress has given the system permission to produce and sell its own generic brand at a mark-up, and start marking up other items as well, so long as they do not surpass a designated savings point over nearby civilian grocers. Officials are currently running a pilot program on the mark-up system at a series of unnamed stores.

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