Wal-Mart has an intriguing and appealing alternative to conventional diet sodas; it is called Sam’s Choice, and it is readily available at Wal-Marts throughout the country. Impressive bulk discounts on these drinks make a 24-pack of Sam’s Choice cola only a little more expensive than a 12-pack of Coke or Pepsi. Sam’s Choice cola comes in regular, diet, and diet/decaffeinated varieties; there is also a Wal-Mart approximation of Dr. Pepper: the Dr. Thunder beverage, which comes in both regular and diet varieties.
The Kroger store chain also offers its own brand of cola-the Big K. As a frequent shopper at both Wal-Mart and Kroger, I purchase immense quantities of each kind of beverage. Here is what distinguishes the Sam’s Choice and Big K brands and what constitutes their individual appeal.
In terms of getting the most soft drinks for a given amount of money, Sam’s Choice cola has the competition beat, hands down. Wal-Mart is at the forefront of cutting costs and making products more affordable to consumers; Sam’s Choice cola costs about half as much as popular-name brands and slightly less than Big K cola. I have recently seen 12-packs of Big K cola sell for $1.99-or $3.98 per 24 drinks. 24-packs of Sam’s Choice cola cost slightly less: $3.89. At about 16.2 cents per 12-ounce can, that is quite a deal indeed!
Yet in terms of flavor variety, the Sam’s Choice brand does not offer much of a choice, especially to health-conscious soda drinkers like myself, who only purchase low-calorie or calorie-free beverages. There are only three diet Sam’s Choice options: the diet cola, the diet decaf cola, and the diet Dr. Thunder. Big K cola, on the other, comes in a far greater variety of flavors. Kroger carries diet Big K orange-flavored soda, diet Big K cola with lime, diet Big K root beer, diet Big K lemon or lime-flavored drinks (analogous to Sprite or 7Up) and even diet Big K pink lemonade. Paying about 0.467 cents more per can might be worth it for a consumer who likes to drink a wide variety of carbonated beverages. The discounts on Big K soda, however, only hold for Kroger Plus customers, who shop at Kroger regularly and therefore have a Kroger Plus card that offers them storewide discounts. It is not difficult to become a Kroger Plus customer, however; just go to the service desk and request a Kroger Plus card. You need not pay anything to get it, and your eventual savings from it could add up to hundreds of dollars each year.
Compared to more popular brands like Pepsi and Coke, neither Sam’s Choice nor Big K suffers from inferior quality. I have not noticed substantial differences in flavor between the store brands and the popular-name brands; most of the price difference comes in purchasing the popular brand name versus purchasing the store brand name. I personally do not care if my soft drink can looks fashionable or prestigious; I am only concerned with health, taste, and price. Thus, unless I seek a flavor that neither Sam’s Choice nor Big K can offer, I will purchase the store brands of soda.
The only substantial drawback to both Sam’s Choice and Big K colas occurs for customers living in states where aluminum cans can be refunded at local grocery stores. If you want to get back the deposit you paid on your Sam’s Choice cans, you have to go to the Wal-Mart to turn in the cans; no other store will accept them. Similarly, no other store except Kroger will accept cans of Big K cola. On the other hand, ubiquitous brands such as Coke or Pepsi are accepted by all stores that participate in the deposit/refund program.