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Supermarket showdown

Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck gets some competition: H-E-B introduces $2.98 wine & other Primo Picks

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H-E-B is offering Cul-De-Sac Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon wines at $2.98 a bottle Courtesy of H-E-B
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Creamy Creations Poteet strawberry ice cream, $4.98 half gallon Courtesy of H-E-B
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That Green Sauce, $4 a bottle Courtesy of H-E-B
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News_HEB_Primo Pick_That Green Sauce_April 2012

With Trader Joe's announcing plans to open its first Houston-area store in The Woodlands on June 15, H-E-B is getting a jump on the latest shakeup in Houston's supermarket scene with the introduction of more than 800 "unique, tasty and cool" new products called Primo Picks at 35 of its Houston-area stores.

"In general, supermarkets fall into the trap of running the same boring Wednesday specials over and over again. We thought we’d change it up a bit and feature some of the truly unique items we have at H-E-B," Scott McClelland, president of H-E-B Houston, noted in an email.

The wide range of products, which emphasizes Texas suppliers as well as items from across the United States, includes:

  • H-E-B Creamy Creations Poteet strawberry ice cream, $4.98 half gallon (quantities limited)
  • Michaels of Brooklyn pasta sauce, $8.99 a bottle
  • Rao's homemade pastas from the famed New York restaurant, $5.19 each
  • H-E-B Mootopia lactose free milk, $3.28 a half gallon
  • H-E-B queso poblano chicken sausage, $3.48 a pound
  • Central Market organic truffles, $5.48 a box
  • H-E-B That Green Sauce, modeled after a fiery sauce at an unnamed Mexican restaurant, $4 a bottle

The eclectic selections also include nail polish in shades of Lone Star Blue and High Maintenance ($4.97 each), Grand Champion charcoal briquets ($4.48 a bag), and tub cookies in flavors like Texas Almond Crunch, White Chocolate Caramel Chips and Snickerdoodle ($2.49-$3.99). 

But the item that caught our eye is a new line of Cul-De-Sac wines, developed with a California winemaker, that retails for $2.98 a bottle. The wines, along with many of the Primo Pick products, seem positioned to compete with products from Trader Joe's, which plans to enter the Houston market with three stores this year, including a location in the former Alabama Theater just down the street from the flagship H-E-B Montrose Market.

California-based Trader Joe's is known for its extensive line of unusual products, including its popular Two Buck Chuck wines that retail for $2 a bottle.

H-E-B officials insist the timing of the Primo Picks rollout is purely coincidental. "We've been working on this for over a year," said H-E-B spokeswoman Cyndy Garza-Roberts. "We're always looking to introduce new and different items to our customers."

"Trader Joe's? Are they coming to Houston?" McClelland joked in his email.

All Primo Products, which are exclusive to Houston-area H-E-B stores, are marked with an identifying tag throughout the store so customers can find them easily, Garza-Roberts said.

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