Interview Transcript

What strategies would you use to get distribution nationwide at Walmart?

The difficulty and daunting part with Walmart is their location, which is Bentonville Arkansas. You better have a relationship. There’s just no other way around it. There’s a lot of people there. There are a lot of buyers there, a lot of category managers there. I’ve worked with Walmart for 26 years. It took me six years to get a yes. I continued to work my way through and with different buyers who moved to different places. There are buyers right now that I still have relationships with that have left Walmart or retired. They can still help me with these other folks by getting me an appointment with somebody that they used to work with. It’s a very close-knit community, the people who live there and work there. It’s very daunting for somebody who doesn’t live or work in Bentonville.

The thing about Walmart, you’re guaranteed tremendous amounts of points of distribution, if you get the product in. You can go work with X, Y, Z grocer and they’re going to put you in maybe one district. You may have 100 stores, for example, that 100 stores may be confined to a small area somewhere in Podunk. You have no control over it. When you go into Walmart and Walmart says, “Okay, I really like this product.” They have sampling kitchens. Your barbeque sauce would have an appointment in Walmart with the culinary kitchen, where the buyer comes over and you get to cook. I’m going to cook some ribs or something, I’m going to use that barbeque sauce, that’s how they’re going to sample the barbeque sauce. He’s going to say, “I love that barbeque sauce. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to put it in half of our stores.” That’s almost 2,700 stores that you get distribution immediately from. It’s work, but they’re not difficult to deal with. People think that they’re extremely difficult to deal with, they’re not. The key to them is to get them sold on letting you come in and sample the product in a way that’s not just some broker in there holding up your bottle and putting it back in his bag. You work hard for it, but once you land there and then you go to places and hey, I see your product is Walmart, it’s turning well. We need to put it in here.

I’ve used Publix and Walmart my entire career. I’ve got my product in Publix and then Kroger immediately takes it, or Safeway takes it. It’s a great way to jumpstart your brand, it’s just critical to either work with somebody who has great relationships in the building or develop those relationships yourself, one or the two. Then you’re off and running. I’ve helped three companies in the last five years get into Walmart. The rice company, they were doing zero business in Walmart, they’re doing nine million dollars two years later.

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