Did you know it can take 15-20 seconds to
properly water a plant? And in Walmart’s garden centers, where we house an
average 12,000 plants in peak season, that adds up to a lot of watering time.
So figuring out how to responsibly manage our water usage has been topping our
to-do list for quite some time.
We’re excited to say we’ve found a great
solution. Last year, we started working with WaterPulse, an irrigation
technology company focused on sustainability, to implement watering mats in
place of our hose-based system. Some of our old systems used 20,000-30,000
gallons of water a day, which is about the same amount as the average backyard
swimming pool. But now we’re going through less than 400 gallons per day.
WaterPulse helped us replace our hose-based
systems in 162 stores (and counting). Within the next year, we hope to have
watering mats in half of our more than 4,000 stores across the country. Each
watering mat can hold about 100 plants apiece. When we water the mat, it does
the rest of the work for us by spreading the water out to fully hydrate the
plants. And even more recently, WaterPulse has partnered with us implement a
timer system to automatically irrigate our plants at set intervals.
The result is better, healthier plants, as well as associates who
are now able to spend less time watering and more time helping find the perfect
items for our customers.
Last year, supercenter #5260 in Rogers, Arkansas, got a
facelift. Added into the refreshed look were several new approaches to
technologies, services, products and layouts, which are currently being tested
with customers. Early reports are positive, but it’s too soon to tell what’s
working and what isn’t. What’s clear: Things that seem straightforward could
show up in new stores or remodels. Store 5260 is simply the first step toward
the supercenter of the future, but it’s critical to informing upcoming tests.
Room to Play: The electronics and
entertainment areas have a sleek, modern look that customers say feels very
welcoming and on-trend. “One of the things that we noticed early on as people
walk by electronics is that they stop and look, and then they get drawn
in," said Sherry Curtis-Swenson, the store’s manager.
A New Angle on Fresh: A
reorganization (along with improved sight lines and angled aisles) puts berries
— a growing category — in the front of the department. Bananas, already a huge
draw, are toward the back to help lead customers through. Purple signage in
Fresh and throughout the store connects to an increase in organic products.
Car Care, Customer Care: Along
with new digital menu boards and signage in automotive, there’s a comfortable
customer waiting area — furnished with items from Walmart.com. Customers can watch TV, enjoy a coffee,
charge their phones, and see their cars being serviced.
Pickup, Up Front:In-Store Pickup and Walmart Services share space up front at
Store 5260. It’s clearly marked so customers can find it and get their orders
Check Out Your Way: There
are multiple options for checkout. Scan & Go supplies a wand so customers
can scan items as they’re shopping. Hybrid registers can be self-service or
manned by associates, depending on the need. And high-velocity checkouts — where
a cashier scans items while the customer moves through the line to pay — are
more than three times faster than conventional checkouts.
One-Stop Baby Shop: The
new baby department combines it all in one space. There’s even a stroller
garage for hands-on tryouts. “Customers love being able to move the strollers
around,” Sherry said.
Local Eats: A local food truck
operator, Big Rub BBQ, has
restaurant space in the store, with lots of glass and natural light — and even
seating on an outdoor patio!
Editor’s note: A version of this story originally appeared in Walmart World, the
magazine for Walmart associates.
Sr. Director – Private Brand Food Initiatives, Walmart
February 04, 2016
Big change is coming to the grocery aisles.
The U.S. Food
and Drug Administration has mandated that partially hydrogenated oils – most
commonly found in industrially produced fats and oils – be
eliminated as a food ingredient by June 2018. Research clearly shows a link
between trans fats and cardiovascular disease. So a timetable has been set to
A big reason why I work for Walmart is that we’re constantly
looking for ways we can help people live better – oftentimes, before federal mandates
like these are handed down. In fact, by the end of this month, we anticipate having
successfully removed all partially hydrogenated oils from Walmart private brand
food – such as Great
Value – sold in our U.S. stores, a goal
we’ve been working toward since 2011. But we’re not stopping there.
Simultaneously, we’ve been working to reduce sodium in
Walmart’s private brand foods and national brand food products by 25% and added
sugars by 10% by the end of December 2015. We’ve long since surpassed our
sugar-related reformulation goal. And, while we’re tracking about 5% behind our
sodium reduction goal – results through December 2015 are being vetted and will
be announced publicly this spring – we continue to work toward completion and
are proud of the precedent we're setting across the grocery industry.
There have been some big wins along the way to help us move
the needle. One example was when we set out to reduce sodium in all varieties
of Great Value Potato Chips and Great Value Kettle Cooked Chips. We
successfully removed a combined 30 tons of sodium from 36 million bags of chips
annually. And, according to test data, we did so without compromising taste. To
put that into perspective, 30 tons is equivalent to an entire Walmart truck
(cab and trailer) or about 70 Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
In the end, every slice of progress in the reformulation of
the thousands of private and national brand food items Walmart sells
contributes to a healthier tomorrow for our customers. But the reality is, you
can’t simply go out and turn the dial down on sodium, sugar and trans fats and
say, ‘We’re there. We did it.’ Our palates are accustomed to certain tastes, so
the key is taking small, incremental steps toward long-term change. You're
basically giving consumers’ palates a chance to adjust rather than shocking
them all at once.
Every step forward involves extensive time, testing,
evaluation and more. Many of the wins we’re realizing today are several years
in the making – and, in most cases, there was no road map for how to get there.
As senior director of private brand food initiatives,
I’ve been deeply entrenched in helping develop a road map. We recognized, for
example, that the majority of sodium in the diet of the average American comes
from processed foods. So we’ve focused our efforts on the 47 most popular
processed food categories, which include such examples as cheeses, cereal,
crackers, canned tomatoes and more.
One interesting discovery along the way
was that the sodium within the recipes of our own Great Value breads varied
from one production facility to another. So by working with each facility to
understand needs and challenges, we were able to develop a standardized process
that, in turn, helped produce long-term results in sodium reduction. There are
a variety of hurdles and challenges to reformulation work within private
brands, and there is the potential for even more with national brands. But
we’ve already proven that, with a relentless work ethic, real progress can be
made in the areas of sodium, sugar and trans fat reformulation. We continue to
identify and zero in on additional opportunities.
There was a day when all of this seemed
so overwhelming. But we’re creating a road map. We’re building best practices.
We’re growing relationships, learning from our experiences and helping to
influence a healthier tomorrow.
My team ended 2015 in a big way. After months of hard work, we opened
the first Walmart store in Nicaragua, offering our everyday low prices on a
wide assortment of 40,000 products – a very significant value proposition for
the Nicaraguan market. We know this to be true because people are welcoming us
with open arms.
The day we opened, literally hundreds of enthusiastic people attended the
grand opening of our supercenter in Managua, ready to save money on everything
from clothes, electronics and paint to toys, appliances and groceries. Watching
the excitement and knowing that this store is making a difference for these
people reminded me once again of our mission to help people live better by
simply paying less for the things they need.
This is a $17 million investment in a modern, comfortable store of
5,890 square meters (over 63,000 square feet) that created 150 direct jobs (the
associates that will work in the supercenter) and 1,575 estimated indirect jobs
(jobs as a result of the supercenter such as cleaning crews and suppliers). And,
because we strongly encourage the growth of local businesses, a great majority
of our assortment comes from small and medium-sized Nicaraguan suppliers.
Walmart operates 87 stores in Nicaragua under other formats like Palí (discount),
Maxi Palí (warehouse) and La Union (supermarket), but this is the first Walmart-branded
location. We are now offering the distinctive standard of service, price and
assortment through our iconic Walmart supercenter. And the excitement we’ve
seen is definitely our major reward.
When I moved from Michigan to Myrtle Beach, S.C., five years
ago, it marked a new beginning for me. I was stepping away from 20 years in the
insurance business, into a warmer climate and yearning to return to my culinary
When I was growing up, my family owned a food processing
plant. I was running a restaurant up north by the time I was 19. I’ve always
been curious about flavors and what’s out there. Whenever I travel, I’m that
guy who only eats local cuisine. And
when I began digging into my new surroundings, I discovered the history of
gumbo in the U.S. – which people naturally associate with Louisiana – can actually
be traced back to South Carolina in the 1600s.
The first recipe I developed when I set foot in Myrtle Beach
was my own gumbo. There were so many beautiful ingredients down here – fresh
shrimp, whitefish, Andouille sausage, okra – and when I dipped my spoon into
that first bowl, I had a moment. I thought, “This is it. I’ve really got
I knew this was a recipe that would make South Carolina
proud. My gumbo immediately started winning people over at local farmers
markets and festivals. I looked into opportunities to get my product on the
market, from selling to local restaurants to partnering with a delivery service
in the area. But the day the district manager at our local Walmart gave me 15
minutes of his time – that was the day everything changed.
That was Dec. 17, 2013. When I walked out 45 minutes later,
it was with the understanding we had a deal. By May 2015, my Carolina Gumbaya was being sold in
the frozen section of 17 Walmart stores in South Carolina. Today, that’s grown
to 137 Walmart stores in five states, including Virginia, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
It really has been an amazing experience, to see so many
people embrace this recipe I created in the kitchen of my own home. But when
people ask me if it has taken me by surprise, I have to tell them, “Honestly,
Frozen food has come a long way in recent years. Carolina Gumbaya – a name drawn
from the words gumbo and jambalaya – isn’t packed with fillers and
preservatives. The label doesn’t have words you can’t pronounce. There are 12
whole, wild-caught shrimp in every one-quart container. And the blonde roux I developed,
along with my secret spices, are a few of the differentiating factors.
Turn on any food channel or open a food publication and
you’re going to hear about the flavor of the South. It’s the South’s time to
shine on the culinary stage – so products like mine have an opportunity to
spread across the country. Along the way, Walmart’s commitment to domestic
manufacturing is opening the door for small entrepreneurs like my business
partner, Laura Spencer, and me. Products like Carolina Gumbaya are helping
create jobs at growing U.S.-based companies like Duke Food Productions, the
company who helps produce our product. These kinds of stories are a win-win for
everyone. And we’re just getting started.