Innovation

Photo Tour: Walmart’s Culinary & Innovation Center

In Bentonville, Arkansas, there’s a building where delicious things are happening. It’s the Culinary & Innovation Center — just opened in June — where Walmart’s private brands team is developing new items, testing them to ensure they meet customer needs, and showing that the same results can be easily achieved in stores and in homes, all in one facility.

Here's an inside look at how it all works.

Theater-Style Kitchen: Outfitted with a variety of equipment and a central prep area surrounded by room for an audience, this kitchen is used to experiment with different recipes and demonstrate cooking techniques — in person or in videos — to associates who will create the dishes back at their store.

Kitchenettes: These six meeting spaces are perfect for meetings with suppliers to evaluate new products. Each kitchenette is equipped with ovens and microwaves, with ample space to prepare and taste a large selection of products at once.

By working with suppliers firsthand, we can pinpoint what product elements need improvement. Our merchants can then work out a strategy to address the issues and make sure the products are still delivered at the best price and value.

Sensory Lab: This is where tastings occur. In a kitchen, the center’s staff load prepared items into a revolving chamber. On the other side, tasters open the chamber to get access to the item and input their impressions on a computer. This helps ensure the tests are done blind, and kitchen staff can keep track of what tasters have tried.

Tests can happen quickly and don’t always focus on taste alone. If complaints come in from store associates about a particular product, staff can pick up samples in the morning and have a tasting by the afternoon to address any problems and begin working on a solution. For example, after hearing that a recent spice packet was tough to open, staff brought samples to the lab for testing. The problem (too much glue) was identified quickly and fixed in the first production run.

Meet the Tasters: Tasters are usually Walmart home office associates who volunteer. They’re screened based on tastes and preferences.

And the Tasting Monitors: Tastings are carefully monitored by associates like Angela Hebert, senior sensory manager. “I encourage tasters to give as much information as they can, even if it sounds crazy,” Angela said.

Innovation Room: This kitchenette is for testing and demonstrating new products that Walmart’s product experts believe will meet customer needs based on marketplace trends. Here they test samples and deliver feedback to suppliers on how to make the products as delicious as possible, all while keeping costs low.

Consumables Lab: This area tests non-food items: everything from Great Value cleaners to Equate items, Pure Balance pet food and Parent's Choice baby products. Packaging and presentation are evaluated, and to keep costs down, cleaning products that are tested in this room – like detergents – are used on the center’s linens.

Results in Stores: Keep an eye out for Marketside Applewood Bacon Seasoned Loin Filet. Every element of it, from its flavor to its packaging, was developed by the team at the Culinary & Innovation Center—and associates helped find the perfect flavor.

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the August 2016 issue of Walmart World, the magazine for Walmart associates.

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Community

How You Can Take Action in the Fight Against Hunger

Big numbers aren’t always easy to grasp, but I have one for you – 42 million. That’s how many Americans struggle with hunger, according to the USDA. To break it down a little more, that’s one in eight of us.

For the next few weeks, there’s an easy way to join the fight against hunger. By making a purchase at your local Walmart store, using your social media channels or donating at the register, you can support Walmart’s “Fight Hunger. Spark Change.” campaign and help Feeding America secure 100 million meals on behalf of member food banks.

A lot of our associates are taking it a step further by volunteering with their local food banks, like Mario Young, a department manager at one of our Charlotte, North Carolina stores.

“I've been volunteering in the Charlotte community for more than six years and with the Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina for over a year,” Mario said. “I love helping with different projects and especially with helping other people in the community. Through Walmart I have been able to reach more members of the community in need and am always one of the first people to volunteer for events like the one today."

Only a few hours from Charlotte, in Charleston, South Carolina, even more of our associates are giving back. Along with the Lowcountry Food Bank, our associates recently helped 300 Greeleyville Elementary students and their parents have an amazing Easter. What started off with a massive egg hunt ended with the parents being able to stock up on fresh produce – 15,000 pounds of it to be exact – donated by Walmart and distributed by our associates.

As a grocer serving millions of customers in America each week, Walmart has been working to positively impact the issue of hunger in the U.S. for many years. By collaborating with our customers, Discover card and five of the nation’s leading food companies – Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, Kellogg Company, The Kraft Heinz Company and PepsiCo – we hope to make a real difference for families who are struggling with hunger.

From April 17 – May 15, you can join the efforts in three easy ways.

Purchase Participating Products: For every purchase of specially marked products both in-store and online, the manufacturer will donate enough to help you secure one meal on behalf of Feeding America member food banks. For every Discover card transaction made in-store and online, Discover will donate the equivalent of one meal, up to $1 million.

Donate at the Register: You can make a donation to Feeding America member food banks at the checkout in any Walmart store.

Online Act of Support: We have already met our online act of support goal of donating up to $1.5 million to Feeding America on behalf of member food banks. You can still show your support by continuing to use #FightHunger on your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and like or share Walmart provided content. You can also visit Walmart.com/FightHunger to show your support through a click.


To participate or learn more, visit Walmart.com/FightHunger.

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Innovation

When Convenience and Technology Meet, Pickup Customers Win

There has never been a better time to be a customer.

With more options and access to products than ever before, we all have more control over when, how and where we shop.

This makes it an exciting time to work in retail, especially at Walmart. We’re listening to you and creating new ways for you to save both time and money.

One of the best examples of this is Walmart Pickup, the service that enables you to order items online and pick those items up in any Walmart store, completely free.

An easy, convenient option
Pickup is about serving you where you are. Ninety percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store, and we serve more than 140 million customers a week, which gives us a unique opportunity to make every day a little easier for busy families.

Take online grocery pickup, which allows you to order groceries online, select a pickup time and have those groceries delivered to your car in minutes, all without having to leave the driver’s seat. This option is currently available in 600 stores, and we’ll be adding it to another 500 locations this year.

But Pickup goes beyond groceries – it’s also an option for shipping millions of items available on Walmart.com directly to your local store.

And starting on April 19, you will benefit from extra savings on many of the orders you place using Pickup – check out the recent news we shared for details.

We also offer Pickup Today, an incredible convenience for ordering items such as toys, office supplies and electronics, including video games. This same-day service has been so popular that we’ve tripled the number of items available for Pickup Today since last year.

Making Pickup even better
To make the in-store experience as simple and easy as possible, we’ve added additional staffing at our Pickup desks, including department managers in many of our stores – jobs that didn’t exist a few years ago. We’ve also developed new training programs and introduced mobile technology that simplifies how work gets done. This is leading to lower wait times and higher customer satisfaction.

This convenience is maximized by the Walmart app, which allows you to notify the store when you’re on your way, making sure your items are ready when you arrive. Or, if you’re in a store shopping for a specific item like an infant seat and see that your preferred color is available online, you can use the app to have it shipped directly to the store to pick up next time you shop.

Testing new things
As technology changes, so does how we shop. So we’re always exploring new ways to help you save time and money.

One of my personal favorites is our Pickup Tower. Much like a high-tech vending machine for your online orders, this feature in a few of our stores allows you to pick up items in less than a minute by scanning a bar code sent to your smartphone. The pilot phase has been so successful we’re expanding it to other locations across the country.

We’re also testing other pickup options and locations that quickly get items to you in ways that are most convenient.

Some of what we’re doing will make its way to all our stores; others we’ll simply learn from and use to develop the next great thing. The only guarantee is that we’ll let you tell us what works best. The future of shopping is ultimately up to you.

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Business

Best Flatbread 4Evr: Meet the Crotilla, Your Bakery BFF

Crotilla. Crow-TEE-ah.

“Crow” like the bird. “Tea” like the hot beverage. “Uh” like when your kids ask you what’s for dinner and you have no idea.

Crotilla. What on earth is a Crotilla? I’m about to tell you.

The Crotilla is a hybrid bakery item exclusive to Walmart. A combination of a croissant and tortilla, this flatbread can be used for everything from breakfast sandwiches to Indian food. I wanted to know what goes into arranging a food marriage, so I talked to Bradlee Underwood, senior buyer for Walmart Bakery, to get the back story.

Elizabeth: So, let’s talk about the birth of a Crotilla. How did you come up with this new bakery item?

Bradlee: We wanted to invent something innovative and exclusive to Walmart. We worked with our supplier, Aryzta, to create a mash-up of two products the customer already understands, the croissant and the tortilla, similar to the Cronut sensation a few years back. Also, we know customers, especially millennial customers, are hungry for new food trends and cool ways to experience food, and we want to be a destination for that.

E: Because the item was exclusive to Walmart, and brand-new, was there extra pressure to get it right?

B: Because it would be our customers’ first encounter with the Crotilla, we wanted all aspects of the product to be perfect. That meant everything from making the shape correct – the perfect size to fit in a toaster – to ensuring the Crotilla had enough layers. One thing we are especially proud of is the Crotilla’s high quality: It’s made with all butter, and baked fresh in our bakery every day.

E: What about the Crotilla is going to pique the curiosity of, say, a young professional?

B: We’ve been talking a lot about how to help busy customers save not only money but also time. Our millennial customers will appreciate the convenience factor – Crotillas are portable and perfect for a meal or a snack on the go.

E: I know as a mom shopping for my family, I have certain “go-to” foods I buy every week that I am confident my kids will like. What is going to make customers switch up their mealtime routines with a Crotilla?

B: In the same way Walmart is looking to surprise and delight customers, I think parents want to surprise and delight their families. The versatility of the product is really going to impress our customers. You can add Nutella and bananas for breakfast, or dress up a burger for lunch, or even make mini pizzas in the toaster oven for a fun dinner one night. And since Crotillas are easy and not messy, kids can pitch in help make dinner, too.

So, what goes into a Crotilla? Anything you want!

The Crotilla is available in 832 Walmart stores nationwide. Look for it in the fresh bakery department.

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Business

Read Walmart CEO Doug McMillon’s 2017 Letter to Shareholders

The following letter from Walmart CEO Doug McMillon was taken from our 2017 Annual Report, which was released today. Read the report.

Dear shareholders, associates and customers:

As I sit down to write this year’s letter, I’m feeling proud of the progress we’re making at Walmart and, most specifically, the passion and hard work exhibited by our associates. I’m encouraged by the way we’re moving with greater speed to better serve customers.

Our business is getting stronger. In the U.S., we’ve delivered positive comp store sales for ten consecutive quarters and we’re hearing from our customers that their experience continues to improve. Sam’s Club comp sales improved throughout the year and members are increasingly using our digital tools like Scan & Go and Club Pickup. Outside the U.S., 10 of our 11 markets posted positive comp sales this past year. Across our business segments, e-commerce growth is accelerating. Our strategy to serve customers through e-commerce and our stores in a seamless way is gaining traction. The momentum we’re seeing is real and I’m excited about what the future holds.

We’re clearly living in a time of transformative change. The world is moving faster and the magnitude of the changes, and their influence on business, seem larger than I can remember. In retail, the things made possible by technology are fundamentally transforming this industry. These changes are creating compelling ways for customers to save time and gain easy access to products and services they didn’t have before. At Walmart, we’re harnessing the power of technology and the investments in our associates to create new ways of serving customers and provide associates with more opportunities to grow their careers.

We’ve been preparing ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities presented and we have four objectives that we’re focused on this year. First, we want to make every day easier for busy families. Customers are time-crunched, so we want their shopping experience with us to be fast and easy — truly seamless — in all the ways they want to shop: in stores, on their mobile device, or through pickup and delivery. I’m excited by many of our recent initiatives — like the free 2-day shipping offer with a $35 minimum order from Walmart.com, the expansion of online grocery around the world, and Sam’s Club’s launch of Scan & Go across the U.S. — because of the convenience these initiatives provide. The strategic acquisitions of Jet, ShoeBuy, Moosejaw and ModCloth, as well as the alliance with JD.com in China, provide customers with a broader assortment as well as more ways to save time and money. It’s truly been a significant year of progress on this front.

Our second key objective is to change the way we work. We’re focused on becoming more of a digital enterprise. We’re working to increase productivity with more efficient internal processes and creating more real-time information at our fingertips, supported by more advanced analytics. We’re providing in-store associates with the tools they need, like apps and tablets, to make it easier to gain insight into our performance. Our goal is to increase our speed, effectiveness for customers and productivity throughout the business. We’re also working to strengthen the performance mindset of our culture and fight bureaucracy that can plague large companies. A strong and effective culture is foundational to success and we’re shaping ours to drive performance and create even more opportunity for our diverse group of associates in an inclusive work environment.

Third, we will deliver results and operate with discipline. We were founded on an everyday low-cost mentality but we think we have opportunities to work in new ways and find a path to a lower cost base. This is vital for our future. We’ll be smart with how we allocate capital to drive long-term value for our shareholders. We’re after efficient growth. We will focus on growing more through e-commerce and comp sales in our current store fleet and rely less on new store growth in the U.S. We’ll also continually look at our portfolio to make sure we’re positioned to win. We’ll invest in our core business with store remodels, technology and customer initiatives like online grocery and pickup, while at the same time being open to divest non-core assets if it’s in our best interest.

The fourth objective is to be the most trusted retailer. During this time of change, customers are watching the companies they spend their time and money with more closely than ever. The way we earn their trust is through our associates doing the right thing every day — being creative, curious, ethical, service oriented and embodying our purpose of making lives better for others. If everyone could see inside the company I’ve come to love, they would feel even better about the company.

We’re doing things people would expect from Walmart: focusing on lowering prices — not by cutting corners, but by being better at delivering great items more efficiently than our competitors; and constantly innovating to save customers time as well as money. We’re also doing things that might surprise some people. We’ve made significant investments in our associates, providing the career opportunities they deserve and skills necessary to be successful at Walmart or wherever their career takes them. Over the last decade, we’ve become one of the most environmentally sustainable retailers (and companies) in the world and we’re raising the bar even higher. We’re investing in making our supply chain safer and more transparent so customers can be confident that the products they purchase are sourced the right way. And, we have embraced the journey towards the concept of “shared value” as espoused by Dr. Michael Porter of Harvard Business School, which challenges us to create a business model that is not just good for shareholders but better for everyone: customers, associates, suppliers, communities and society in general.

We’ve worked hard over the years to earn the trust of those we serve and do business with around the world. By no means am I saying Walmart is perfect. We’ll make honest mistakes along the way, but we won’t let up until we get it right. Our purpose is simple: we save people money so they can live better. We take both aspects of our purpose seriously.

We want to thank you for believing in us…for investing in our future. We are a company of the future. As I stated earlier, we’re operating from a strong foundation built by those before us and taking action aimed at strengthening our business this year and beyond. We’ll continue to strengthen our stores around the world, we’ll continue to build our e-commerce and digital capabilities, and we’ll put them together in a way that saves customers time and money. And as they choose to shop with us, we’ll be doing things behind the scenes to create shared value for all so they are confident that their trust in us is well-placed.

Honored to serve,


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