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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Business

Meet the Families Behind Our Grass-Fed Beef

They say you are what you eat.

When we shop to feed our families, we’re especially concerned with what’s in the food we’re buying and where it came from. Thanks to two cattle ranching families who came together years ago to farm grass-fed beef in Utah and Wyoming, we’re able to provide this option – our Marketside Butcher brand – at over 2,000 of our stores.

It’s important to do business with people who care about their customers as much as we do. Working with Jones Creek, that care is obvious. The Crandall family has been farming cattle on their ranches in Utah and Wyoming for over five generations, and they’re committed to a product that’s as natural as it is tasty.

Check out this video to see why they believe in producing beef with no added hormones or antibiotics, but lots of passion and care.

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Innovation

The Opioid Epidemic Has Changed Safe Disposal of Prescriptions

The opioid epidemic is as serious of a drug crisis as America’s ever seen. It’s so deep-reaching that nearly every community has felt its effects.

And while prescription pain medications are an appropriate treatment option for some, the reality is that unchecked supplies in the public pose a significant health concern. Just as prescription drugs should be prescribed carefully, they must be stored and disposed of carefully.

Providing a means for proper drug disposal is a fundamental way Walmart can help. Today, we announced a new, free, convenient solution for responsible opioid disposal, DisposeRx. It’s a first-of-its-kind solution and I’m so proud of our team and the work they’ve done to bring this simple means of disposal to our patients.

We know the person who was prescribed a prescription opioid medication isn’t always the only one who is at risk for misuse. This innovative option for medication disposal will help keep families and communities healthy, and DisposeRx is one more way we can make a difference.

Here are a few more reasons why we wanted to help with this critical issue.

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Business

CEO Doug McMillon's Note to Associates on Tax Savings

Happy New Year! I hope you and your families had a great holiday season. Thank you so much for all your efforts to serve our customers during our busiest time of the year. I know there were many smiling faces on Christmas morning and throughout the season because of you. Thank you for serving them so well and for helping each other to do it as a team.

We’ve got some really good news to share today. As you know, the President and Congress have approved a lower business tax rate. Given these changes, we have an opportunity to accelerate a few pieces of our investment plan. We plan to continue investing in you, in our customers through lower prices, and in our future--especially in technology to help improve your jobs and the experience for our customers.

So, we’re pleased to tell you that we’re raising our starting wage to $11 an hour for Walmart U.S., Sam’s Club, Supply Chain, eCommerce and Home Office hourly associates effective in February.

We’re also providing a one-time bonus to hourly associates that pays a larger amount the longer you’ve been with our company. Associates that don’t benefit from the new starting wage increase are eligible for the bonus and it will range from $200 to $1,000 depending on your length of service. As an associate who’s been with the company more than 25 years, I understand the value of experience and we all appreciate those of you that have helped build this company over the years.

I’m also excited to tell you that we’re making an important change to benefits by expanding our paid leave policy to provide full-time hourly associates with 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. This expanded parental leave also applies to salaried associates and to parents who adopt. We will also contribute $5,000 to the cost of adoption. I recently heard from two associates on this topic—one through an open door note and one at a town hall. Both pointed out how limited our policy was for adoptive parents so we’re happy to be addressing that concern now. Families are a priority to us and connecting with and caring for a new family member is obviously important.

As we look to the future and how we’ll win with customers, we’ll be assessing what additional investments are needed, and we’ll make those decisions with you, our customers, and our shareholders in mind.

Thanks again for everything you do. I’m proud of our progress and we have momentum. Let’s build on that in 2018!

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Life

In Case You Missed It: Our Favorite Stories from 2017

Last year, our news feeds were full of big moments.

In case you missed some of Walmart’s major events, we rounded up our Top 10 favorite stories of 2017 – from the impressive, to the heartbreaking, to the downright adorable.

Our Family Got Bigger and Better
It’s always a happy moment when a family grows. This year, we added exciting companies to our team like ModCloth, Bonobos, Shoes.com and Parcel. We also partnered with tech innovators like August Home, Google, Uber and Lord & Taylor, proving that when we strengthen our business in the right places, our customers win.

A Podcast About Retail (And All Things Related)
These days, you can find a podcast for just about anything. From whales to Wales, from weather patterns to whether the latest movie is any good, you can probably find it all in your favorite podcast app. In May, we launched a podcast of our own called Outside the Box where we brought together thought leaders and innovators of all backgrounds to talk about the ways they’re transforming technology, shopping and everything in between.

Virtual Reality – and a Few Cues From Football – Helped Train Our People
Inspiration can come from surprising places. With the same technology used by some major football teams, we started incorporating virtual reality training into our Academy programs across the country. It’s just one of the many ways Walmart Academies use tech to set up associates for success.

This 5-Year-Old Associate Stole Our Hearts
What do you call a preschooler who does an art project on working at Walmart? Our newest associate! Well, at least for a day. When 5-year-old Will Coffman’s dad shared an adorable picture on Twitter, a local store manager invited him in to help out (and try out the job).

We Made Great Value… an Even Better Value
Premium Ice cream, sustainable coffee and salon-quality hairspray all at everyday low prices? We made it happen. In 2017, we highlighted some private label products that go above and beyond in providing our customers an amazing value. Be sure to check them out, you may be surprised!

This Short Story Revealed a Much Bigger Impact
A lot goes on behind the scenes in this big retail business. Aside from bringing customers their favorite products at a great value, we work to make a difference year-round for people, communities and the environment. This year we had Walmart home office associate Kyle Jones break down the lengthy report for us. He did such a great job we wondered why we never thought of it before!

#MadeInUSA Helped Create Jobs Across the Country
In 2013, we announced a commitment to source an additional $250 billion in products made, assembled or grown in the U.S. From an eyeglass factory in Brooklyn to an inventor’s home factory in Opdyke, Illinois, we took 2017 to highlight suppliers that are creating change for American workers.

Shopping Got a Major Tech Upgrade
The world is navigating a cultural revolution into the digital age, and last year was a big year for tech in retail. Last year, our Online Grocery Pickup continued to grow as a customer favorite, and we opened new stores with some pretty exciting features. What’s more, our incubation arm Store No 8 moved like a startup to test better ways to shop.

Associates Came Together to Help Those in Need
After natural disasters destroyed homes across the U.S., we witnessed communities and associates come together in times of need. From Hurricane Harvey to Hurricane Maria, from earthquakes in Mexico to wildfires in California, we were proud to see Walmart associates use their unique skill sets to help those affected get back on their feet.

We Started With #HelloMyNameIs
Every year, our Shareholders meeting brings together exceptional associates from around the world. It’s always inspiring to see what our international co-workers are up to, but last June we heard a powerful story from an Asda associate who’s carrying on his late wife’s legacy, and we just had to share it.

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