U.S. Manufacturing

Ruiz Foods: Building Burritos and Communities Since 1964

The smell of red chili always floods me with warm memories.

For many years in my childhood, it was the smell of my dad coming home to dinner from a long day at work, and going back to prepare for the next day even after we ate.

In a family business, everybody works – all the time. I grew up surrounded by the business my father and grandfather created: Ruiz Food Products, Inc.

In 1964, my grandfather, Louis Ruiz, had the idea to sell frozen Mexican food based on recipes of my Grandma Rosie. My dad, Fred, joined him, and from then on, the family business became an important part of our daily lives. To keep the kids busy, my parents gave us small jobs around the factory, like scooping ingredients or helping put stickers on the finished packages.

Today, our small family business has grown into three brand names: El Monterey, Tornados and Three Bold Brothers. I’m so incredibly proud of how far we’ve come. My grandfather moved to the United States from Mexico, and he started and failed at many things before he and my father came together.

In 1990, we started working with another company with humble roots. Walmart had just begun putting freezers in their stores, and my dad thought it would be smart to try and get involved with what they had going on – he was right. Ruiz Foods has grown from a father and son team betting on Grandma Rosie’s recipes to a company with nearly 3,600 team members and manufacturing facilities in California, Texas and South Carolina.

Being able to work so that you can support your family or dreams in a country you call home is a blessing. Every day, I’m thankful that the people I love have that opportunity, and I feel just as much pride that what we’ve accomplished has provided for so many of our neighbors in the community.

Even stronger than the memory of red chili on my dad’s shirt are the values our company is built upon. My father has a tremendous heart, and from him I learned the responsibility – the proud obligation – that we have to our community both as a family, and as a business. We’ve built community engagement into the foundation of everything we do, from encouraging volunteerism with Ruiz Cares to providing young students with college scholarships through Ruiz 4 Kids.

As a family business, our focus is long-term. Whether we’re finding new ways to support other U.S. manufacturers, or helping a student get their college education, we can see how the decisions we make now will impact our people 30 years from now. And that’s something to be proud of.

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Innovation

Tracking Turkey: New Tech Tells the Farm-to-Table Story

Taking that first bite of Grandma’s green bean casserole made from your family’s secret recipe. Watching football with your Uncle Bob who falls asleep before half time. Giving thanks around the dinner table with family.

These moments give us Thanksgiving Day stories to tell for future generations. But as we enjoy that feast and time with loved ones, there is another story to be told – one that starts with a family of farmers laying feed for their turkeys.

As the senior buyer for turkeys and hams, I’m excited about helping make Thanksgiving meals even better. We believe customers shouldn’t have to choose between products that are affordable or good for the environment, so we are working with suppliers like Cargill to offer items that are good for families, communities and the planet. Part of that is providing customers with easy access to information, which gives them peace of mind that they are purchasing the best products for their families this holiday.

For the first time this Thanksgiving, we’re testing new blockchain technology on packaging of Fresh Honeysuckle White® turkeys, in the Texas area, allowing customers to get the full story behind the star of their meal by tracing their turkey from a family farm to their table.

This turkey technology is innovative, but also pretty simple. You just go to Walmart and pick out a turkey, then text or enter the package’s code at HoneysuckleWhite.com, where you’ll see stories of the family farmers who raised your specific turkey. You’ll also see a message directly from the farmer.

Customer desire for more information led to the development of this blockchain-based solution for turkeys. In 2014, the Honeysuckle White brand found that 44% of turkey consumers think it’s important for companies to be transparent in their practices. Studies in 2016 showed 73% of consumers feel positively about companies that are transparent about where and how their products are made, grown or raised. And more than half of consumers consider farmers one of the most-trusted sources on food-related issues. This year, the Honeysuckle White brand held focus groups that confirmed consumers feel good about buying turkeys raised by family farmers.

It’s important for us to work with suppliers to drive transparency in the supply chain and share information with our customers. Cargill will use the pilot as an opportunity to learn more about the value of traceability in its turkey supply chain. And this test is a great example of an answer to our customer’s needs. Having worked for Walmart for more than 26 years, I still get excited about finding new products and innovations for our customers. Trust and transparency is a huge part of it, and this turkey test is only the beginning.

For more information on these turkeys, the farmers and the blockchain technology, click here.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Competitive Edge: Fan Gear Scores Big for American Jobs

Anywhere you go in America, there’s a sense that folks have a strong connection to the places they came from. We always root for our home teams.

Sports can create a bond that makes people feel close to home, even when they’re far away. At WinCraft, we manufacture licensed sports equipment for teams in the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, Team USA, the NCAA and over 500 colleges and universities. It makes sense that, for American sports like these, every team’s products can be made in the U.S.A.

When Walmart announced its commitment to help create American jobs through buying more American-made products, we knew it was something WinCraft needed be a part of. Supported by their initiative, we’ve built a brand-new manufacturing facility in Winona, Minnesota, and created over 70 more jobs for the wonderful people in our town. WinCraft employs over 675 people in Minnesota, Iowa, Washington and Florida.

Check out this video to see our WinCraft team spirit in action.

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Community

Acre for Acre Promise Preserves Nature for Generations

As a parent of four young children, watching their reaction to seeing a family of deer walking through a shallow stream will always be one of my fondest memories.

The smiles, giggles and amazement on their faces: It was nature in its purest form and something I hope to be able to experience with my children’s children one day.

Conserving one acre of wildlife habitat for every acre of land Walmart developed was the goal of Acres for America, which was founded in 2005 by a partnership with Walmart and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. That was a commitment of $35 million over 10 years.

That original goal has turned into one of the most impressive collaborations in U.S. land conversation history. In 2015, Walmart renewed its commitment to the program by contributing an additional $35 million over 10 years, with a goal of protecting an additional 1 million acres across the nation. And now the program is creating eight new land conservation projects across Hawaii, Northern California, Southern California, Montana, Texas, Michigan, Minnesota and North Carolina, which will protect and connect wildlife habitats across more than 100,000 acres through $3.8 million in grants and $81.2 million in matching contributions.

The 2017 grants include a rare native Hawaiian forest, longleaf pines in Texas and sustainably harvested forestlands in Minnesota and Montana. They protect ancient redwoods in northern California as well as 1,600 year old bald cypress trees in North Carolina, the oldest known trees east of the Mississippi River.

I’m excited that Walmart is working through their Acres for America program to ensure those beautiful habitats are around for generations to come – one acre at a time.

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Opportunity

These Vets Helped Each Other - Now They Pay it Forward

For veterans leaving the military, transitioning to civilian life can be a challenge, but Jarred Crabtree and Jeff Kowalik are determined to make it a little bit easier.

The two met in the U.S. Army, where Jeff was Jarred’s lead drill sergeant in basic training. An injury sent Jarred home earlier than he’d anticipated, but the two kept in touch over social media. When Jarred learned his former drill sergeant was leaving the Army, he knew he had to reach out.

Jarred had made the transition from military to civilian life twice before. After a time in the Army and seven years in law enforcement, he had become a market manager for Walmart’s Oklahoma City stores. He was still at Walmart when he rejoined the Army and met Jeff in 2010.

“When I injured myself, it was devastating,” Jarred said. “But the group of veterans when I came back was so supportive, I immediately felt better – like I could put all my energy and skills back into my job here.”

After 18 years in the Army, Jeff was medically retired and having the all-too-common experience of struggling to find...

Posted by Walmart Today on Sunday, July 30, 2017

Jarred wanted other veterans to experience the same kind of support and community he had, so he invited Jeff to come tour one of his stores in Oklahoma City, where they had several developmental co-manager positions open.

“I couldn’t think of anyone better for the role,” Jarred said. “I remembered Jeff’s leadership skills and his ability to lead diverse groups of people. He had the skill sets we needed.”

During his 18 years in the Army, Jeff had never had to look for a job. “When you leave the military, you have to remember how to do everything again,” he said. At Walmart, Jeff had to learn a new lingo and a new role, but he said it goes hand in hand with what he learned in the military. “The leadership, how hard you have to work, the service – there’s an honor behind what you do here.”

Jeff and Jarred are passionate about having other veterans join their teams at Walmart. They know the value veterans bring: professionalism, adaptability, teamwork, problem solving and ingrained leadership skills.

“If you want a job, all you have to do is come apply. You don’t have to start at the top, but with dedication and hard work, you’re going to move up,” Jarred said. “There’s so much opportunity, and it’s not just on the sales floor. With all the positions we have, whether it’s in operations, support, merchandising – when people realize what’s available, they’re amazed. You can lead people, and that’s what Jeff and I get to do every day.”

Now, Jeff mentors his team members at Walmart and in the broader veteran community. He works with the Veteran Support Foundation, which supports various veteran projects across the country, including helping homeless and disabled service members. He also maintains the veterans’ appreciation board at the front of his store, a photo display that recognizes associates who have served in any of the military branches.

“There’s a brotherhood and sisterhood that ties you together,” Jeff said. “When I came to Walmart, it was extremely heartwarming to know I had someone like Jarred, who was also military and also a leader above me who I could learn from.”

Jeff and his family have since moved to Houston, where he’s a co-manager of a Walmart supercenter, and his wife Jennifer is an assistant manager at another supercenter nearby. Meanwhile, Jarred was promoted to a director of implementation and sustainment. That means he’s now the main point of contact for Walmart’s central division of stores to ensure they’re operating successfully. But both veterans are taking what they learned and continuing to encourage other veterans around the country.

“Don’t give up,” Jarred said. “That’s the biggest message I’d want to get across to other veterans: there’s something out there for you. Ask questions. Don’t just apply online – come visit the store. Come talk to us, because you’ll find more people like me and Jeff who want you working with us.”

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