U.S. Manufacturing

These Artists are Mixing Up the Cocktail Game

Watching a professional mixologist craft the perfect cocktail can leave you awestruck.

From their performance-style bottle flips as they mix the ingredients to the spectacle of the drink itself, it’s truly a form of art.

The bottle flips take time to master, but creating that perfect cocktail at home is definitely within reach. However, it can be intimidating. While craft cocktails are in vogue right now – especially with millennials – many of them report they don’t know how to make them.

We were approached in the summer of 2016 by Walmart’s mixed drinks buyer, Tammy Patton, who wanted help in creating a new, exciting product that resonated with these customers. “The mixed drinks and bar ingredients category hasn’t seen innovations in a while. It all started with us needing lime and lemon juices, which surprisingly, we didn’t have in that category,” Tammy said.

What we came up with – a selection of mixers and bar ingredients called Cocktail Artist – fills this gap. From the ingredients to the packaging, it stands out. We went straight to the experts – eight award-winning mixologists from across the U.S. – and worked with them to create premium ingredients they would be excited to use. They became our spokespeople for each of the products, with their faces on the bottles of the ingredients they helped make.

Each mixologist honed in on the mix or ingredient he or she was passionate about. They were enthusiastic and took ownership from the get-go – all the way to doing store demos, taking pictures with customers and signing bottles. We went with an Andy Warhol-style concept and the idea of turning the labels into actual pieces of art.

We started with two products, then grew to eight in March of this year. And in 2018, we’ll expand to a total of 15. And with new products, come new bartenders. One of them, Skyy John, better known as Tipsy Bartender, is one of the biggest influencers in this category, with 26 million followers. To keep up with demand at our plant in Cincinnati, we’re proud to be adding jobs to that community. What’s great is that none of our mixes are made with high-fructose corn syrup and at the same time, they’re affordable. You can make some really high-quality cocktails and not break the bank.

“This line has really revitalized the category. The major players in that space are bringing more to the table and innovating. We’re growing a new customer base, and they’re coming back more often,” Tammy said. “We’re really proud we can offer quality products like this to our customers.”

Our goal was to create a craft cocktail movement. I think we’re on our way.

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Life

#IShannanYou: The Associate Love Story That Has Netflix Viewers Swooning

It’s a classic love story: Boy meets girl, falls madly in love and proposes to her in front of millions on one of 2018’s most popular Netflix shows.

Okay, so that’s probably not how it happens for most of us. But, for William and Shannan Mahnken, it’s all part of their real-life love story that started five years ago after they met at a Walmart assistant store manager training session in Woodstock, Georgia.

The Netflix reality show reboot, “Queer Eye,” has taken pop culture by storm. The show’s “Fab Five” – Jonathan, Karamo, Tan, Antoni and Bobby – have won over viewers’ hearts across America by taking the show beyond its basic premise and diving into conversations about identity and self-confidence that inspire viewers and participants alike.

Before Shannan submitted William to be one of the makeover contestants on the show’s second season, the grocery department manager was a shy aspiring actor and screenwriter who named ’90s sitcom character Frasier Crane as his style icon. In his own words, “I was hiding behind my beard and all that hair.”

It’s not always easy to embrace your full self or wear your heart on your sleeve, but despite William’s reserved personality, he had a great time on set. “The guys are all so great,” William said. “They just walk up to you like they’ve been friends with you forever. I felt so comfortable.”

Bonding with the Fab Five even helped William feel comfortable enough to seek their help in planning his proposal to Shannan. He set to work with Karamo, the “Queer Eye” culture consultant, to craft a grand proposal that would sweep her off her feet.

“I was trying to think of a word that meant more than love,” said William, “and eventually I realized that there was no single word or phrase that could describe how I feel about Shannan. I decided that the only way I could describe it was with her name.”

That’s right. William invented a new way to say, “I love you” – and he did it using his future bride’s name. “I Shannan you.” If you haven’t seen the episode yet, I highly suggest grabbing a box of tissues beforehand.

Last month, William and Shannan finally tied the knot in a small sunrise ceremony on the beaches of Amelia Island in Florida. Since the show aired, the lovebirds say that although married life is a little different, the couple have stayed pretty true to who they are. They now work together as department managers at the same Walmart store in Cornelia, Georgia, and William continues to create short films and act when he can.

So, what was the biggest lesson he learned on the show?

“Confidence is a big one,” he said. “I learned how to open up to people. I don’t feel hidden anymore; I feel like I can open up to people about who I am. If I feel myself reverting back into that old pattern, I remember something that Tan said to me: ‘You’re not doing this for yourself, you’re doing it for her – the person you love.’ I think about that and it inspires me to be the best version of myself.”

Photos courtesy of Netflix.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Answering the Open Call: Entrepreneurs Bring It at Walmart’s Annual Event

It was high-stakes show-and-tell yesterday at Walmart’s annual U.S. Manufacturing Open Call event.

Entrepreneurs representing more than 450 businesses roamed the halls of our Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas, awaiting their turn to pitch everything from salsa to sportswear in front of Walmart buyers. Weaving my way through the crowd, I saw hundreds of original and inventive items and had the privilege of meeting some of the people and hearing some of the stories behind them.

A few of those people walked away with deals, a few heard maybes and others received feedback that will prepare them to try again. Here are five of my favorites.

1. Flying High. Megan Hardwick had a roller-coaster ride of a day. The business owner and mom had to pitch her Wings Cosmetics eyeliner stamps twice: once in a small room in front of a buyer, then in an auditorium filled with other hopefuls and Walmart associates. Our cosmetics buyer was sold on Megan’s invention – flexible plastic stamps that apply liquid or gel eyeliner in sharp, matching wing shapes in seconds.

Flying high after getting a deal, she was selected for a live pitch session called “Bring It,” where businesses vied for crowdsourcing to identify which products would get placement in Walmart stores. Megan’s Wings went up against Mighty Good Pizza Saver – a microwavable plastic container that keeps leftover pizza fresh – and the competition was intense, with the Pizza Saver taking the lead by one point seconds before the polls closed. Megan wasn’t out of the game though. Her Wings pulled through and the contest ended with a tie.

2. Sparking Interest. Warren Brown, a lawyer-turned-baker from the Washington, D.C., area, attended his first Open Call in 2017 and ultimately landed a deal for Don’t Forget Cake: a single-serve layer cake with frosting in a jar. This year, he presented a healthier snacking option called Spark Bites. Warren said these whole-grain snacks are gluten- and allergen-free, high in fiber, low in cane sugar and come in five different flavors. His Spark Bites were referred to another buyer in a category that better fits the product. As for Don’t Forget Cake, two flavors launched in March and will soon be available in 1,000 Walmart stores.

3. Ugly Dates Deserve Love. This story begins all the way in Israel. When David Czinn and his friend and business partner, Brian Finkel, were studying abroad in the Middle East, they both fell in love with the region’s alternative to honey: D’vash date nectar. The sweetener has been a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years, David said, and the duo wanted to bring it to the States – but they wanted to cut the sugar and make it environmentally friendly. Thus D’vash Organics was born. Their dates come from Coachella Valley farms in California. “We buy the ugly ones that wouldn’t otherwise be sold,” David said. The nectar is vegan, has 25% less sugar than honey and can add flavor to tea and coffee, marinades, salad dressing and much more. David, a second-time Open Call participant, said he got positive feedback and was excited for the future of this ancient delight as he prepared for more meetings later in the day.

4. Party to Go. With the summer heat just getting started, ready-to-go cocktails sound like a great idea for parties and relaxing evenings outside with friends. YUMIX has quenched the need with three flavors – Orange Mango, Margarita and Sea Breeze. Everything needed is in one bottle: Simply twist off the bottom chamber that holds the alcohol, pour into the bottle and mix. Alex Garner, founder and CEO, started the day off right when he walked out of the pitch meeting with a deal for these adult beverages.

5. The Heart of the Deal. Not everyone was at Open Call with products in tow. Businessman Ray Doustdar was back for his second year with advice and a listening ear. In 2017, Ray pitched his liquid multivitamins, Buiced – a play on “boost your veggie juice” – and didn’t immediately get a deal because the product was too big for Walmart’s shelves. Ray took the buyer’s feedback home, adjusted the size of the packaging, approached the buyer again and got his “yes.” Two flavors of Buiced, citrus and fruit punch, are now available in 3,000 stores, and the experience has been life-changing for Ray. “I knew I wanted to come back as a success story and help other people prepare for their meetings,” Ray said. “This experience has made me be better at my business,” he said, and being able to pay it forward as a mentor is important to him.

Ray said it best: “The stories coming out of Open Call are proof that the American dream is alive and well.”

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Business

These Back-to-School Tools Add Up to Easier Shopping

Going back to school with confidence is as easy as 1, 2, 3 … 4.

Whether you’re shopping for a kindergartner or a college student, Walmart is making it easier than ever to get all the supplies you need in-store and online with a variety of new tools and products.

The best part: You don’t have to sacrifice style for convenience or saving money. Around 25% of our school supply assortment is new this year, and you’ll find these on-trend items offered at our everyday low prices.

Study the graphic below on some of the ways we can help you ace back-to-school shopping.


*Free two-day shipping is available on orders over $35 without a membership fee.

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Sustainability

This Bud’s for the Future of Our Planet

Over the years, the Budweiser logo has come to represent many things beyond just beer: the Budweiser frogs, the greeting “Wassup?” and, of course, the majestic Clydesdales. But soon you may be seeing a new Budweiser logo that symbolizes even more.

Anheuser-Busch, which first introduced Budweiser Lager Beer in 1876, is taking a serious look at how the way beer is produced can help make a difference for our planet.

To highlight its commitment, the company created a special “Brewed with 100% Renewable Electricity” logo that now appears on all Budweiser sold in the U.S. Just as iguanas Frank and Louie became popular mascots for the brand, the new logo will hopefully become a recognizable mark of social responsibility.

These efforts don’t end at the logo, however. The company took its ambitious sustainability goals and joined Walmart’s Project Gigaton, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our supply chain by 1 billion metric tons by 2030.

The brewer set its own goals that it hopes to meet by 2025. Its four areas of focus are:

  • Renewable electricity and carbon reduction
  • Water stewardship
  • Smart agriculture
  • Circular packaging

“Achieving ambitious goals requires cooperation from stakeholders across the board. When you add efforts from wholesalers, suppliers and consumers to those from companies like Walmart and Anheuser-Busch — companies who are committed to the cause — you’ve got a chance to make a real difference,” said Angie Slaughter, vice president of sustainability procurement at Anheuser-Busch, North America.

A major milestone was reached when the brewer announced a wind energy partnership with ENEL Green Power in 2017. Since January of this year, 50% of Anheuser-Busch’s purchased electricity has come from a wind farm at Thunder Ranch, Oklahoma. That’s enough renewable electricity to brew more than 20 billion 12-ounce servings of beer in the U.S. each year.

The Budweiser brand carries the flag for the renewable electricity goal pledged by the brewer. “When you consider the Budweiser beer volume in North America, we sell 15 million 12-ounce servings every day, and we have 15 million opportunities with each one to get customers involved in conversations over a beer,” Angie said of Budweiser’s consumers. “We also want to encourage other companies to be inspired to do more. The new symbol is available for other companies to show how they’re using renewable electricity in their brands.”

The wind farm hits on another shared interest between the brewery and Walmart: creating American jobs. Angie said the development of the farm is a 15-year project, and around 400 temporary jobs were created at the peak of construction. Some jobs will remain long term.

Anheuser-Busch itself is an American success story – one that began in 1860.

“We are proud to call the United States our home and are proud to continue to brew America’s best beers,” said Angel Beasley, manager of trade marketing supporting the Walmart business. “It makes sense especially to amplify our American heritage with Walmart’s Made in the USA program. In fact, 98% of the primary ingredients used in the beers Anheuser-Busch proudly brews are grown in the U.S.”

There are more than 18,000 employees nationwide. Budweiser’s production alone requires over 1,700 people, Angel said.

The next time you pass a Budweiser display in your local Walmart store or crack open a cold one, you’ll know that it’s more than an adult beverage – and that the company is doing more than coming up with clever commercials.

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