Baked goods containers that allow you carry stacks of frosted brownies at a time, old-fashioned soaps with natural ingredients and a frozen food line of Hispanic cuisine — these South Florida-born products caught the eye of retail giant Walmart during its fourth annual Open Call, an event that gives American suppliers face time with Walmart buyers.
Fort Lauderdale-based Bakers Sto N Go, Terra Beauty Products in Deerfield Beach and Mi Savor Latino in Medley were among more than 700 companies invited to pitch their products on June 28 at Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, said Twila Brooks, vice president of division merchandise management at Walmart.
All three local South Florida businesses left their 30-minute pitch sessions with deals to sell their products in Walmart stores. Details of the deals have yet to be finalized.
“Our goal is to open up our doors and meet with entrepreneurs ... from sole entrepreneurs up to large corporations,” Brooks said. “It’s our way to streamline the process. What better way to give our suppliers to give that answer on the spot?”
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Despite her nerves, Angela Horevitz, of Bakers Sto N Go, said that her talk with six Walmart buyers was “the most comfortable meeting” she had ever had.
“I told [the specialized buyer] I was going to be her favorite product in her category,” she said.
Horevitz’s carriers for baked goods come with adjustable shelves, which allows someone to transport multiple pies or cakes safely. She prepared for her pitch by doing market research on baked goods and baking carriers. She then bought Walmart cookies, brownies and bundt cakes that she worked into the demo of her baked goods carrier.
With Walmart as her main account, Horevitz said she would be able to produce her carriers, made at an injection molding factory in Delray Beach, on a continuous basis rather than order by order. Although prices at Walmart have not been set, she said this would allow the factory to hire more workers while she could sell her carriers at a lower price. The basic model currently retails for $16.95 online.
“This is an amazing thing that Walmart is doing by supporting American-made products,” Horevitz said. “It’s going to create jobs.”
The Open Call is part of Walmart’s campaign to buy an additional $250 billion in products that are made, assembled, sourced or grown in the United States by 2023. The company reported $485 billion in revenue its last fiscal year, and processes and distributes goods from more than 100,000 global suppliers in 176 distribution facilities, according to Walmart’s most recent 10-K.
Walmart was criticized by advocacy group Truth in Advertising Inc. in 2016 for labeling more than 100 items as “Made in America” when the products stated otherwise on the packaging or elsewhere on the website. Walmart disputes the claim, saying two-thirds of what it spends on merchandise goes to products made, assembled or sourced in the U.S.
For Mi Savor Latino, a family business that supplies Hispanic food to grocery stores on the East Coast, the Walmart deal means it can add a frozen food line to its current selection of made-in-Miami empanadas, Carlos Perez Jr. said.
Perez, his father and their broker pitched their products to Walmart in a kitchen where they baked, fried and plated their empanadas for the buyers to taste.
Perez said he put special effort into the packaging design to look fresh and upscale, he said. “I wanted to be different from everyone else in the freezer aisle.”
While order sizes have not been set, Perez said that Mi Savor Latino frozen foods would first debut at Walmart stores along the East Coast.
For Terra Beauty Products, the Open Call was a chance for the company to move from online into stores, said Fernanda Dondoni Gomes, one of three sisters behind the company.
In recent years, Gomes said she and her sisters noticed increased interest in green beauty products. They also saw an uptick in demand for the “sustainable, natural” soap that her family made on their farm in Brazil.
The sisters and their staff produce about 3,000 beauty products to order each month in a Deerfield Beach warehouse, then sell their products online. With Walmart on board, they can continue producing at the same scale while Walmart tests their products in 100 stores.
“It’s really exciting for us,” Gomes said. “We’re excited to see that kind of American dream keep growing for our family.”