The Bentonville office is a few blocks from Walmart’s corporate headquarters.
“Building out a full-service dedicated Walmart team has certainly been a critical component of our overall strategic business plan,” said managing partner Tyler Lowell.
“Between a significant amount of current and new clients communicating a high level of interest, along with finding the right leader, we’re thrilled to announce our September launch[ of our Arkansas location],” he added.
C.A. Fortune has also named Tyler Gill as the regional office’s VP and Walmart team leader. Gill previously worked as VP for Acosta Sales & Marketing’s Bentonville team.
Commenting on his new role, Gill said: “Fresh categories and better-for-you options have become a major growth opportunity for retailers and CPG manufacturers.
“As a result, Walmart is keenly focused on their most productive growth opportunities and continues to prioritize lifestyle brands.”
The agency now has seven offices with 400 employees across the US, including Cincinnati, New York, Dallas, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, in addition to Bentonville.
Pushing fresh snacks and baked goods to the front
According to Lowell, Walmart has been revamping its store fronts by replacing conventional food items, including those in the bakery and snacks categories, with healthier versions.
“When you look at [its] bakery section, or fresh on a more general level, one of the things you are seeing is that brands often times are proactively getting out into the front of a retailer,” he said, noting retailers are thinking how their merchandising strategy can better resonate with the consumer, especially millennials.
“The reality is consumers are looking for more wholesome, lifestyle-centric brands,” which he noted is particularly true with in-store bakery goods. Bagels, for example, are targeting health-conscious shoppers with more nutritious ingredients.
The retailers’ shift towards healthy foods has taken a toll on CPG brands that are traditionally considered indulgent, including Hostess.
According to the Twinkies maker’s recent Q2 earnings, CEO Andy Callahan said sales had been impacted by “a decline in retail inventory and consumer pool due to lower promotional support from one large retail partner,” which was later revealed to be Walmart by RBC Capital’s analyst David Palmer.
Callahan said the retailer’s “lifestyle display philosophy” had cost 12.6% of the Hostess’ point of sales during the period.
Hostess has certainly been challenged by more nutrition-forward brands and US retailers that have “changed their game,” said Lowell. “It can either think about reformulating its products… or playing the risky bet” by sticking to its current recipes.
New snacking trends
Lowell said snacks made with superfoods, such as chia seeds, will be prioritized in-store by retailers.
“You will continue to see infused or integrated ingredients in your products, such as plant-based protein,” he said, adding that manufacturers need to think through a “go-forward game plan” to build what new-to-the-market products will look like.