On June 28-29, nine Idaho business owners will meet with Walmart merchants to pitch their businesses and products for the opportunity to be featured in Walmart stores across the country. Their pitches can land them contract deals varying from resale at a few local stores to hundreds of Walmarts and Sams Clubs across America, walmart.com or Walmart Marketplace.
2022 marks the ninth year for the Walmart Open Call, a sourcing event that is part of a commitment effort made by the company to support American jobs by investing $350 billion into products that are made, grown or assembled in the United States. No changes have been made to the program, only, this year received a record 4,500 applications and out of those, 1,200 were invited to participate in the Open Call. Walmart stated this is the largest group ever selected to participate in the two-day event.
2 of the finalists share comments
In 2018, Chris and Kate Munro from Queenstown, New Zealand sold their roofing company to pursue their American dream of bringing New Zealand-style meat pies to America, after many years of visiting and falling in love with Idaho. They took the leap to Boise, brought with them an award-winning baker from New Zealand and opened a restaurant called Kiwi Shake & Bake. Since then, they’ve brought on Janna Bell, partner of Pie-O-Neer Pies, who helped them launch their retail-ready brand, Pie-O-Neer Pies, which was selected as a finalist at Open Call.
Pie-O-Neer Pies hopes to bring its on-the-go and diverse flavor profile model to Walmart customers. According to Pie-O-Neer, “Meat pies are the number one most prepared food in Australia, New Zealand and England,” and it hopes to bring that popularity to the states. The pies are “proudly made in Idaho and are offered in a selection of savory, handheld meat and vegan pies.” The company prides itself in being “authentic, all natural, with no artificial flavors or fillers.”
When asked what it means to the team to represent Boise and Idaho as a finalist, Bell said, “To be honest, a little surreal but exciting. We are very proud of our Idaho roots. We are part of Idaho Preferred, FARE Idaho and Buy Idaho. Supporting local is the foundation of us. Without the support of our community members and customers, we would have not been able to move quickly to a new retail model without all the help and support. Being able to connect with so many people and businesses has been the key to growing smartly. We have a wonderful food community, and we can’t do it without their support and help.”
If Pie-O-Neer is chosen as a winner, it said the plan is to hire personnel and expand production hours. A contract with Walmart would offer them the commitment and partnership to take its business plans to the next level.
Proud Source Water
In 2015, Proud Source Water, another Idaho finalist in the Open Call, partnered with the town of Mackay, Idaho to help sustain its small economy with a population of just 511. By 2016, the company had built its eco-friendly factory in Mackay, which serves its product to all 50 states. Since then, the company expanded operations southeast in 2020, which pulls from other small town springs and helps to reduce its shipping carbon footprint.
Cole Pennington, director of sales, summed up the business model: “Proud Source Water strives to be the most transparent bottled water company in the world when it comes to sourcing, sustainability and overall impact. Proud Source Water is bottled at the source in the United States using infinitely recyclable aluminum bottles and cans. As a certified B-Corp, we aspire to create positive social and environmental change in the world.”
According to Pennington, Proud Source Water was created with environmental and community impact at the heart of its mission. The hope is to support and uplift small-town communities by offering employment in surrounding areas near spring water sources, and the company has green ideas in mind. Namely, it hopes to divert 200 million bottles from landfills back into recycling centers throughout the country. It also hopes to be a net zero energy usage company by 2030.
“If Proud Source Water was selected as a manufacturer partner for Walmart, the first thing I will do is celebrate with our Proud team for planet Earth,” Pennington said. “Walmart is the pinnacle of retail success. This is the largest retail opportunity to date here at Proud Source Water and it is a step in the right direction toward our goal of providing a solution to end the single-use plastic water bottles that are currently on retail shelves throughout the United States.”
The additional finalists
As for the other seven Idaho finalists, some companies haven’t yet made the decision to go public with their products. As such, the Idaho Business Review was unable to receive comments at this time.
If finalists are selected to supply Walmart stores in any capacity, they will hear of the decision by June 29, the second and final day of product pitches.o