How Walmart is Finding the Next Hot Item (and How Maria’s House Made Salsa Wants to be It)

March 8, 2012

I can get a good amount of my household shopping done at Walmart – milk, bread, shampoo, towels, socks, and even new tires or a battery for my car. But there are some things I go to specialty stores to find, like Maria’s House Made Salsa. I don’t tolerate hot chili peppers well, but my sons are huge salsa fiends. I like their products because they’re fresh, locally made, and, in full disclosure, I consider the owners, the Pronko family, who also serve their salsas at their restaurant, Maria’s Comida in Hamtramck, to be friends. They put a lot of work into their restaurant and jarring and selling their salsas and Asian barbecue sauce in 18 stores, and I want to see them go big time with their product.

So do they.

The Pronkos are one of 4,000 entrepreneurs and small businesses who are taking their pitch to get their products on Walmart’s shelves on social media in Walmart’s Get on the Shelf contest.

Get on the Shelf allows the public to vote for a product they’d like to see on Walmart shelves by voting for the video about that product.

“It’s the first time we’ve done a campaign like this or any other company like us,” Walmart spokesperson Ravi Jariwala told me. “It’s to give anyone from an entrepreneur to a small business a chance to get their products on our shelves and to use customer engagement to determine how we select merchandise for our website and in our stores.”

Four thousand entries? That sounds like more than Walmart buyers could handle on their own, not to mention a brilliant online customer engagement strategy.

“No way did we expect that many,” Jariwala said.

Call me the hopeful optimist, but I think with a little organic traffic (hint, hint … vote here … daily!), but I think Maria’s House Made Salsa has a great chance, not just because it’s a great product, but also because the video is so engaging. And, yes, I’m biased on the video, too. Our Creative Director Matt Oberdier did a great job of crafting some genuine storytelling, photography and music in this 1½-mintue video.

The first round of voting runs through April 3 and the final round of voting to pick the grand prize winner takes place April 11-24.

Bonnie Caprara

Bonnie Caprara is the director of Public Relations at Urbane Media. Her career has traversed between print journalism and media relations in the agency world and for private clients. She's also a semi-serious foodie with a penchant for Cheetos.

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