The Supply Side: Fayetteville inventors to again pitch a new product at Wal-Mart’s Open Call

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,161 views 

Hugh Jarratt and his wife Nicole have been doing business with Wal-Mart Stores for more than three years. Their taco plate was picked up by the retail giant at its inaugural 2014 Open Call for products made in America.

This year Jarratt told Talk Business & Politics he’s set to pitch his latest creation, a Wood Warmer, to Wal-Mart buyers on June 28. The idea for the Wood Warmer came to Jarratt when his two-year-old son knocked over Nicole’s Scentsy warmer and the molten wax spilled on himself and in the dog food of the family pet.

“I thought there has to be a better way for these home fragrance items that doesn’t involve hot wax. I began to work on it. I thought, ‘Get rid of the wax and infuse wood with the desired fragrance and then put the wood chip into the warmer and let the scent be amplified by the heat,’” he said.

He joined forces with a manufacturer in Heber Springs (Manufacture Multiples) and the Wood Warmer is now in production. Jarratt said there are four scents – peppermint, vanilla, grapefruit and pine – but just about any scent can be infused into the wood pieces which are available commercially.

Jarratt said he has a patent pending on the process which remains proprietary for now, and he’s working exclusively with Arkansas partners on this product. He said Hog Country Media in Johnson is helping him with the packaging.

“We like it because there is no mess and we have found the scent lifespan is more than 72 hours on average. The product is also free of paraffin – a petroleum byproduct,” Jarratt said. “We have looked and haven’t really found anything like it and it does answer a need for those who don’t want the mess of molten wax.”

Jarratt will pitch to a different category buyer this year. He said that was part of the stipulation that Wal-Mart placed on prospective suppliers. He has worked with buyers before in the categories of kitchen wares and outdoor gear for products pitched and sold into Wal-Mart during previous Open Call events.

Jarratt said he feels good about the product’s chances because he does solve a problem for people with children and pets who find the molten wax messy. He believes his price point will be competitive given the Wood Warmer keeps amplifying the scents for three days or longer. He has bankrolled the first production run and said if Wal-Mart doesn’t want an exclusive he’ll be selling elsewhere because he believes there are consumers who want choices for less messy options when it comes home fragrance options.

“Wal-Mart has been so good to work with us in the past, I like to show them my new products first. If it fits their assortment needs that is great. They know their customers better than anybody,” Jarrett said.

Also Thursday, Wal-Mart said it has invited more than 500 U.S. businesses to present their Made in the USA products to buyers throughout the day June 28. This year’s event will showcase American entrepreneurship and celebrate ingenuity and diversity. Nearly half of all businesses attending Open Call self-identify as diverse, including 25% identifying as women-owned, said Wal-Mart corporate spokesman Scott Markley.

“We are thrilled that entrepreneurs from across the country, including many diverse-owned businesses, continue to respond so strongly to the opportunity to participate in Walmart’s annual Open Call,” said Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart vice president for U.S. Sourcing and Manufacturing. “While finding products our customers want is a year-round focus for our buying teams, Walmart’s annual Open Call is a special opportunity to connect our buyers with companies that are manufacturing products in the U.S. and to identify new and unique product solutions.”

Wal-Mart said attendees this year represent 47 states and Puerto Rico. States with some of the largest representation include California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. With some companies pitching multiple products, more than 750 meetings have been scheduled with Wal-Mart buyers representing a broad range of product categories.

From secret sauces and pocket-sized hair gel, to photographic mouse pads and bowls designed to keep cereal crisp, this year’s diversity of new products represent a broad range of categories such as food and beverages, home décor and apparel. While some businesses are larger, many are “kitchen-table” companies, vying for a chance to work with the world’s largest retailer and earn a place on the shelf, Markley said.

Following are other prospective suppliers slated to pitch to Wal-Mart at the Open Call.

• Oceans 97 (Baton Rouge, La.)
Oceans 97 has a goal of bringing restaurant-quality shrimp and seafood to Wal-Mart. Founder Jarvis Green is a former New England Patriots football player who says if his company reaches its goal, it would be a greater achievement than playing in three Super Bowls and winning two of them.

• Kid Ease (Dallas)
Kid Ease was created by a mom looking for a safe, lab-tested cleaning spray to clean up sticky little fingers and faces. She hopes she can ramp up production and create more jobs, if she receives a deal.

• Disaster Supply Warehouse (Fairfield, Ohio)
Disaster Supply is a woman-owned business that brings two products to Open Call. The first is a disposable utensil stand that ensures silverware is clean even when dining outside. The second is Buxom Betty’s Button Stays. A product that helps prevent ladies’ shirts from gaping open around buttonholes.
Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.