The Supply Side: Walmart partners with craft brewers on ‘Black is Beautiful’ stout beer

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 734 views 

This past May, as much of the nation was gripped by growing racial and social justice concerns ignited by the murders of George Floyd and others, Marcus Baskerville felt called to action.

“There was so much unrest across the nation,” said Baskerville, a craft beer brewer and proprietor of Weathered Souls in San Antonio. “I felt the need to use my business to give back and raise awareness toward injustices that many people of color face daily.”

Baskerville took a couple of days to think about ways to use his business to serve a bigger purpose. He came up with the recipe for the Black is Beautiful stout beer. He said the dark stout brew was a natural choice, given Weathered Souls is known for producing stout beer.

Baskerville, who is Black, said most craft beer brewers are white, with fewer than 70 Black-owned U.S. brewers. That makes him sort of an anomaly. He used social media and set out to donate 100% of the stout brew’s tap sales to a local charity known as 100 Black Men of San Antonio. He said his friends convinced him to take it further and share the recipe with other brewers across the state and country and ask them to participate in the Black is Beautiful beer campaign. The only requirement to them making the beer was to donate a portion of the proceeds from tap sales to support diversity and fight injustices in their local communities.

Weathered Souls now has more than 1,200 U.S. breweries making their version of the Black is Beautiful beer and donating to local causes around diversity and social justice.

Walmart craft beer merchant Adrienne Freeman noticed Weathered Souls’ Black is Beautiful efforts on Instagram last summer. She called Baskerville and worked to do business with the proprietor and help grow the brand. Freeman said she had been a craft beer buyer for Walmart’s central region for two years.

“Every day, I am trying to discover new beers the customers want and what innovations are happening in the industry, all while trying to get customers the best price,” Freeman said.

She believed Weathered Souls would be a good fit for Walmart, but after finding out what they were doing with Black is Beautiful, she realized Walmart had more to offer.

“Their focus on creating diversity in their industry and fighting racial injustices aligns with our values at Walmart. The ability to leverage our size and scale to bring growth to the Black is Beautiful initiative was something that interested me,” Freeman told the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal.

Baskerville said when Walmart called, he couldn’t believe it. He never dreamed that would happen when he launched the brand as he was primarily a retail brewer selling his beer on tap at restaurants and clubs around Texas. He said Walmart wanted to offer the beer in cans in its U.S. stores by February. The retail giant enlisted eight other craft brewers from Arkansas to North Carolina to take part in producing the canned brews for 300 Walmart stores.

Baskerville said Walmart has been a good partner and has given more legs to this initiative. He said it’s been incredible seeing other craft brewers like Core Brewing and Distilling Co. of Springdale and Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville, Ill., breathe life into the brand.

Jesse Core

Jesse Core, Core Brewing founder, has been a Walmart supplier for several years. When Freeman called, he was delighted to take part in the initiative. His brewery supplied Black is Beautiful beer to Walmart for stores in five states. He said the base recipe came from Weathered Souls, but each brewery tweaked the recipe a bit, and the alcohol content varies from state to state. He said the brew is stout, a hearty brew that fits well with the cold weather much of the country recently experienced. Core shipped Black is Beautiful brew to Walmart stores in Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. While it’s only been in stores for a couple of weeks, it’s selling well.

He said Core was excited to take part in the Black is Beautiful campaign, and 10% of the proceeds of sales at Walmart go toward helping social justice causes. Core said the canned Black is Beautiful beer sold in Walmart is a special run and a one-time offering.

Baskerville said he would sell the beer on tap as long as people want it. He said the Black is Beautiful brand contagion has now spread to other beverages such as cocoa, coffee and bourbon.

Freeman said Walmart also highlighted Black-owned wine and spirits brands, such as Black Girl Magic Wine from the McBride Sisters Collection. She said Walmart is committed to sourcing products from minority-owned businesses while also elevating small and diverse industries.

“Last year, we sourced nearly $11 billion from diverse suppliers. When we find businesses like Weathered Souls, who share our values and create a great product, it’s an easy decision to make,” Freeman said.

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.