Then & Now: Nutrition-focused supplier latest retail stop for King

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 560 views 

Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the May 9 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.

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A six-month journaling project led Matt King to his most recent role in the retail industry.

King, 44, has spent the past 17 years in the industry, most recently in sales leadership roles for suppliers and consumer packaged goods companies. He joined Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods as senior sales director of mass and club in October.

“There’s not a lot of salespeople who can do their own analytics, handle supply chain, build presentations, do their storytelling and do the relationships,” he said. “I’ve done all those roles … I’ve got resources to support me, but I can be self-sufficient.

“I’m very much a results-driven person. I don’t need people to give me accolades. If I get them, that’s great, but it’s more about I like working within a team that cares and has grit.”

King was a sales analyst with Unilever when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named him to the Forty Under 40 class in 2007. In 2008, Unilever sold its North American laundry products business, and King moved with the sale to The Sun Products Corp. The following year, he was selected as the company’s sole category adviser for Sam’s Club.

In 2010, he joined Triad Retail Media in Bentonville as director of sales, key accounts, for Walmart.com and SamsClub.com. In 2012, he was recognized as the top sales representative to SamsClub.com with $3 million in sales.

In 2013, he started at Outerwall as a senior account manager. He handled Redbox deals with multiple retailers, including a three-year deal with Walmart, resulting in $4 million in contract savings. Also, he negotiated a nearly five-year agreement to roll out the ecoATM kiosk in more than 1,500 Walmart stores.

King joined Primo Water Corp. in 2017 as director of sales. He was promoted to senior sales director in 2019. That year, he was selected to participate in a 12-month life and leadership program led by Primo executives, including the founder.

“That was an experience that if you ever feel like you’ve got it all figured out, you’re about 10 steps behind because you can always learn,” he said. “Who you surround yourself with will determine how far you go in life and where you find yourself.

“Primo Water gave me the most exposure to owning P&L, to working with factories in China … I learned a ton and grew as a professional in that role, and I feel like it positioned me for the role that I’ve now stepped into.”

His move to Dr. Praeger’s came after the journaling project a mentor had challenged him to do. It helped him discover the categories, brands, and products that most excited him and the companies he wanted to work with.

“It led me to the nutritional space because I’m an avid triathlete, and after I finished that, I got a call from a recruiter about Dr. Praeger’s,” he said. “It felt highly coincidental that I did this journaling, and a company that’s in the plant-based space … reached out.”

In his role, he works with large retailers, including Walmart and Sam’s Club, and maintains relationships with merchants and brokers, who provide analytics and supply chain support.

“I like being in a position where I can run fast,” he said. “I haven’t been told to slow down at all. A couple of months ago, I scored a pretty big win that’s doubled the business I manage. I don’t have any cuffs on. I’m able to run, but I do it with thought.”

The Jasper (Newton County) native was raised as a vegetarian and was familiar with Dr. Praeger’s products before joining the company. In 2001, he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Arkansas. He transitioned to the retail industry in 2005 after working as a financial planner for nearly five years.

Over the next three to five years, he looks to advance to vice president and become chief customer officer.

King resides in Rogers and has a 13-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter. He’s a youth sports coach and competes in triathlons, completing an Ironman in 2017 and half-Ironman races nearly every year since 2012. He supports the Northwest Arkansas Food Bank and American Heart Association.