November 21, 2015
Philadelphia music legend Patti LaBelle's kitchen savvy has hit major paydirt for Walmart in recent months after the company's senior buyer for cakes reached out for a little secret advice and marketing magic.
Kinna Thomas took the job at Walmart in March with a mission to improve the retail giant's bakery operation, which thrives on major holidays. Thomas started out by using her family's treasured sweet potato pie recipe as a litmus test for what she could accomplish, according to Fortune. After earning favorable reviews from her Walmart colleagues, Thomas decided to make a bold push and reach out to LaBelle for advice.
LaBelle proved more than willing to add "special touch" to the recipe, including cinnamon spice, a thicker crust and a concentrated effort to differentiate the texture from pumpkin pie. Add in a clear product endorsement from LaBelle and Thomas had a recipe for instant success.
Customers have gone mad over the Sweet Potato Pie, at one point snapping up a pie per second for three consecutive days. The frenzy eventually depleted stock to the point of a shortage, leading some to sell the $3.48 dessert for as much as $60 on eBay. The pinnacle of the madness came when singer James Wright Chanel posted a glowing review on YouTube that has racked up 2.8 million views.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, Walmart has been scrambling to shift supplier production to purchase an astounding 2 million pounds of sweet potatoes. The company, by far the largest grocer in the United States, has vowed to make its fresh foods and bakery a central focus in the coming year, with updates to hundreds of its bakeries across 4,500 U.S. stores.