A supplier expo is just one of the events taking place in Bentonville, Arkansas, as part of Walmart's annual Open Call event. Walmart photo contributed
Written by Breanna Hardy
Fresno’s own Sierra Soups will be available on Walmart’s e-commerce channels after being selected through the mega-retailer’s annual Open Call event.
The ninth annual Open Call on June 30 allowed entrepreneurs to pitch their products made, grown or assembled in the U.S. to Walmart and Sam’s Club buyers. The Open Call is for businesses across the U.S., but California was one of the best represented states this year with 179 businesses — 49 of which were awarded Walmart’s business.
More than 4,500 entrepreneurs applied to take part in the virtual and in-person event, with 13,000-plus products registered. This year, finalists representing all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, pitched their products for consideration through 30-minute, one-on-one, virtual and in-person meetings at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas.
A total of 330 products were selected through the Open Call — one of which was Sierra Soups.
Sierra Soups is a family-owned business based out of Fresno that specializes in creating high-quality soup mixes that promise to make homemade family meals easy. Its French Style 5 Bean Soup and other varieties can now be found on the Walmart website.
The dry soup packages come with all ingredients ready to cook over the stove. Pasta, spices, vegetables and beans come bagged and ready. The most popular is the Fresno Fog Split Pea Soup.
The Sorrenti family — owners of the Sierra Nut House stores in Fresno — founded Sierra Soups. It came under new ownership in 2008.
Selling on Walmart.com is a hopeful stepping stone to selling in stores, said CEO Erin Backowski.
“It’s amazing, I’m still kind of in disbelief,” Backowski said.
This was her third time participating in Walmart’s Open Call. Sierra Soups was not selected the previous two years.
Backowski said she was more confident this time around because she remembered the buyer from last year. She also succeeded in further negotiations each year she applied – ultimately winning a spot to sell online this go around.
“Third time’s the charm,” Backowski said. “To get a commitment to be included in Walmart.com was just absolutely amazing.”
She dreams of passing the business down to one of her children so they can establish an even bigger footprint for the business.
Everything is shipped out of a warehouse in Fresno, with many ingredients consistently sourced from the Valley as well.
While there is no storefront, customers can purchase the soup mixes at sierrasoups.com and in store at Save Mart, Vons, Enzo’s Table and Sierra Nut House.
This year’s Open Call was Walmart’s largest ever, with more than 1,100 businesses chosen to participate. Nearly 60% of all business owners invited to Open Call self-identify as a diverse-owned business. All businesses that took part in Open Call are eligible to sell their shelf-stable products on Walmart’s various online platforms Walmart.com, Walmart Marketplace or Samsclub.com.
“Investing in U.S. manufacturing is not only the right thing to do for the country’s long-term economic health, it’s the right thing to do for customers today who are dealing with historic inflation,” said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart Inc.
Back in 2013, Walmart pledged to spend $250 billion over 10 years on products made, grown or assembled in the U.S., a milestone the company announced this week it has already reached. Last year, Walmart committed to invest an additional $350 billion on products made, grown or assembled in the U.S. by 2031.