File this one under: Cool Opportunities at Walmart.
Adrienne Freeman is a Walmart merchant whose job is to discover new and exciting craft beers. #dreamjob
Adrienne has been with Walmart for six years and has been buying in the craft beer category for the Central U.S. region for just under three years. “My main role is to be an advocate for the customer,” she says. “Every day, I am trying to discover new items the customers want and what innovations are happening in the industry, all while trying to get customers the best price."
As a merchant, she consults a variety of sources to predict what products will be most popular for a particular store or region. Line reviews and trade shows play an important part in the process, but Adrienne says that one of the best ways to learn what is or is not working in a particular market is by visiting that market and talking to customers and Walmart associates. “By far, this is the most tangible way of discovering new information,” she says.
Adrienne discovered her latest find the way the rest of us do: on social media.
While scrolling on Instagram, she came across a list of Black-owned businesses. One of the businesses mentioned was San Antonio-based Weathered Souls Brewing Co.
Adrienne connected with Weathered Souls and learned they produce high-quality brews of various styles. Some favorites are Hardwood Classic, a pilsner whose name is a nod to basketball, and a hazy IPA called Who's Got the Juice Now? What’s more, the brewery had developed an initiative to address injustice in local communities.
Marcus Baskerville (pictured above) is Weathered Souls’ head brewer and cofounder. He came up with the recipe for a stout called Black is Beautiful and the idea to donate a portion of the stout’s proceeds to organizations promoting social justice and community cohesion.
Then, Weathered Souls took it a step further. The business published the recipe so that other breweries could brew Black is Beautiful, too, as long as they committed to donate a portion of the beer’s proceeds to organizations working to support inclusion and fight injustice in their local communities.
Adrienne knew early on the stout was a good fit for Walmart. She felt confident craft beer drinkers would respond to the rich, malty stout. Moreover, she understood Weathered Souls’ commitment to social justice was in line with Walmart’s values, including the retailer’s commitments to supplier diversity and racial equity.
Up to that point, Black is Beautiful was mainly sold in bars and taprooms. To bring it to the retail market, Adrienne coordinated with Weathered Souls and seven other breweries in early 2021 to launch Black is Beautiful as part of an inaugural Black History Month Celebration—offering the beer to over 300 stores.
This year, the Black is Beautiful program will return to stores as an even larger program as a continued partnership with Weathered Souls and 12 additional craft breweries:
- Baxter Brewing Co. – Lewiston, Maine
- Beale St. Brewing Co. – Memphis, Tennessee
- Cajun Fire Brewing Co. – New Orleans, Louisiana
- Core Brewing Co. – Springdale, Arkansas
- Hinterland Brewery – Green Bay, WI
- Ithaca Beer Co. – Ithaca, New York
- MobCraft Beer Inc. – Milwaukee, WI
- O’Connor Brewing Co. – Norfolk, Virginia
- Revision Brewing Co. – Sparks, Nevada
- Saugatuck Brewing Co. – Kalamazoo, Michigan
- Solemn Oath Brewery – Naperville, Illinois
- Sun King Brewery – Indianapolis, Indiana
The Black is Beautiful stout can be found in roughly 600 Walmart stores around the U.S. from February through April this year (and in 30+ Walmart stores year-round in Texas). Additionally, customers will find a new item to be excited about: a Black is Beautiful IPA. Adrienne is looking forward to seeing customers react to the regional styles that will be available, such as the beignet flavored stout that will be available in New Orleans and the hazy IPA that will be offered in California.
Weathered Souls and the 12 brewers are brewing this beer to support diversity, inclusion and social justice. Breweries will donate 10% of their proceeds to the Harriet Baskerville Incubation Program, named after Marcus’ grandmother, who herself was a prohibition-era brewing pioneer. The program provides opportunities for minorities and women—traditionally underrepresented in the brewing industry—by creating access to brewing education, guest seminars, practices and helping minority entrepreneurs who don’t yet have the financial means to open a brick-and-mortar location.
Walmart will also highlight Black-owned wine brands during this time. Where regionally available, the program will feature one of five wineries across the U.S.:
- Black Girl Magic Wine by the McBride Sisters
- Love Cork Screw by Chrishon Lampley – Chicago, IL
- Ole’ Orleans by Kim Lewis – New Orleans, LA
- Shoe Crazy Wines by Gwen Hurt – Richmond, VA
- Longevity by Phil Long – Livermore, CA
As part of their strategy to provide a strong assortment of discovery items and provide store of the community merchandise, the Walmart adult beverage team has been on a journey to expand their local craft beer business. Over the past two and half years, they have added nearly 300 brewers to their portfolio.
“Innovation isn’t necessarily about finding the latest odd gadget,” Adrienne says. “It’s about finding the gaps in the category, what needs have not been met. Innovation is really about trying to find a solution for the customer.”
For more information on how to support Black-owned businesses, visit Walmart.com.