D.C.-area bakeries pitch their way onto Wal-Mart shelves

By Max Handler | Read online at Bizjournals.com/Washington

Local bakeries Cakelove and D.C. Sweet Potato Cakes will soon have their products sold at Wal-Mart locations across Greater Washington, thanks to a pitch competition from the retail giant.

Between 50 and 100 Wal-Mart stores will begin carrying Cakelove’s cakes in a jar staring early next year. Three flavors will be offered: carrot, strawberry shortcake and red velvet, with the potential for more flavors in the future. D.C. Sweet Potato Cakes will see its sweet potato cake in about 250 stores, and Wal-Mart is currently looking into carrying its cupcakes as well.

“If they sell well, we’ll continue to sell them in more stores,” said Wal-Mart spokesperson Scott Markley.

The bakeries andWal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) declined to disclose financial terms.

The process started when both companies received emails from Wal-Mart inviting them to an open call. Cakelove owner Warren Brown — the host of former Food Network show “Sugar Rush” — and D.C. Sweet Cakes President and co-owner April Richardson went down to Wal-Mart’s Bentonville, Arkansas, headquarters in late June for what was essentially a pitch contest.

“For Wal-Mart, it’s the most exciting day of the year,” said Markley.

The pitch day featured roughly 750 products from 500 entrepreneurs, who were each given a half-hour for their pitches. Wal-Mart ultimately struck deals to place about 100 new products in its stores.

“I think it’s great,” Brown said of getting his products onto shelves at the retail giant. “We have the opportunity to share with a lot of people a quality product.”

Richardson was similarly excited.

“We never thought that it would be in the immediate present that we would get an opportunity,” she said.

Cakelove employs 10 to 15 employees in Alexandria. Following the 2015 closing of its original U Street location, the bakery switched to a business model where most of its clients are distributors. Brown declined to disclose the company’s annual revenue.

D.C. Sweet Potato Cakes does about $1 million in annual sales and employs eight people year-round, with more added during the holiday season. The company has its products in about 600 stores, according to Richardson, but is currently working on opening its first two physical locations in the near future, including one in Hyattsville.

Mama Biscuits of Frederick, Maryland, also received a deal following its pitch and its products will be available at some Greater Washington Wal-Mart locations.