Shake Up in Walmart Grocery


Walmart has been making changes in its high-level staffing, and more changes are on the way in grocery, according to The City Wire. Basing their claims on a leaked internal memo, the Arkansas news source listed a number of grocery division changes:

  • Jack Sinclair is retiring this week.
  • Tony Airoso will be senior vice president of global food sourcing.
  • Chuck Tilmon will be vice president of fresh charter initiatives.
  • Scott Neal will be “meat czar.”
  • Shawn Baldwin will be senior vice president of fresh.
  • Jack Pestello will be senior vice president of private brands.

There are major forces affecting grocery. Changes in consumer behavior are at the top of the list.

Many of us can remember the Saturday family shopping trip, when Mom combed through her coupons, loaded up the kids, and took off for the Supercenter in the family car. Dad might come along, and he might spend some time browsing in the electronics area while Mom bought the weekly groceries.

A quick lunch at a fast food place in the Supercenter might be a reward for a busy family, so that they could run home and load all the groceries into the pantry and refrigerator quickly before heading out for the afternoon’s activities.

Some people still start their weekends this way, but more consumers do some of their grocery shopping online, arrange for in-store pickup on their coffee break, or stop at a small format store after work to grab the makings for that night’s dinner. The weekly family shopping trip, which has been the centerpiece of Walmart grocery shopping,  is on its way out.

Increasing competition from other sources of groceries also has an effect. In more and more towns, consumers can get home delivery of fresh and frozen foods, and dry goods are readily available online for everyone. The International Deli Dairy Bakery Association predicts that online grocery sales will reach $100 billion in 2018.

At the same time, nearly half of U.S. food dollars are spent away from home, with many Americans eating at fast food or fast casual restaurants three times a week or more. Add that coffee shop breakfast and cafeteria lunch, both of which are daily rituals for many, and demand for groceries may be falling.

Cuts in food stamps and rising food prices may also be having an effect on consumer spending patterns.

Walmart is currently working on improving the in-store experience, reducing food waste, and focusing on sustainable food sourcing. Grocery suppliers may need to be poised for agile responses to the changing reality of groceries in the U.S.