Smithfield and Partners Emphasize Grilling at Walmart

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Smithfield and Partners Emphasize Grilling at Walmart

By Patrycja Malinowska - 12/28/2017

Rosemont, Ill. — For the bulk of the year, Walmart’s case-ready rib business alternates between Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods, but in the summer the retailer awards all of the business – and all the volume that comes with it – to one supplier.

Smithfield won that designation in 2014 and 2015, and then ran grilling campaigns in partnership with the National Pork Board. To retain its Walmart business in 2016, Smithfield needed to come up with a more powerful concept. “How do you outperform when you’ve already had two strong years?” Dedra Berg, Smithfield senior director of marketing, asked in September during a Path to Purchase Expo panel presentation titled “Joining Forces: Driving Successful Partnership Integration to Activate at Walmart.”

During its previous campaigns, Smithfield leveraged BBQ pitmasters to address weak consumer perception of the quality of meat at Walmart. Pitmasters showcasing their use of Walmart products fueled consumer trust and changed those perceptions. “Walmart not only became the place to buy fresh pork, but became a destination for all your grilling accessories,” Berg said.

To build on that success, Smithfield pulled in several brand partners for the 2016 execution: Clorox Co.’s Kingsford, Weber-Stephen Products’ Weber and Anheuser-Busch. “‘Meat, beer, fire’ is the holy trinity of barbecue,” Berg said. “They were my dream partners ever since I joined Smithfield.”

The result was a consumer program dubbed Smithfield’s “Hog Wild Throwdown.” A contest ran throughout the summer, kicking off in March concurrent with the ever-earlier start of Walmart’s grilling season.

Consumers submitted grilling recipes and images to vie for a total of nearly 6,500 prizes, including two Ford trucks, Weber grills and plenty of Walmart gift cards to drive consumers back to the store. The top three entrants came together for a final throwdown with pitmasters at the American Royal World Series of BBQ.

The contest amassed 800,000 entries and had more than 1 million views for its website, which was managed by Edge Marketing. Support included Ibotta cash-back offers, national radio spots, geo-targeted media via, influencer and social media components, activation, weather-triggered media and in-store displays that drove shoppers to the fresh food department.

“It all started with selecting the right partners that are in the basket together and leveraging their strengths,” said Bailey Doyle, group manager of national shopper marketing at Clorox. “Grilling was important to all our brands. Together we wanted to create a total solution and offer a one-stop shop for Walmart’s shopper.”

The brands already had high consumer cross purchase, with baskets ringing in 56% higher when the brands are purchased together than when each is bought alone. Making sure to really leverage and maximize the strengths of all the partners was key.

Smithfield brought the national radio campaign to the table, along with social media support from more than 200 pitmasters that had committed to cooking with the manufacturer. Weather-triggered media was a “hot trigger” for Smithfield’s Walmart buyer, so the campaign also served up content when temperatures got to a certain point in certain regions.

Kingsford is the dominant charcoal brand for summer grilling and had invested in the summer grilling platform on While the retailer’s website had not been a strong platform for Smithfield in the past, Kingsford had seen a lot of strength there and brought that element to the collaborative effort.

Weber is the dominant brand of grill at Walmart, and it brought a team of grilling experts to provide tips and tricks.

Anheuser-Busch brought to the table a best-in-class distributor execution network to support an in-store display that featured all the partnering brands equitably, helping engage shoppers in stores, where Smithfield itself doesn’t get a presence.

“We have more than 550 wholesalers,” said James Urich, A-B’s director of trade marketing at Walmart. “Driving that in-store display was our number one priority.”

The Ibotta offer enabled customization of the program by state – in some showcasing Kingsford, and in others A-B – to comply with different adult beverage laws.

The combined effort achieved results: rib sales increased, rib baskets were up, pork sales rose, and so did total meat sales.

“Household buy rate was up and, most importantly, conversion rates more than tripled,” Berg said. “Not only did we secure the 2016 business, we secured 2017, and we just secured most of 2018.”