Wow, Bao, a fast-casual Asian concept, is ramping up further national expansion after inking a new deal with retail giant Walmart.
The partnership more than doubles the CPG (consumer packaged goods) vertical of Wow Bao’s business, from 1,000 grocery stores to more than 4,000 across the U.S.
“Wow Bao has realized incredible growth throughout all our channels and this partnership is a testament to how we’ve leveraged our popularity among consumers,” said Geoff Alexander, president and CEO of Wow Bao. “With the addition of Walmart to our CPG channels, we are able to meet the demands of our customer base and provide them with the crave-able product they expect from Wow Bao straight from their local Walmart freezer section.”
Although the Chicago-based company has offered its frozen CPG line in select grocery stores since 2014, Alexander says it wasn’t a big focus of the company until recently. He relays that strategies for the mostly virtual brand were mainly focused towards its various other avenues, such as airports, college campuses, sports stadiums, hot vending machines and ghost kitchens.
Wow Bao is deployed as a virtual brand in over 700 locations in a variety of restaurants including Ruby Tuesday’s.
But that focus shifted last year, when Wow Bao began making its CPG line “a priority” following its partnership with Hissho Sushi which offers sushi counters inside grocery stores. Wow Bao sold its items alongside Hissho Sushi in 800 grocery counters nationwide, and that number has grown to nearly 1,500 today.
When asked why he thinks the company continues to find success in a multitude of distribution formats, from hot vending machines to frozen food lines, Alexander says it all comes down to how the product is “so unique and special” referencing the “pillowy, soft dough” that features both traditional Asian flavors and Americanized versions.
But he also attributes the growth to market share capture and versatility of the product.
“There’s really not a national player doing bao outside of us, we’re the only ones at scale doing this so it gives us an upper hand to introduce it to people because it doesn’t already exist in other forms,” said Alexander.
“And people enjoy them on the go, they’re very portable, that’s why we’re doing so well at airports…they’re great snack foods, entrees, appetizers, so there are just so many ways to enjoy them which has allowed us to be accepted in so many different ways.”
Wow Bao will launch in Walmart stores Aug. 26, offering five flavors: Teriyaki Chicken, Mongolian-Style Spicy Beef and Chinese-Style BBQ Pork. The company also released two new flavors available exclusively at Walmart: Thai-Style Curry Chicken and Coconut Custard.
Looking ahead, Alexander anticipates the emphasis on grocery store expansion to continue, with goals to be in “around 6,000 grocery stores by the end of 2023, and get close to being in 20,000 of them in the coming year.”