He is only 52 years old, but Sumter sauce maker Michael Brown Sr. says he’s ready to be put on the shelf – his sauce, that is, at Walmart stores near and far.
Brown is one of 4,000 entrants competing in an “American Idol”-style elimination contest put on by Walmart, for a space on the Walmart store website and ultimately the spice aisle of the world’s largest retailer.
Brown’s product, Mic-B’s All-Purpose Sauce, in spicy or mild, already is on grocery store shelves at Piggly Wiggly and IGA stores across South Carolina, but Brown is looking to go to the next level with his creation.
“It’s big,” Brown said of the merchandising opportunity. His sauce is currently bottled at a plant in North Carolina, and shipped to him for distribution to the 50 stores Mic-B’s is sold in. If he gets on Walmart shelves, everything would change, he said.
“It would mean the world to me,” Brown said. “That would cause me to open up my own (bottling) business and hire people.”
Brown concocted the now-patented formula for his sauce in 2004 when slowed from work by a medical leave. It has been on local stores shelves for nearly three years. It is based on a recipe he has been preparing for family and friends for 25 years.
The sauce can be used on anything, Brown said, from pasta and rice to salad to any type of meat. Its slogan, printed on the bottle, is “that’s dippin’ sauce baby!!!”
If the sauce is to make it to Walmart’s store shelves, however, Brown will need some help from the public.
In the interest of exploring interactive media as a tool to advance merchandising, Walmart has set the contest to receive votes only via Facebook and text messaging. People can go to the website, getontheshelf.com, and cast one ballot daily on Facebook and one ballot daily via text for the products of their choices, the company said.
There will be three rounds of voting to determine a winner. The first round runs through April 3, when the 4,000 products entered will be narrowed to the top 10 finalists. The second round of voting goes from April 11 through April 24, when the 10 finalists will be narrowed to the top three contestants, from which a grand prize winner will be announced, the company said.
“Our first goal is to give entries the possibility of being carried on Walmart.com,” said spokesman Ravi Jariwala. “We also are excited about utilizing innovation and social strategies to learn about how we can think differently about how we discover the next new product.”
Walmart, which reported $419 billion in sales in 2011, said the contest had attracted 274,000 total votes as of March 11, and that an average of 55,000 votes are cast daily, with 92,000 daily visits to the website.
“I’m contacting people daily and I feel like I have a pretty good chance of being one of the three,” Brown said.