Wal-Mart Stores has announced the winners of its Get On The Shelf competition, an "American Idol"-like contest that attracted more than 4,000 products from inventors, entrepreneurs and small businesses across the nation.
Decided by fan votes, three unique products, including grand prize winner HumanKind Water, took the top spots and will now be featured on Walmart.com and in stores. The competition, launched in January by @WalmartLabs, the company's social and mobile commerce leg, called for inventors to submit videos demonstrating their product. During two voting rounds, over 1 million votes were cast.
"Get on the Shelf has brought out the best in American ingenuity and creativity with products that are clever, fun and useful," Joel Anderson, president and CEO of Walmart.com, said in a statement.
Despite being just two years old, Philadelphia-based HumanKind Water is backing a huge cause: clean drinking water. The company, founded by Christian minister T.J. Foltz, donates 100 percent of the net profits of its bottled water to organizations that help supply clean drinking water around the world. "When we found the competition, we knew it was a perfect fit for us," Foltz said. "All the other products are great, but you can either put one more gadget on the shelf or save 10,000 lives." According to HumanKind, if every American bought 10 bottles of HumanKind water or directly donated $10, the shortage of clean drinking water would be eradicated.
Foltz, who partners with other organizations to help dig wells, build filtration and chlorinization systems and harvest rain water, said the most vital part of his company's efforts is sustainability. "We want local, indigenous people to take ownership of the project, so once the organization moves out, the water systems are maintained and stay in place."
As far as his big win, Foltz and his team aren't quite sure what to expect over the next few months. "It's ridiculous, really," he said. "A year ago, I was peddling bottled water out of my '96 Jeep, and now it's going to be sold all over the world. It's a wonderful ascension, but the challenge is going to be scaling up that rapidly."
The competition also named PlateTopper and SnapIt Eyeglass Repair Kitto its second and third place spots. PlateTopper, founded by Princeton alum Michael Tseng, is an airtight cover that can be placed directly on a plate to help save food. The SnapIt Eyeglass repair kit, developed by Washington resident Nancy Tedeschi, eliminates the hassle of dealing with tiny eyeglass screws. Also a socially responsible company, SnapIt donates proceeds to the anti-bullying campaign Jaylen's Challenge.
"This competition was crowd sourcing at its best," Wal-Mart spokesman Ravi Jariwala said. According to Jariwala, Wal-Mart will work closely with all three winners to help them manage and meet production needs and increase the visibility of their products to Wal-Mart's 200 million weekly customers.