2024 40 Under Forty Winner: Taylor Thompson

Merchant, Produce
Bentonville, AR

Age: 27
Hometown: New Canaan, CT
Hobbies: Running, Raising axolotls, Rock climbing
Family/Community: Men’s group at church, Spent two years as a missionary in Paraguay before college
Motto in life: Use what you’ve been given to give back to those around you.

Thompson began his career at Walmart as a merchandising intern in the movies department. Upon beginning with the company full time in 2021, he asked to join the fresh produce merchandising team. He started with buying strawberries, learning firsthand the challenges working with perishable commodities can bring. He began by diving deep into the up-and-coming greenhouse space, increasing Walmart’s commitment to providing high-quality produce year-round by working with suppliers to bring greenhouse strawberries to a wider customer base. While digging into customer purchasing data, he saw an opportunity to better meet the needs of lower-income customers and added a smaller pack size to the Walmart assortment. With the support of a collaborative supplier partnership in the testing phase, it became clear how this change added incremental sales by making strawberries affordable to a wider customer base. Since then, he has been passionate about bringing new customers into fresh produce and democratizing healthy foods.

He currently leads the stone fruit merchandising team at Walmart, where he has collaborated with internal and external partners to improve the execution of this highly seasonal program and has driven significant results. Some of his team’s accomplishments include clarifying the customer value proposition and assortment offering, redefining how the product flows through the supply chain, bringing new and innovative items to the shelves, and advancing the digital presence of a historically brick-and-mortar-focused category. As of this year, he also works as a member of the grapes merchandising team.

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?

When I began, I did not fully appreciate the vast opportunity I had to change peoples’ lives by democratizing healthy food. As I continue to learn more about the extensive benefits of eating produce, I’m motivated to work even harder to lower prices for customers and drive meaningful changes in consumption patterns.

Q: What is the one thing in your business that you are most passionate about?

I am obsessed with the idea of bending the curve in consumption. Fresh produce can do so much good in the world, and it excites me to see my work to reduce food waste, improve quality, and invest in lower prices can help customers bring more fresh food into their lives.

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?

I’ve never been prouder than when I started to see the results of the new small-pack strawberry item I helped develop. This smaller pack size allowed lower-income customers to purchase a fruit that was previously inaccessible to them.

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?

Don’t be afraid to take risks and challenge the way things have always been done. I don’t come from a family of generational farmers, but have been able to make a meaningful impact nonetheless. Your lack of years of experience in the produce industry does not diminish or preclude your ability to make meaningful changes to impact millions of people daily.