One of Walmart's pies unexpectedly became the 'Tickle me Elmo' of food -- and executives are scrambling to keep up

Walmart is working in overdrive to restock its sweet potato pies after a video review of the dessert went viral online, causing a massive surge in demand across the country.

Within 24 hours after the video was posted last Thursday, sales data was showing a nationwide surge in pie purchases, Walmart spokesman John Forrest Ales told Business Insider.

Soon Walmart’s senior buyer of cakes and pies, Kinna Thomas, was 
getting calls that stores were selling out of the $US3.48 pies.

Meanwhile, some customers were selling their pies on eBay for as much as $US40. 

“It’s like the Cabbage Patch Doll and Tickle Me Elmo of food,” Ales said, referring to some of the most popular holiday toys of all time. “It’s just amazing to see.”

As soon as the pie shortages were reported, Walmart contacted suppliers for more sweet potatoes. 

Within a couple days, the company had obtained 2 million extra pounds of the vegetables that are now ready to be made into puree.

“We’ve been working as fast and feverishly as possible,” Ales said. 

Walmart has also been moving more pies from its distribution centres to stores that are sold out or low on inventory. The retailer is hoping to be fully stocked again nationwide by December.

The pies were made in partnership with singer and cookbook author Patti LaBelle.

Ales said many customers are trying to make copycat pies by referring to sweet potato pie recipes in LaBelle’s cookbooks. But the Walmart recipe is a new one that LaBelle created exclusively for the retailer, he said.

The video that led to the surge in demand was made by James Wright. He posted a musical tribute to the dessert on Facebook a week ago.

Walmart pieYouTube/James WrightJames Wright recorded a viral review on Walmart’s sweet-potato pies.

The video now has more than 9 million view on Facebook and 2 million views on YouTube.

In the three-minute spot, Wright unwraps the pie and breaks into song as he consumes it. He addresses LaBelle and says you “turn into Patti” when you eat the pie.

Watch Wright’s full review. (Warning: The video includes profanity):

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