Over the weekend, Patti Labelle's signature sweet potato pies became one of the most searched for food items on Walmart's website and impossible to actually find within a store.
The reason? A glowing review that James Wright posted to his Facebook page after unboxing and sampling one of the pies on camera. According to Wright, the dessert, though difficult to get out of the box, was worth singing over.
In addition to breaking into a series of spot-on Labelle impressions during his 3-minute review of the reasonably priced pie, Wright managed to create an uproar around the product. After uploading his video to YouTube and Facebook last Thursday, Labelle herself quickly re-shared it to her own Facebook following.
Immediately, interest around the pies spiked with most locations quickly selling out and scrambling to reorder. Walmart VP of bakery and deli Kerry Robinson explained that at the height of their popularity over the weekend, one "Patti Pie" was being sold every second.
"We are working very hard with our supplier to try and produce more product," Robinson told NPR. "We're in the process of securing another 2 million pounds of sweet potatoes."
Now, Walmart's rushing to reach out to its sweet potato supply chain in an attempt to get enough potatoes into the hands of its baking partners in order to actually get the pies back onto shelves.
It's difficult to say just what, other than Wright's video, led to Labelle's pies suddenly selling like hotcakes. When they were first introduced in Walmart stores across the country this September, NPR points out, their sales were respectable, but far from phenomenal.
To read through the dozens of reviews left on Walmart's website, though, Labelle's pies have a certain something that neither Sara Lee nor Mrs. Smith can quite match.
"Don't buy this pie for health benefits—buy it for pleasure," wrote abearwhocares. "Indulge and then feel guilty and then have another piece to get past the guilt. Add real whipped cream real vanilla ice cream whatever you want. check your A1C in a few weeks and weep….then buy another pie."
While the chances of you finding one of Patti's pies in your local Walmart today are slim to none, you can just as easily follow Patti's recipe for "Norma’s Black-Bottom Sweet Potato Pie" from LaBelle Cuisine: Recipes to Sing About.