From snack foods to ugly fruits to decadent cheesecakes, Kroger is adding emerging brands that help diversify its roster of fresh food suppliers.
The second annual Kroger Co. Accelerator. Go Fresh & Local Supplier Supplier launched five new retailers that will add local suppliers across its national footprint.
Kroger said it received more than 1,600 Accelerator applications, which were whittled down to 15 finalists by a committee of judges led by Kroger in collaboration with ECRM and its product discovery subsidiary RangeMe. The final 15 vendors were invited to Cincinnati to display and sell their products. In the final event, a pitch competition, each company gave a 15-minute presentation and offered samples to a panel of judges, whose results were combined with category managers, merchandising directors and executives to name the winning group.
The 2022 winners are as follows:
• Coro Foods, Kent, Wash. — Offering culinary-driven deli foods for more than 20 years in the Seattle area, this company makes Old World salami without being tied to tradition.
• The Ugly Company, Kingsburg, Calif. — Perfectly healthy fruit with an imperfect appearance is “blended” into dried fruit snacks.
• Hiatus, Baltimore — Offering some decadent flavors, Hiatus offers consumers premium cheesecakes made from natural ingredients.
• J. Berry Nursery & Genetics, Grand Saline, Texas — The company enhances the beauty of hibiscus, crepe myrtles and begonias with the science of plant genetics.
• Zacca Hummus, Boise, Idaho — From family farm to table, traditional Mediterranean hummus is offered in a variety of flavors that are non-GMO, gluten-free and made without artificial preservatives.
Premium cheesecakes from Baltimore-based Hiatus will also join Kroger’s line of fresh foods in stores starting next year. (Photo courtesy of Kroger)
“We are thrilled to welcome this year’s Go Fresh & Local group to our incredible portfolio of local and regional fresh suppliers,” Dan De La Rosa, group vice president of fresh merchandising at Kroger, said in a statement. “Go Fresh & Local was created to bring the best, most innovative and freshest local and regional products from new and diverse small businesses to our customers across the U.S. This innovative group exceeded our expectations in every step. Their commitment to excellence and the unique blend of products they have created will help us expand our local footprint and fulfill our mission to be ‘fresh for all’”.
The Go Fresh & Local Supplier accelerator, unveiled in mid-2021, is part of the company’s commitment to invest $10 billion in diverse suppliers by 2030, Kroger said. Each winning company receives product placement on store shelves and online, as well as sponsorship support and business development and training opportunities from Kroger. Products from this year’s batch will be in Kroger stores in 2023.
This year’s executive selection panel was hosted by Erin Rolfes, director of corporate communications and media relations at Kroger, and included De La Rosa; Stuart Aitken, chief commercial and marketing officer; Brian Kelly, chairman and CEO of PearlRock Partners; Juan De Paoli, vice president of Our Brands at Kroger; Victor Smith, Kroger Atlanta Division president; Emily Hartmann, senior director of brand marketing at Kroger; and Rocio Indacochea, multicultural merchandiser at Kroger. Gourmet Foods International returned for a second year as a sponsor and was joined by first-time sponsor DPI Specialty Foods.
Last year’s inaugural Go Fresh & Local group featured Maazah from Minneapolis; Nona Lim, Oakland, Calif.; Queen Charlotte’s Pimento Cheese Royale, Charlotte, NC; Simply Southern Sides, Macedonia, Ohio; and Soupergirl, Washington, DC, which debuted products at Kroger in 2022.
The nation’s largest supermarket operator, Cincinnati-based Kroger operates more than 2,700 stores across the United States.