The Kroger Co. has launched the Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator, a business incubator for fresh food and related suppliers.
Under the partner program, announced Wednesday, Kroger aims to discover new U.S. growers, producers and other suppliers to help drive the continued expansion of its supermarkets’ fresh departments, including produce, deli, bakery, meat, seafood, dairy, specialty cheese and floral.
Through May 31, suppliers can apply to join the Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator, which will be held in Cincinnati in August, Kroger said, adding that the Gourmet Foods International-sponsored program reflects the retailer’s “Fresh for Everyone” mantra.
“At Kroger, our ‘Fresh for Everyone’ mission is anchored in consistently and creatively providing fresh and affordable food to our customers,” Dan De La Rosa, group vice president of fresh merchandising at Kroger, said in a statement. “We’re dedicated to fostering innovation and investing in local, regional and small businesses that make the best of food accessible to all. Our first Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator is an extension of our commitment, and we’re eager to invite suppliers of every size to participate, providing the potential to grow our businesses together.”
Kroger’s category management and fresh director team, in tandem with ECRM and RangeMe, will review supplier applications in multiple rounds, choosing 15 finalists — one finalist per region, per category — to attend the accelerator event. All finalists will present to a panel of judges in a pitch session, with one overall winner selected from each region.
Supplier category groupings include local (small producers, located in-state or the immediate market, with community-inspired and locally relevant items merchandised in less than 100 stores) and regional (larger producers, crossing state and Kroger Co. division boundaries, with products still locally relevant to customers and merchandised in 100 or more stores.)
The regional groupings for the program span The Kroger Co.’s market areas from coast to coast, encompassing Region 1 (QFC, Fred Meyer, Ralphs and Food 4 Less), Region 2 (Fry’s Food Stores, Smith’s, King Soopers, City Market and Dillons), Region 3 (Kroger Houston, Kroger Dallas, Kroger Delta and Kroger Nashville), Region 4 (Mariano’s, Metro Market, Pick ’n Save, Kroger Central, Kroger Michigan and Kroger Columbus) and Region 5 (Kroger Atlanta, Kroger Mid-Atlantic, Kroger Louisville, Harris Teeter and Kroger Cincinnati-Dayton).
Kroger said the prize package for the five overall winners includes on-shelf product placement at the company’s grocery store chains, recommended partnerships with Gourmet Foods International, and business development coaching from Kroger merchandising and sales leaders, as well as from PearlRock Partners CEO Brian Kelley, a 30-year consumer product industry veteran and former president of Keurig Green Mountain and Coca-Cola Refreshments.
“Kroger is committed to offering the best assortment of fresh products enabled by an innovative portfolio of suppliers. In 2020 alone, we invested $4.1 billion in diverse suppliers — a 21% increase versus the previous year — and we’re working with intention to scale that number to $10 billion by 2030,” according to Stuart Aitken, chief merchant and marketing officer at Cincinnati-based Kroger. “The Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator will help us achieve our goal as well as advance our freshness commitment in our nearly 2,800 stores and across our Kroger.com e-commerce services, including Pickup, Delivery, and Ship.”