From charcuterie to ugly fruit to decadent cheesecakes, Kroger is adding emerging brands that help diversify its roster of fresh food suppliers.
The Kroger Co.’s second annual Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator produced five new vendors that will add local suppliers across its national footprint.
Kroger said it received more than 1,600 Accelerator applications, which was pared to 15 finalists by a committee of judges led by Kroger in collaboration with ECRM and its RangeMe product discovery subsidiary. The final 15 vendors were invited to Cincinnati to display and merchandise their products. In the final event, a pitch competition, each company delivered a 15-minute presentation and provided samples to a panel of judges, whose scores were combined with the category managers, merchandising directors and leaders to name the winning group.
The 2022 winners are the following:
• Coro Foods, Kent, Wash. — Providing culinary-driven charcuterie for more than 20 years in the Seattle area, this company produces Old World salumi not bound by tradition.
• The Ugly Company, Kingsburg, Calif. — Perfectly healthy fruits with an imperfect appearance are “up-cycled” into dried fruit snacks.
• Hiatus, Baltimore — Offering several decadent flavors, Hiatus provides consumers with premium cheesecakes made from natural ingredients.
• J. Berry Nursery & Genetics, Grand Saline, Texas — The company elevates the beauty of hibiscus, crape 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 with no artificial preservatives.
Premium cheesecakes from Baltimore-based Hiatus also will join Kroger's fresh food lineup in stores, starting next year. (Photo courtesy of Kroger)
“We are thrilled to welcome this year’s Go Fresh & Local cohort to our extraordinary portfolio of fresh local and regional 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 surpassed our expectations at every step. Their commitment to excellence and the unique blend of products they’ve created will help us expand our local footprint and deliver on our mission of being ‘Fresh for Everyone.’”
The Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator, unveiled in mid-2021, is a part of the company’s commitment to invest $10 billion in diverse suppliers by 2030, Kroger said. Each winning company receives product placement on shelves in-store and online, as well as sponsor support, and business development and coaching opportunities from Kroger. Products from this year’s cohort will be placed 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 merchant and marketing officer; Brian Kelly, chairman and CEO of PearlRock Partners; Juan De Paoli, vice president of Our Brands at Kroger; Victor Smith, president of the Kroger Atlanta Division; Emily Hartmann, senior director of brand marketing at Kroger; and Rocio Indacochea, multicultural merchandiser at Kroger. Gourmet Foods International returned for the second year as a sponsor and was joined by first-time sponsor DPI Specialty Foods.
The inaugural Go Fresh & Local cohort last year featured Maazah of Minneapolis; Nona Lim, Oakland, Calif.; Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale, Charlotte, N.C.; Simply Southern Sides, Macedonia, Ohio; and Soupergirl, Washington, D.C., all of which debuted products at Kroger in 2022.
The country’s largest supermarket operator, Cincinnati-based Kroger operates more than 2,700 stores throughout the United States.