Kroger has selected the winners of its second annual Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator. The accelerator cohort consists of five new and emerging brands, each selected to join Kroger's Fresh suppliers and enhance the selection of local items available across the Kroger Family of Companies.
"We are thrilled to welcome this year's Go Fresh & Local cohort to our extraordinary portfolio of fresh local and regional suppliers," said Dan De La Rosa, group vice president of fresh merchandising. "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 United States. 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."
Kroger invited strategic sponsors to participate in the event and serve as mentors to the winning suppliers, cultivating their growth and development. Gourmet Foods International returned for the second year as a platinum-level sponsor and was joined by first-time silver-level sponsor DPI Specialty Foods.
"Both GFI and DPI share Kroger's commitment to build relationships with local and regional brands, bringing our customers the freshest local products on the market," Kroger said.
[Read more: Kroger expands delivery in the South, Midwest]
The Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator is a key part of Kroger's broader commitment to invest $10 billion in diverse suppliers by 2030. Each winning company receives product placement on shelves in-store and online within Kroger's family of companies, as well as sponsor support and business development and coaching opportunities from Kroger. Products from this year's cohort will be placed in its stores beginning 2023.
2022 Go Fresh & Local Accelerator winners:
- Coro Foods: Located in Kent, Wash., the company has provided culinary-driven charcuterie for more than 20 years in the Seattle area. This women-owned company has worked to master the art of old-world salumi without being bound by its traditions.
- The Ugly Company: Located in Kingsburg, Calif., the company turns perfectly healthy fruits with an imperfect appearance into a beautiful opportunity by upcycling "ugly" produce into dried fruit snacks.
- Hiatus: Located in Baltimore, the company offers a number of decadent flavors. Hiatus provides consumers with premium cheesecakes made of natural ingredients – for those moments when you need a hiatus and want to enjoy a sweet escape with every bite.
- j. berry Nursery & Genetics: Located in Grand Saline, Texas, the company brings beautiful plants into lives, homes and gardens around the world, the j. berry team elevates the beauty of gorgeous hibiscus, crape myrtles and begonias with the science of plant genetics; and
- Zacca Hummus: Located in Boise, Idaho, the company serves from the family farm to the table. The Zacca company is passionate about making delicious, traditional-style Mediterranean hummus in a variety of flavors that are all non-GMO, gluten-free and made with no artificial preservatives.
Kroger received more than 1,600 applications to participate in the Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator. A committee of judges led by Kroger, in collaboration with ECRM and RangeMe, narrowed the applications to a select group of 15 top brands. This elite group traveled to Cincinnati to display and merchandise their products with Kroger category managers, merchandising directors and leaders.
The final event was a pitch competition, requiring each company to deliver a 15-minute presentation and provide samples to a panel of judges whose scores were combined with the category managers, merchandising directors and leaders to name the winning cohort.
This year's executive selection panel, hosted by Erin Rolfes, Kroger director of corporate communications and media relations, was comprised of executives with unique expertise areas and experiences, including Stuart Aitken, chief merchant and marketing officer; Dan De La Rosa, group vice president of fresh merchandising; Brian Kelly, chairman and CEO, PearlRock Partners; Juan De Paoli, vice president, Our Brands; Victor Smith, president, Atlanta division; Emily Hartmann, senior director, brand marketing; and Rocio Indacochea, multi-cultural merchandiser.