Kroger Business Incubator Brings Fresh New Suppliers

From sausages to ugly fruit to decadent cheesecakes, Kroger is adding emerging brands that help diversify its roster of fresh food suppliers.

Kroger Co.’s second annual Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator. has created five new suppliers that will add local suppliers to its national footprint.

Kroger said it received more than 1,600 applications for the Accelerator, which were whittled down to 15 finalists by a panel 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 presentation competition, each company gave a 15-minute presentation and provided samples to a panel of judges whose results were combined with category managers, merchandising directors and leaders to determine the winning group.

Kroger Co.

Coro Foods presented its culinary sausages in the Go Fresh & Local competition and was one of five winners.

The winners for 2022 are as follows:

• Coro Foods, Kent, WA — Providing deli meats for more than 20 years in the Seattle area, this company makes Old World salumi that’s not tied to tradition.

• The Ugly Company, Kingsburg, Calif. — Perfectly healthy fruit with an imperfect appearance is “upcycled” into dried fruit snacks.

• Hiatus, Baltimore — Offering several decadent flavors, Hiatus provides consumers with premium cheesecakes made with natural ingredients.

• J. Berry Nursery & Genetics, Grand Saline, Texas — The company elevates the beauty of hibiscus, crape myrtle and begonias with the science of plant genetics.

• Zacca Hummus, Boise, Idaho — From family farm to table, traditional Mediterranean hummus comes in a variety of flavors that are non-GMO, gluten-free and made without artificial preservatives.

Coro Foods-Hiatus cheesecake.JPGPremium cheesecakes from Baltimore-based Hiatus will also join Kroger’s fresh foods 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 US. This innovative group exceeded our expectations at every turn. Their commitment to excellence and the unique mix of products they have created will help us expand our local footprint and fulfill our mission to be ‘Fresh for Everyone’.”

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 sponsor support and business development and training opportunities from Kroger. Products from this year’s cohort will be released in Kroger stores in 2023.

This year’s executive selection committee was chaired by Erin Rolfes, director of corporate communications and media relations at Kroger, and included De La Rosa; Stuart Aitken, Chief Merchandiser and Marketing Director; 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 Hartman, 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 inaugural sponsor DPI Specialty Foods.

The inaugural Go Fresh & Local cohort last year included Maaza of Minneapolis; Nona Lim, Oakland, CA; Royal Charlotte’s Pimento Cheese Royale, Charlotte, NC; Simply Southern Sides, Macedonia, Ohio; and Soupergirl, Washington, D.C., all of which debuted products at Kroger in 2022.

The nation’s largest supermarket operator, Cincinnati-based Kroger operates more than 2,700 stores in the United States.

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