The Kroger Co. is reaching out to local and small-business suppliers with the launch of a new website.

At, local farmers, ranchers and other food and beverage producers are invited to connect with Kroger and make their case for supplying stores in the Cincinnati-based chain.

The Sept. 22 announcement of the new site came a day after the Wall Street Journal reported that, beginning in April, Whole Foods Market would begin centralizing more of its ordering process and limiting the input of individual stores.

"Kroger has always had a commitment to supporting small-business owners and local vendors," says Mike Donnelly, Kroger's executive vice president of merchandising and procurement. "Our business has a track record of successfully blending centralized and decentralized decision making to promote local products while also enjoying economies of scale.”

Kroger, which operates 2,793 stores under a variety of banners, currently sources from thousands of local suppliers, Donnelly says.