CINCINNATI — The Kroger Co. has named its inaugural Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator winners after inviting growers and producers to join the program earlier this year. Winners include Maazah, Nona Lim, Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale, Simply Southern Sides, and Soupergirl.
"We invented the Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator to discover the best, most innovative, and freshest local and regional products – and our group of winners is just that," said Dan De La Rosa, Kroger's group vice president of fresh merchandising. "We are proud to partner with these extraordinary suppliers to bring exciting new products to our stores across the country – and introduce customers to more locally made favorites."
In collaboration with Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing and RangeMe, Kroger reviewed more than 1,000 applications, selecting 15 finalists to participate in a pitch competition. The finalists recently traveled to Cincinnati for the pitch competition.
For the event, the finalists were grouped by region and each business presented a 10-minute pitch and provided samples to the judging panel, after which the judges were invited to ask questions and learn more about the brands and their founders. The judges then narrowed the list and named this year's winning brands to form the cohort.
The 2021 Go Fresh & Local Accelerator Winners include:
- Maazah (Minneapolis) – A bright, bold and balanced Afghan-style chutney made of fresh cilantro, ginger, garlic, zesty lemon, apple cider vinegar and jalapeno pepper from a women-owned brand. Maazah, meaning "flavor" in Farsi, is inspired by family and culture – and its signature chutney is inspired by a family recipe.
- Nona Lim (Oakland, Calif.) – Refrigerated pad thai & Asian noodle kits from a women-owned brand. Inspired by the namesake founder's Asian heritage, Nona Lim is committed to bringing fresh, bold Asian flavors to the table using only clean ingredients.
- Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale (Charlotte, NC) – Four flavors of gluten-free, keto-friendly premium pimento cheese from a husband-and-wife team in Charlotte, NC. Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale is a family-owned and operated business that handmakes, packs, and ships every tub of pimento cheese.
- Simply Southern Sides (Macedonia, Ohio) – Spice and seasoning kits for homemade soul food from Booker's Soul Food Starters, a Black and woman-owned business from Kroger's home state of Ohio. This brand of all-natural seasoning mixes allows customers to experience and prepare personalized portions of traditional African American family dishes like collard greens and peach cobbler.
- Soupergirl (Washington, D.C.) – Readymade heat-and-eat soups, chilis and gazpacho made from farm-fresh local produce by a women-owned business. Soupergirl believes in real, responsible food, supports local farming, fights food waste, and cooks healthfully – so the planet, the consumer, the community and the farmers win.
"Kroger's Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator has allowed us to identify additional growers, producers, and suppliers across regions, categories, and verticals – helping us diversify our product offering and our supplier relationships and create new ways for small businesses to partner with the largest grocer in America," said Stuart Aitken, Kroger's chief merchant and marketing officer. "Just last year, Kroger invested $4.1 billion in diverse suppliers — a 21% increase versus the previous year — and we aim to scale that number to $10 billion by 2030. This year's inaugural cohort is an intentional and impactful step toward achieving that bold goal."
Kroger will launch the cohort's products on its shelves by Q1 of 2022. Additionally, each cohort member will receive business development coaching and collaboration opportunities to expand their business. Early next year, Kroger anticipates announcing details for the 2022 Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator.