The Kroger Co. has been following through on its pledge this year to be a company that is “leading with fresh and accelerating with digital.” First came the opening of two robotic fulfillment centers in April, then the introduction of drone grocery delivery tests. Now, one of America’s largest retailers is focusing on its fresh promise with the launch of the Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator, a partnership program inviting American growers and producers to apply for the opportunity to work with the retailer.
The new program, sponsored by Decatur, Ga.-based food distribution company Gourmet Foods International, will enable Kroger to discover new suppliers to support the continued expansion of its fresh departments – including produce, deli, bakery, meat, seafood, dairy, specialty cheeses and floral – and its commitment to being Fresh for Everyone.
"At Kroger, our Fresh for Everyone mission is anchored in consistently and creatively providing fresh and affordable food to our customers," said Dan De La Rosa, Kroger's group VP of fresh merchandising. "We're dedicated to fostering innovation and investing in local, regional and small businesses that make the best of food accessible to all. Our first Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator is an extension of our commitment, and we're eager to invite suppliers of every size to participate, providing the potential to grow our businesses together."
Until May 31, suppliers can apply to join the Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator, which will be held in Cincinnati in August. In collaboration with Solon, Ohio-based Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing (ECRM) and its industry- standard online product discovery platform RangeMe, Kroger's category management and fresh director team will review applications in multiple rounds, selecting 15 finalists (one finalist per region per category) to attend the event. All finalists will present to a panel of judges during a pitch session, with one overall winner selected from each region. The prize package for the five overall winners includes product placement on shelf within Kroger's banners; recommended partnerships with Gourmet Foods International; and business development coaching from Kroger merchandising and sales leaders as well as PearlRock Partners CEO Brian Kelley, a 30-year consumer product industry veteran and former president of Keurig Green Mountain and Coca-Cola Refreshments.
"Kroger is committed to offering the best assortment of fresh products enabled by an innovative portfolio of suppliers. In 2020 alone, we invested $4.1 billion in diverse suppliers — a 21% increase versus the previous year — and we're working with intention to scale that number to $10 billion by 2030," said Stuart Aitken, Kroger's chief merchant and marketing officer. "The Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator will help us achieve our goal as well as advance our freshness commitment in our nearly 2,800 stores and across our Kroger.com e-commerce services, including Pickup, Delivery and Ship."
Growers and producers can apply to the relevant regional categories below, in alignment with the following regional versus local grouping criteria:
- Region 1: QFC, Fred Meyer, Ralphs and Food 4 Less
- Region 2: Fry's Food Stores, Smith's, King Soopers, City Market and Dillons
- Region 3: Kroger Houston, Kroger Dallas, Kroger Delta and Kroger Nashville
- Region 4: Mariano's, Metro Market, Pick 'n Save, Kroger Central, Kroger Michigan, and Kroger Columbus
- Region 5: Kroger Atlanta, Kroger Mid-Atlantic, Kroger Louisville, Harris Teeter and Kroger Cincinnati-Dayton
- Small producers
- Located in-state or the immediate market
- Community-inspired and locally relevant items
- Merchandised in fewer than approximately 100 stores
- Larger producers
- Cross-state and division boundaries
- Still locally relevant to customers
- Merchandised in approximately 100 or more stores
Just in time for this call for innovative suppliers, Kroger recently released its Small Business Resource Guide geared toward brands and producers looking to establish and grow retail partnerships.
Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.