Kroger Funds Ideas From Startups to Reduce Food Waste

Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Kroger Funds Ideas From Startups to Reduce Food Waste
The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation invites eligible innovators to submit proposals that support new ways to manufacture, process or distribute upcycled consumer food products.

The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation is doubling down on its  commitment to end hunger and food waste by launching an open call to its second innovation fund. Eligible innovators with ideas and solutions to prevent food waste can submit an application by April 1 for business support and funding totaling $2.5 million in collective grants.

"The Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation works with organizations, innovators and changemakers across the nation to address a fundamental absurdity in our food system: 35% of food produced in the U.S. is thrown away, yet 50 million Americans struggle with hunger every day, including an estimated 17 million children," said Sunny Reelhorn Parr, executive director of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation. "We welcomed our first innovation fund cohort in 2019, by awarding a total of $1 million to accelerate programs and solutions developed by startups Food Forest, Imperfect Foods, mobius, Replate, Ripe Revival, Seal the Seasons and Winnow. Now we're eager to work with Village Capital to accelerate partnerships with creative thinkers and problem solvers who share our vision of a world where food waste is no longer a reality."

Upcycled food is the next frontier in recovering and repurposing food that may otherwise go to landfills, encouraging the reintroduction and reuse of food items into the supply chain. Applicants can submit proposals that promote a business model that requires sourcing surplus food or food byproducts and manufacturing them into new consumer-facing products.  

After this open call, the foundation — in collaboration with Village Capital, which helps entrepreneurs bring big ideas from vision to scale, and the fund's advisory committee — will review the applications and select 10 startups. Each startup selected for the fund's second cohort will receive $100,000 in upfront seed-grant funding, totaling an initial $1 million investment. Then the grantees will participate in a virtual workshop focused on investment readiness, technical skill development and networking with a community of investors and mentors in and around the food system. The second cohort will have exclusive access to the foundation and Village Capital's leaders and partners, as well as the option to apply for follow-on funding.

Cohort members will each be eligible for an additional $100,000 grant from the fund, based on achievement of identified program milestones. At the end of the six-month milestone development period, two startups will be selected by their cohort peers for an opportunity to receive an additional $250,000 in funding.

"The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation is committed to helping build a more efficient and resilient food system and charitable food system in the U.S. and beyond," said Denise Osterhues, president of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation. "In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts, we are more determined than ever to direct as much food as possible to its highest purpose: feeding people. We can no longer afford to waste surplus food at any level in our food system."

"The mission of the Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation is more important than ever today," said Kelly Bryan, manager of sustainability practice at Village Capital, which is based in Washington D.C. "Village Capital is excited to work with the foundation to identify additional innovators from around the country who are helping reinvent the food system and recover and redistribute surplus food in our communities."

Founded in 2018, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation is the retailer's social impact plan aimed at ending hunger in its communities and eliminating waste across the company by 2025.

In the past few years, Kroger has decreased total food waste generated in its stores by 13% and improved its food-waste diversion rate by almost 18%.

In 2020, Kroger's manufacturing plants and co-packing suppliers aligned to the retailer's plan to standardize date labels for the retailer's Our Brands food products, providing simpler, easier-to-understand labels that result in less household food waste.

Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 11 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and more than 2,700 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.

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