Kroger, H-E-B Make More Room on Shelves for Entrepreneurial Brands

Retailers sponsor contest for best regional and local products
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Kroger, H-E-B Make More Room on Shelves for Entrepreneurial Brands
The women-owned brand Maazah was named a winner in Kroger's local and regional product contest.

Some major food retailers are keeping it real close when it comes to their vendor partnerships. The Kroger Co. and H-E-B, for their part, are recognizing local food entrepreneurs turned suppliers.

The Kroger Co. announced the winners of its inaugural “Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator” program. After reviewing more than 1,000 submissions in collaboration with partners Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing and RangeMe, Kroger’s team narrowed the field down to 15 finalists who were invited to pitch their products and share samples with a panel of judges.

Five brands were chosen as the program’s first winners. They include Maazah, an Afghan-style chutney from a women-owned brand in Minneapolis; Nona Lim, refrigerated clean-ingredient pad Thai and Asian noodle kits from a women-owned brand in Oakland, Calif.; Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale, gluten-free, keto-friendly premium pimento cheese from a husband-and-wife team in Charlotte, N.C.; Simply Southern Sides, spice and seasoning kits for homemade soul food from Black and woman-owned business Booker's Soul Food Starters in Ohio; and Soupergirl, a line of heat-and-eat soups, chilis and gazpacho made with local produce by a Washington, D.C.-based woman-owned business. Kroger plans to launch items from these brands in its stores in early 2022.   

"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. "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."

H-E-B is another retailer that recently sought out and honored products from local brands. The Texas retailer recently named the top 20 finalists in its “2021 Quest for Texas Best” contest. Following a final matchup in San Antonio later this month, the top four brands will receive cash prizes and a chance at shelf placement for their products. Finalists include an array of unique items, from beef to barbecue to patisserie.

This year, H-E-B broadened its search for top Texas products to include non-food items like beauty items, home goods, toys and more.

“We continue to be amazed at what Texans bring to the table and how their creations are received in stores,” remarked James Harris, H-E-B’s director, diversity and inclusion and supplier diversity. “The creativity and resiliency of our Lone Star food, and now non-food, creators have elevated this contest with another year of unbelievable stories and products.”

Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 11 million-plus customers daily through a digital shopping experience and almost 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. With approximately 400 stores in Texas and Mexico, San Antonio-based H-E-B is No. 13 on The PG 100.

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds