Kroger Reveals 2 Upcycling Startups to Receive Funding

Agua Bonita, Matriark Foods selected to receive an additional $250K as part of retailer's Innovation Fund
Marian Zboraj, Progressive Grocer
Kroger Reveals 2 Upcycling Startups to Receive Funding
Kroger's foundation has revealed that Agua Bonita and Matriark Foods were peer-selected for impact investment funding.

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. In an effort to advance the upcycled food industry, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation has revealed that Agua Bonita and Matriark Foods were peer-selected for impact investment funding during the retailer's first-ever Venture Showcase, an event highlighting the second cohort of its Innovation Fund.

In May 2021, the fund, in collaboration with Village Capital, a supporter of impact-driven, seed-stage startups, selected 10 startups that are launching innovative  consumer products made with surplus food or food byproducts and technologies. Earlier in the year, the fund invited innovators to submit proposals for a total of $2 million in non-dilutive grant funding.

As part of the fund's development program, the 10 startups participated in more than 40 hours of virtual workshops focused on investment readiness, technical skill development, and networking with a community of investors and mentors in and around the food system. The innovators had exclusive access to the foundation and Village Capital's leaders and partners as they worked to achieve critical milestones over the past six months.

At the end of the development period, Agua Bonita and Matriark Foods were selected by their cohort peers to receive an additional $250,000 in impact investment funding, for a total commitment of $2.5 million from the foundation.

Agua Bonita, based in Hanford, Calif., makes ready-to-drink aguas frescas from upcycled produce and serves them in culturally inspired and recyclable cans, while Matriark Foods, based in Nyack, N.Y., upcycles farm surplus and fresh-cut produce trimmings into healthy, affordable products for institutional foodservice, diverting food from landfills while feeding communities healthy food.

Both Agua Bonita and Matriark Foods have a female founder or co-founder with diverse perspectives on and experience of the problems they aim to solve.

Overall, 80% of startups in the second cohort had a female founder or co-founder; 60% had a Black, Asian and/or Latinx founder; and 60% were located outside of California, Massachusetts and New York.

Serving 60 million households annually nationwide through a digital shopping experience, and almost 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names, Cincinnati-based Kroger is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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