Five innovative young brands from diverse suppliers are scheduled to arrive on the shelves of The Kroger Co. stores early next year after being named winners this week of the retailer’s Go Fresh & Local Accelerator competition.
A panel of judges selected the five winning brands after reviewing pitches in Cincinnati earlier this month from representatives of 15 brands selected as finalists. Kroger, in partnership with Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing and RangeMe, reviewed more than 1,000 applicants after the competition was announced earlier this year. The competition is helping the retailer identify new growers and producers and expand the diversity of its supplier base, officials said: The company in 2020 invested $4.1 billion in diverse suppliers—a 21% increase vs. the previous year—and it aims to scale that number to $10 billion by 2030.
“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,” Dan De La Rosa, Kroger’s group VP of fresh merchandising, said in a release. “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.”
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 competition was judged by Milen Mahadevan, president of Kroger’s data firm, 84.51˚; Valerie Jabbar, SVP of retail divisions for Kroger; Nick Tranchina, president of Murray's Cheese; Patrick Vihtelic, founder and CEO of Home Chef; De La Rosa; and Brian Kelley, CEO of PearlRock Partners.
Following are the winning five entries:
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.
Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale (Charlotte, N.C.)
Four flavors of gluten-free, keto-friendly premium pimento cheese from a husband and wife team in Charlotte, N.C. Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale is a family-owned and operated business that hand makes, 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 such as 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.