Kroger Seeks Innovators in Upcycled Food

Casts open call in $2.5M funding and development program
Photograph courtesy of The Kroger Co.

The Kroger Co.’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste Foundation is seeking innovators in “upcycled” food and ingredients to participate in a $2.5 million funding and development program.

The program, run in partnership with Village Capital, will select 10 startups eligible to receive $100,000 in upfront seed grant funding. The grantees will then 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. They 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.

Those companies 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 development period, two startups will be selected by their cohort peers for an opportunity to receive an additional $250,000 in funding.

The foundation described upcycled food as “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 for the open call are invited to submit proposals that promote a business model that requires sourcing surplus food or food byproducts and manufacturing them into new consumer-facing products. 

“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,” Denise Osterhues, president of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger Zero Waste Foundation, said in a statement. “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. For that reason, we are pleased to offer the Innovation Fund’s second open call for proposals that directly support promising new ways to manufacture, process or distribute upcycled consumer food products.”

Tying sustainability ambitions to parallel issues of hunger, Kroger introduced its Zero Hunger Zero Waste ambitions in September 2017 and established a charitable foundation supporting the initiative in 2018.

Village Capital, the largest supporter of impact-driven, seed-stage startups in the world, and the fund’s advisory committee, will review applicants to the open call.

“The Zero Hunger Zero Waste Foundation works with organizations, innovators and changemakers across the nation to address a fundamental absurdity in our food system: Thirty-five percent 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.”

“The mission of the Zero Hunger Zero Waste Foundation is more important than ever today,” said Kelly Bryan, manager of sustainability practice for Village Capital. “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.”



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