Kroger makes a game of finding new suppliers

Discussion
Source: thekrogerco.com/GoFreshLocal
May 27, 2021

Kroger has just joined a few other retailers in launching a contest in search of new suppliers.

The competition encourages local and regional growers across fresh categories to apply online for a chance to partake in the Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator, which will be held in Cincinnati in August. Kroger’s category management and fresh director team will review applications in multiple rounds, selecting 15 finalists (one finalist per region per category) to attend the event.

The prize package for the five overall winners includes product placement on Kroger’s shelves, recommended partnerships with sponsor Gourmet Foods International and coaching from Kroger merchandising and sales leaders.

The program supports Kroger’s expansion of its fresh departments, as well as its commitment announced last October to triple spending with diverse suppliers by 2030.

Kroger is not the only retailer making a game of finding new suppliers.

Lowe’s invited diverse small business owners last September to apply for a chance to attend a one-day virtual pitch challenge hosted by Shark Tank’s Daymond John to become a “Making It… With Lowe’s” small business partner. Lowe’s wound up evaluating more than 400 new products for sale on Lowes.com or on Lowe’s store shelves.

QVC and HSN’s second-annual The Big Find contest, which launched last summer, drew more than 2,400 entries and saw 270 finalists share their brand stories and demonstrate their products virtually to the panel of judges. The contest will result in the introduction of more than 90 brands — including two-thirds women- or minority-owned — on the home shopping networks this year.

H-E-B, in February, launched its eighth annual H-E-B Quest for Texas Best that calls on local food and non-foods entrepreneurs to compete for a combined $70,000 in cash prizes and the opportunity to land on the grocer’s shelves. Since launching the contest in 2014, H-E-B has reviewed more than 4,500 samples, brought more than 750 products to its shelves and awarded nearly $1 million in prize money.

”Through Quest, we have the opportunity to connect with even more Texas-based innovators each year, which helps us further curate rich and robust offerings for customers,” said James Harris, director, Diversity & Inclusion and Supplier Diversity, H-E-B., in a statement.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of competitions and pitch programs as a path for retailers to discover new brands? Do you see such efforts as largely publicity-driven or will they become a key complement to traditional buying efforts?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"This process can help sift through potential suppliers quickly, bringing the best new ideas forward faster."
"The competitions give exposure to suppliers who might otherwise never get through the door at Kroger."
"I sure hope Kroger vets the new suppliers well or they will face a series of risks, including food safety compliance, CSR issues and more."

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10 Comments on "Kroger makes a game of finding new suppliers"


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Ben Ball
BrainTrust

This is more community support marketing than a search for the next big brand — and that’s not a bad thing.

Suresh Chaganti
BrainTrust

Excellent initiative. Getting discovered is a big problem for small businesses, solo entrepreneurs, and innovators. It’s a huge win-win for both retailers and suppliers.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

I love the idea that a retailer is open to doing business with new brands and suppliers. But it should be more than just product/merchandise and price. What I’d like to see is that the retailer and supplier form a partnership and collaborate on how they can make each other more successful. It’s one thing just to buy from a vendor. It’s another to strategize for mutual success. It can help lower expenses, increase revenue and more. Partnership is a vendor relationship on steroids.

Ron Margulis
BrainTrust

I sure hope Kroger vets the new suppliers well or they will face a series of risks, including food safety compliance, CSR issues and more. What if a Peanut Corporation of America-like company gets through the initial rounds of the competition and starts shipping product without proper plant audits?

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

I like the idea and hope it has legs. And I agree with Ben, this is more for relations than actually finding the next big thing. The reality is that there will be few winners. It is great for the retailer and the winner. It doesn’t hurt much for the losers.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

I think it’s a great idea. Retailers need to find ways to find the “next big thing” for their customers. Competitions are bound to attract entrepreneurs with great products who are looking for ways to attract the attention of buyers. This process can help sift through potential suppliers quickly, bringing the best new ideas forward faster.

Jlauderbach
Guest

This effort is very commendable, especially in grocery. I hope it is sincere and not just for marketing purposes. There are thousands of small producers that do not have the resources to approach and pitch national firms. On the flip side the national firms have been missing out on great products. If a Kroger is truly trying to offer local and fresh this is a perfect process to source the products. It is a wonder why this has not been standard practice. I also hope there are considerations given to the capacity to produce by the small businesses. A great success could go sour if demand overwhelms supply.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

The competitions give exposure to suppliers who might otherwise never get through the door at Kroger. Securing an appointment with a large chain buyer for a new smaller supplier is a daunting task. The competition approach gives them the chance they would likely never have had.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

While I applaud the efforts to find innovative new products from diverse organizations, I’d rather see a collaborative incubator effort vs. a competition. Small companies have scare resources and expending them for a beauty contest may not be the best use of their time, money and focus.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

In Cincinnati … hmm. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but if one is searching for local suppliers — emphasis on the “local” part, as in small and resource-light — wouldn’t it be better to start off with a number of regional competitions first?

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"This process can help sift through potential suppliers quickly, bringing the best new ideas forward faster."
"The competitions give exposure to suppliers who might otherwise never get through the door at Kroger."
"I sure hope Kroger vets the new suppliers well or they will face a series of risks, including food safety compliance, CSR issues and more."

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