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Kroger Looks to Natural Brands for Innovation

Project Nosh reported on Kroger’s first natural innovation summit last month. The U.S.’s largest grocery retailer with 2,778 locations is looking to growing natural brands for innovation. The summit brought 50 of the best up and coming natural brands to their headquarters in Cinncinati, Ohio.

Kroger Natural Innovation Summit

The summit was held during the first week of October with a presentation from Jill McIntosh, VP of Merchanding for Natural Foods at Kroger, to kick off the first day.

“I thought of the idea because I wanted to bring a Natural Foods show to our Kroger category managers and invite some new and innovative brands to Cincinnati…Bringing the mountain to Mohammed, I guess.”
– Jill McIntosh

After Jill’s presentation, the summit featured 50 of the natural brands in a mini-trade show format. The natural brands were hand picked by VMG Partners, Harlow, and 84.51 degrees. For this first summit, Kroger wanted to focus on brands in water, fitness, yogurt, and packaged snacks.

“The brand selection committee prioritized high growth emerging wellness brands that have a proven sales velocity track record outside of Kroger, that were under-indexing in sales at Kroger. The event wasn’t focused on brands that don’t yet have a track record of sales velocity success elsewhere. The goal is help Kroger maximize their batting average as it relates to wellness emerging brands.”
– Wayne Wu, Managing Partner of VMG Partners

Key Takeaways From the Summit

The summit’s goal is the benefit both the brands and Kroger’s category managers. By bringing the brands to one place, this enables all of their buyers to be able to meet with the top brands and have more one on one discussions. The brands love the opportunity to connect with a specific retail customer in a more calm environment that trade shows like Expo West, Fancy Food Show, etc.

Kroger knows its business is moving towards more organic and natural foods, so the summit is an excellent fit in helping them push their “Restock Kroger” initiative. Kroger is leading the way in integrating their natural aisle with the conventional aisles so that both types of buyers become one.

“We have basically combined our natural with our conventional category management. Which makes sense as we want our category managers, when it comes to looking at a category, to know everything about it, not just the natural side or the conventional side but to be the subject matter expert over the total category. The customers are shopping that way more and more and we want to make it easy for our customer. So we’re mixing it up… As we integrate teams we’re able to integrate sales planning, ad, display and store formats.”
– Jill McIntosh

It will be interesting to see how the summit impacts the growth of innovative brands into Kroger’s massive retail chain.

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