The Kroger Co. announced its inaugural Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator cohort – Maazah, Nona Lim, Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale, Simply Southern Sides, and Soupergirl.

Earlier this year, Kroger invited growers and producers to join the retailer's first Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator. In collaboration with Efficient Collaborative Retail Marketing and RangeMe, Kroger reviewed more than 1,000 applications, selecting 15 finalists to participate in a pitch competition. The finalists recently traveled to Cincinnati for the pitch competition, which was judged by Milen Mahadevan, president of 84.51°; Valerie Jabbar, senior vice president of retail divisions at Kroger; Nick Tranchina, president of Murray's Cheese; Patrick Vihtelic, founder and CEO of HomeChef; Dan De La Rosa, group vice president of fresh merchandising at Kroger; and Brian Kelley, CEO of PearlRock Partners.

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 judges then narrowed the list and named this year's winning brands to form the cohort.

2021 Go Fresh & Local Accelerator Winners:

Maazah (Minneapolis) – 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.

Nona Lim (Oakland) – Refrigerated pad thai & Asian noodle kits from a women-owned brand. Inspired by the namesake founder's Asian heritage, Nona Lim is committed to bringing fresh, bold Asian flavors to the table using only clean ingredients.

Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale (Charlotte) – Four flavors of gluten-free, keto-friendly premium pimento cheese from a husband-and-wife team in Charlotte, NC. Queen Charlotte's Pimento Cheese Royale is a family-owned and operated business that handmakes, 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 like 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.

Kroger will launch the cohort's products on its shelves by Q1 of 2022. Additionally, each cohort member will receive business development coaching and collaboration opportunities to expand their business. Early next year, Kroger anticipates announcing details for the 2022 Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator. To learn more about this year's event, visit