The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation Announces Second Innovation Fund Cohort


The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation (“Foundation”) today announced the second cohort of its Innovation Fund (“Fund”). From a pool of more than 145 applicants, the Fund selected 10 startups to receive a total of $2.5 million in funding to launch innovative new consumer products made with surplus food or food byproducts and technologies to advance the upcycled food industry.

“Enabling early-stage innovation is critical to our mission to create more resilient communities that are free of hunger and waste,” said Denise Osterhues, president of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation. “The Innovation Fund is designed to support game-changing ideas for building a more efficient and sustainable future food system for people and our planet. The pandemic and its continued impacts are a constant reminder that our country cannot afford to waste surplus food any longer.”

The Foundation – in collaboration with Village Capital, the largest supporter of impact-driven, seed-stage startups in the world; and the Fund’s Advisory Committee – carefully reviewed and selected 10 startups to be part of the second cohort.

Each of the 10 startups selected will receive $100,000 in upfront seed grant funding, totaling an initial $1 million investment. As part of the Fund’s development program, the startups will 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. The innovators 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.

After achieving program specific milestones, cohort members will each be eligible for an additional $100,000 grant from the Fund to support their growth. At the end of the six-month milestone development period, two startups will be selected by their cohort peers for an opportunity to receive an additional $250,000 in funding.

The strength of this cohort lies in its diversity. The Foundation and Village Capital are relentlessly focused on supporting founders with lived experience in the problems they’re solving. 80% of startups in the program have a female founder or co-founder, 60% have a Black, Asian, and/or Latinx founder and 60% are headquartered outside of CaliforniaMassachusetts and New York.

The second cohort features:

  • Agua Bonita (Hanford, California) makes a ready-to-drink aguas frescas from upcycled produce and served in culturally inspired and recyclable cans.

  • Grain4Grain (San Antonio, Texas) uses patent pending technology to upcycle brewers spent grain into a low-carb, high-protein and high-fiber flour.

  • Husky Beverages (West Palm Beach, Florida) is an innovative brand featuring the healthy superfruit of coffee, debuting in early 2021 with a sparkling tea made from the “husk” of organic, upcycled coffee fruit.

  • Journey Foods (Austin, Texas) is a portfolio intelligence company that solves food science and supply chain inefficiencies with software to help companies direct more surplus food to those who need it.

  • Matriark Foods (Nyack, New York) upcycles farm surplus and fresh-cut remnants into healthy affordable products for institutional foodservice, diverting food from landfills while feeding communities the healthy food they deserve.

  • NETZRO (Minneapolis, Minnesota) is a food tech platform for recovering industrial byproducts at scale that would otherwise be wasted into new upcycled ingredients.

  • reBLEND (Denver, Colorado) is a line of frozen smoothie pops packed with fruits + veggies + superfoods and a bold mission to tackle food waste by re-harvesting produce that would typically be discarded.

  • Renewal Mill (Oakland, California) upcycles byproducts from food manufacturing into superfood ingredients and premium, plant-based pantry staples.

  • Take Two (Portland, Oregon) is a plant-based food company that creates second chances by using Rejuvenated Barley™, upcycled spent grain from beer production, to craft our products, including a line of nutritious barley milks.

  • The Spare Food Co. (New York, New York) is an upcycled food tech platform that creates foods and drinks using overlooked and unused ingredients sourced from growers and food processors.

“We are incredibly impressed by this new group of creative thinkers and innovators tackling the upcycled food frontier,” said Sunny Reelhorn Parr, executive director of The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation. “The Foundation is excited to collaborate with Village Capital to support the second cohort of innovators who are elevating food to its highest use and disrupting the linear supply chain. At scale, each of these solutions have the potential to create systems-level change, improve inefficiencies and prevent food waste.”

The Foundation welcomed its first Innovation Fund cohort in 2019, 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.

“Recent data shows that an annual investment of $14 billion over the next ten years can reduce food waste by 45 million tons each year,” said Kelly Bryan, manager of sustainability practice at Village Capital. “We are providing funding and wraparound development and mentorship opportunities to provide these entrepreneurs and future food industry leaders the very best start possible for their businesses.”