US — American retail company, Kroger has through its Zero Hunger/Zero Waste Foundation Innovation Fund set aside US$2.5 million to fund startups with innovative solutions to tackle the food waste problem.

The company has already identified 10 startups which will benefit from the program with each startup set to be awarded US$100,000 in upfront seed grant funding and will participate in a virtual workshop and networking with investors and mentors across the food system.

The participants will be eligible for an additional US$100,000 grant based on the achievement of identified program milestones.

At the end of the six-month milestone development period, two startups will be selected for an opportunity to receive an additional $250,000 in funding.

Agua Bonita, Renewal Mill and Take Two are among brands to receive support in pioneering and accelerating solutions to reduce food waste while improving food security.

Agua Bonita makes ready-to-drink aguas frescas using upcycled produce while Renewal Mill transforms byproducts from the production of soy or oat milk into nutritious plant-based pantry staples.

Take Two, on the other hand, offers a milk alternative based on barley left over from beer brewing.

Other participants include Husky Beverages, a maker of a sparkling tea featuring the husk of organic coffee fruit and Reblend which produces frozen smoothie pops packed with surplus or imperfect fruits and vegetables.

Also selected for the program are technology startups focused on reducing food waste, including The Spare Food Co., New York; Netzro, Minneapolis; and Journey Foods, Austin, Texas.

“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 10 startups were shortlisted from a group of 145 applicants in a rigorous exercise conducted by the Zero Hunger/ Zero Waste Foundation, in collaborating with Village Capital and the fund’sadvisory committee.

According to Kroger, Eighty percent of the startups chosen for the program are female founded, 60% have a Black, Asian or Latinx founder, and 60% are located outside of California, Massachusetts and New York.

Kelly Bryan, manager of sustainability practice at Village Capital said: “Recent data shows that an annual investment of $14 billion over the next 10 years can reduce food waste by 45 million tons each year”.

“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.”

Food Forest, Imperfect Foods, Mobius, Replate, Ripe Revival, Seal the Seasons and Winnow participated in the first Innovation Fund cohort in 2019, receiving a total of $1 million in grants.

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