** FILE ** A Kroger's Marketplace super store in West Chester, Ohio is seen in this Sept. 11, 2006, file photo. Kroger Co., the nation's largest traditional grocery chain, on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2007 said its profits rose 18 percent on strong sales and a benefit from resolving a tax issue in the third quarter. (AP Photo/Al Behrman, file)
For the last several years the Kroger Co. has been trying to place more locally grown produce in its grocery stores.
This Friday the Cincinnati-based chain will take that effort a step further: putting local growers into an area store.
The event is part of the company’s 6-year-old “Discover Local” program, an effort by Kroger to show customers the faces behind the produce they are buying by holding meet-and-greet gatherings at a few Kroger stores in the company’s 125-store Columbus division, which includes 20 Toledo-area stores.
Friday’s event will be from 3 to 7 p.m. at the store at 8730 Waterville-Swanton Rd. in Waterville, where it held a successful “Discover Local” event last year.
“We’ve done these for a few years now, but they’re really taking off a lot right now,” said Kroger spokesman Jackie Siekmann. “We’re having the largest number of growers ever participating at the Waterville event.”
A total of 25 growers or food producers responsible for producing several products the chain sells in its stores will be represented at booths in the store’s parking lot or in the store.
“We have six of these events in our division, but our Waterville one is the biggest event,” Ms. Siekmann said. “The store team and everybody else gets really excited about this,” she added.
“We’ve found a lot of the producers and growers get very excited about it. They can meet the customers and talk to them about their passion.”
Ms. Siekmann said the “Discover Local” program was developed for two reasons: to promote and encourage more local growers to sell their produce to Kroger, and to show customers it is responding to increasing consumer demand for more local items in its stores.
“We’re making a lot of effort to be transparent in that respect. But there’s also a lot of benefits to buying local in addition to it being what the customer wants,” Ms. Siekmann said.
Kroger has found, she said, that by purchasing more locally produced items it saves money on transportation and packaging. Plus, some produce items have a short shelf life.
Friday’s event in Waterville will feature several Ohio growers of corn, cucumbers, leeks, and peppers, according to Kroger.
The retailer hopes to add squash soon to its list of locally grown items, but supplying a chain as big as Kroger isn’t easy.
At a minimum, a grower must supply a region’s worth of stores — at least 20 in the case of the Toledo division — and Kroger would prefer that a grower have enough to supply the entire division.
At the Waterville event, Kroger will provide free samples of locally grown food items it sells. It also plans to give the first 50 customers through the store’s doors at 5 p.m. a reusable bag filled with locally grown produce.
Contact Jon Chavez at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6128.