CINCINNATI — The Kroger Co. is inviting local and regional growers and producers to apply to its annual accelerator program. In its second year, Kroger’s Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator provides an opportunity for businesses of all sizes to work directly with the grocery retailer as it expands its fresh departments, including produce, deli, bakery, meat, seafood, dairy and specialty cheeses.

“Kroger is fully committed to supporting a diverse group of innovative, local suppliers who can bring a great assortment of fresh products to our customers,” said Stuart Aitken, chief merchant and marketing officer. “Kroger committed to investing $10 billion in diverse suppliers by 2030, and the Go Fresh & Local Supplier Accelerator is a successful way to catapult Kroger closer to that goal. We are excited to meet this year’s suppliers who will help us advance our commitment to fresh in our nearly 2,800 stores.”

Suppliers may apply through May 23 at Thirty finalists will be selected to attend the two-day event held in Cincinnati in August and interact with category managers, leaders and entrepreneurs. Fifteen finalists will be invited to present to a panel of Kroger executives, and five winners will be named. Prizes include product placement on shelf at Kroger stores, recommended partnerships with sponsors and business development coaching from the company’s merchandising and sales leaders.

Winning brands last year include Maazah, a maker of Afghan-style chutney; Nona Lim, a brand of refrigerated Asian noodle kits; Queen Charlotte’s Pimento Cheese Royale, a producer of premium pimento cheese; Simply Southern Sides, which offers a line of spice and seasoning mixes for homemade soul food; and Soupergirl, a maker of heat-and-eat soups, chilis and gazpacho.

“Last year, the Go Fresh and Local cohort brought fresh ideas and innovative new products to the table that blew our judges away,” said Dan De La Rosa, group vice president of fresh merchandising. “Every single one of last year’s cohort has now seen their products on Kroger shelves, helping us bring the tastes and flavors our customers love straight to local stores. We look forward to building on last year’s success and are excited to bring in new suppliers to participate in the opportunity to join the Kroger family.”