Fifth Season scores Kroger as latest grocery partner

AI- and robotics-equipped indoor vertical farming startup Fifth Season scored one of its biggest grocery store partnerships since the company's founding in 2016, putting its products on shelves in about 200 Kroger stores in Ohio and Michigan.

It makes the first partnership for the startup and Cincinnati, Ohio-based Kroger Co. The debut of its products in these 200 new stores — about 100 in each state — increases the footprint of stores where its products are available by 57%. And while it's not the first time the company has sold its products in either state, it is the largest expansion of its product availability in either one thus far.

"We already had a presence in Cleveland and Columbus through Giant Eagle; they've been a foundational partner to us for a long time, but this is our first relationship here with Kroger, and we've had a little bit of distribution in Michigan, but this is definitely our biggest presence that we've ever had in Michigan," Fifth Season Chief Category Officer Grant Vandenbussche said. "It's going to almost double our business with one of the leading retailers in fresh food."

Fifth Season's products — various leafy vegetables grown and harvested indoors at its vertical farm in Braddock which are then packaged and sold as salads, mixed greens or in variety packs — are now available to customers in about 550 stores across a dozen states in a region that encompasses most of the Midwest.

"It's a really cool moment for us to pass that 500 mark and to continue to scale this thing," Vandenbussche said.

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