Naperville, IL—This past October 19-20, KeHE hosted Diversity TrendFinder, a virtual two day event which gave 100 diverse suppliers a chance to pitch products directly to the Distributors’ Category Management team and fast track them into distribution.

“Emerging brands that are new to the market have challenges in gaining distribution. These brands may be too inexperienced, lacking knowledge or finances to gain placement on the shelf,” says Laura McCord, Executive Director of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at KeHE. “Brands need to be able to convey to retailers how their product is different from what the store already carries and how their items will complement or enhance the store's current assortment.”

In order to combat that difficulty, KeHE has rolled out programs like DIVERSEtrade, CAREtrade, and elevate, designed to help brands navigate the distribution process and break down some of those barriers.

At the Diversity TrendFinder event last fall, top performing suppliers were awarded “golden tickets'' that allowed brands to move on to the secondary phase. Then, brands were either selected for onboarding or given an opportunity to participate in the KeHE Summer Show Next Generation Innovation Showcase. The seven brands chosen to showcase at the upcoming KeHE Summer Show include: Wild Willett Food, Trident Coffee, Elderberry Queen, Tempo Granola , Red Shoots, Waju, and Fudge O’ Bits

At the retail level, it’s equally important to display diversity in product offerings. One way to promote diversity initiatives, McCord says, is to display specific commemorative months on aisle end caps. “In February for Black History Month, highlight African American owned business,” she says. “KeHE created POS materials to support retailers in this effort.”

After witnessing the success of October’s Diversity TrendFinder event, McCord expects more similar events in the future. 

Related: 2020 by the Numbers KeHE Opens New Distribution Center Palko Services Brings In New CEO