by Megan Minnick, Purchasing Director
The Retail Ready Lab is a small business incubator program that helps new food businesses who have a desire to begin selling their products in the retail grocery space. Each month, we feature a vendor in the designated Retail Ready Lab display at each of our stores. Our category management team coaches these vendors on anything and everything from packaging, to invoicing, to effective ways to market their products. Vendors are required to come into our stores to sample their wares to customers, and we have special comment cards available so you, our customers, can give them feedback to help them be successful. At the end of the month, we meet with the vendor, talk about how much we sold and the feedback we received, and we make a determination if we will regularly offer the product.
This is our second year with the Retail Ready Lab program, and we’re already beginning to see success! As we’ve recently reported, 15 participants have “graduated” onto our store shelves. As of this spring, Cress Springs Body Care, one of the first vendors that went through the program back in September 2017, is now available through a wholesale distributor. For a business looking to grow, distribution is the next step after selling directly to stores like ours—it’s awesome to be part of their success!
This month in the Retail Ready Lab, we’re featuring delicious ferments from the Appleton-based startup Reinvent Ferment. Owners Karen Iverson Riggers and Eric Riggers started their business in September 2017, partly because of their love of food and interesting flavors, but also because multiple people in their family have chronic health conditions. As they started learning more about the connection between food and health, they significantly changed their family’s diet to include more gut-healthy fermented foods.
One of the reasons we fell in love with the Reinvent Ferment products is the unique flavors they offer. Karen and Eric take their ferments way beyond your typical kraut. We chose four unique and versatile flavors to showcase this month in the Retail Ready Lab: fermented Curry Cauliflower (my personal favorite!), Vegan Mustard Green Kimchi, Bahn Mi Pickle, and G.O.K. (Garlic Onion Kraut).
Karen and Eric currently sell their ferments at small shops and restaurants throughout Northeast Wisconsin, and they are looking to take it to the next level by participating in the Retail Ready Lab! If you’re interested in learning more and trying the ferments before you buy, Karen and Eric will be hosting a fermentation workshop at Willy East on April 15th from 6:00pm-7:30pm. They will also be sampling their wares at all of our stores throughout the month: Willy North on April 5, 13, and 27; Willy West on April 6, 14, and 27, and Willy East on April 6, 14, and 26; check our website for times. Dates and times subject to change.