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Kroger launches Kentucky Proud product push in stores

Catrina Hill, left, and some of her relatives were at the Kroger store in Tates Creek Centre on Thursday to promote Catrina's Kitchen Southern Spices, which are part of Kroger's Kentucky Proud offerings. Posing with Higgins were Corenza Townsend, middle, and Lesia Hill-Driver. Taking the photo was Armonee Higgins. Catrina Higgins was at the store to provide samples of her spices.
Catrina Hill, left, and some of her relatives were at the Kroger store in Tates Creek Centre on Thursday to promote Catrina's Kitchen Southern Spices, which are part of Kroger's Kentucky Proud offerings. Posing with Higgins were Corenza Townsend, middle, and Lesia Hill-Driver. Taking the photo was Armonee Higgins. Catrina Higgins was at the store to provide samples of her spices. Herald-Leader

As shoppers wheeled carts past him, state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced Thursday at the Tates Creek Center store that Kroger has added a host of Kentucky-grown products to its shelves.

The new Kentucky Proud displays amid the fruits and vegetables will highlight products including Preferred Popcorn, Catrina's Kitchen spice mixes, Weisenberger Mill flours and Rock Bottom Goat's Milk soaps.

Altogether, 88 Kroger stores in Kentucky will offer 125 products from 34 producers.

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Kroger sought out the items in response to consumer demand for more locally sourced products, Kroger spokesman Tim McGurk said.

The nation's largest grocery store chain came to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture this summer and asked for help finding local foods. After a food show produced just for Kroger store managers, 88 stores in the state ordered $350,000 worth of items from 34 members of the Kentucky Proud program.

The Kentucky Proud marketing initiative seeks to create new opportunities for farmers and livestock producers in the state, particularly those who operate on a small scale.

Brian Churchill, Indiana operations manager for Preferred Popcorn, said the Kroger program will help sell popcorn grown by 14 Kentucky farmers who produce 20 million pounds of his butter, cheese and jalapeno-flavored popcorn.

"Store managers loved the product," Churchill said. "Now we just need to see it go off the shelves."

Catrina Hill of Louisville said her seasoned mixes were a big hit at the food show.

"This is a wonderful start," she said Thursday as she handed out samples of catfish and chicken prepared with her spicy coatings.

Comer said stores have already reordered some items. Demand for the popcorn in particular "has been overwhelming," he said.

The popcorn and other items follow last year's launch of "Udderly Kentucky" milk, a product unique to the state.

"We're going to continue to promote Kentucky Proud products," Comer said, including with in-store commercials.

"We think agriculture is economic development," Comer said. "When we look to grow the economy in Kentucky, create more jobs, we believe food production should be part of the equation. Through the Kentucky Proud program and partners like Kroger, we're going to see more job creation in this state. And we're going to continue to see increased farm sales."

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