Bi-Lo wants to encourage more locally made goods at its grocery stores throughout the Carolinas.
The Greenville, S.C., grocery chain is expanding its “Bi-LOcal” program, which gives local businesses the chance to have their products sold at local Bi-Lo stores, into the North Carolina and South Carolina. Bi-Lo will host a pitch event April 16 in Greenville, S.C., where selected entrepreneurs can showcase their products to a selection committee.
“We started this program in January of last year when we purchased Piggly-Wiggly stores and we saw the real love for, need for and call for local products that Piggly-Wiggly carried. We wanted to meet that demand with our customers,” Nicole Hatfield, senior manager of local business for Bi-Lo Holdings, told the Observer.
In the selection process, Hatfield said Bi-Lo puts out a call for local products, which are sent to its supplier diversity team to determine which are “retail-ready,” meaning they have been shelf-life tested and have a UPC code and ingredient information. Bi-Lo’s merchandising team then determines which products go on to the pitch event.
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The program, Hatfield said, helps streamline the sometimes arduous process for small businesses of getting sold at big grocery stores.
“It can be a tedious process even for the biggest national brand company. What this is doing is really trying to help those smaller vendors get onto the shelf,” Hatfield said.
If a product doesn’t make the cut, Hatfield said, Bi-Lo works with the business to help develop the item, whether it be through packaging or labeling.
The Bi-LOcal program is a multi-state initiative that launched in Charleston in 2014. In a statement, Bi-Lo said it’s looking for products such as sauces and marinades, packaged spices and rubs, health and beauty products and fresh local produce. All products must have been made in North Carolina or South Carolina, have a UPC code and be delivered Directed Store Delivery (DSD.)
Bi-Lo operates about 214 grocery stores across Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and North Carolina, including about 25 stores in the Charlotte metro area.