Expanding its commitment to fostering diversity across food and grocery, convenience store of the future Foxtrot announced its plans to recognize female entrepreneurs in a big way and create actionable change within the food and beverage industry.

On International Women’s Day (March 8), Foxtrot announced that it will increase its female-led brands by 50 percent over the next year. It’s kicking this off as part of its second annual “Up & Comers” awards, an initiative designed to celebrate small makers and discover the next generation of leading food and beverage brands. This year’s awards program brings a dedicated focus to finding, inspiring, nurturing, and recognizing female and femme-identifying food entrepreneurs.  

The decision comes after a recent brand audit revealed that 65 percent of Foxtrot shoppers are women (70-80 percent in retail nationwide), but only 15 percent of the brands they carry are female-led — a statistic likely similar to other leading grocers.

The Up & Comers awards will bring together a powerhouse group of female culinary leaders as award judges and will provide mentorship to winners. The list includes Marguerite Zabar Mariscal (CEO, Momofuku), Christina Tosi (Founder, Milk Bar), Vanessa Pham (Founder, Omsom), and more. 

Founded in 2014, Foxtrot was created to modernize the nostalgic corner store experience by creating a digital-first e-commerce platform paired with a beautiful retail experience that fulfills daily needs with the most delicious local purveyors alongside new, trending brands from around the world. As the company continues to grow with 50 new stores planned to open in the next two years, Foxtrot has continuously acted as an incubator for small and local businesses by giving them the chance to test products on their shelves. Building off this approach, this year’s Up & Comers aims to help women-led small businesses gain exposure by showcasing winners in-store and online. 

With this initiative, Foxtrot hopes to shine a light on the unique needs of women who own their own small business, which accounts for 31 percent of all small businesses or franchises in the U.S. Unfortunately, 66 percent of entrepreneurial women still report significant challenges in securing the funding they need. By offering exposure on-shelf, in addition to capital to support their businesses, Foxtrot aims to drive a larger narrative on the responsibility of the industry to uplift women, especially due to the fact that female-founded and co-founded startups have a higher success rate according to leading research. 

When Foxtrot introduced Up & Comers in 2021, only 10 percent of applicants were women, but accounted for half of the award finalists, signaling the need to do more to uplift this community. Foxtrot currently carries more than 100 women-owned brands, which includes over 450 total SKUs. As the brand casts a spotlight on female founders, they’ve announced the commitment to increase this number of brands by 50 percent in the next year, as part of their continued mission to make their shelves more reflective of the communities and customers they serve.

“Our Up & Comers program embodies what we do at Foxtrot every day — discovering small makers who are just as passionate about food as we are, and bringing their delicious and best-in-class products to our customers to enjoy,” said Carla Dunham, Chief Marketing Officer at Foxtrot. “We’re committed to making our shelves reflect the customers we serve and continuing to support small makers everywhere. Up & Comers is designed to open the door for the countless entrepreneurs, and specifically women and BIPOC-founded brands, who don’t have access to the resources to grow their business. We’re excited about the growth we have ahead as a company and we want to use our momentum to support these talented makers.”

Through April 4, 2022, owners and makers are encouraged to apply to the Up & Comers Awards for a chance to be sold in Foxtrot stores and nationally via Foxtrot Anywhere. Given the inclusive nature of this program, submissions from all genders will be accepted, though two prizes — the Hero Winner and Cherry Bombe’s Women in Food Award — are reserved for women-led businesses. In addition to in-store and online retail, Foxtrot is committed to donating $200,000 in funding and marketing support to winners and will feature winning brands on-shelves for at least one business quarter. 

“Milk Bar has proudly appeared on Foxtrot shelves since our launch in grocery in 2020, and I am so excited to join forces with them to shine a light on talented women in the food and beverage industry,” said Christina Tosi, Founder and CEO of Milk Bar. “I’m honored to lend my POV and support to this year’s contest alongside an incredible group of changemakers and look forward to getting to know even more talented female founders and entrepreneurs.”

There will be six total winners, all of which will be sold at Foxtrot for at least one business quarter, breaking down to one Hero Winner and five Category Winners: Ingredient Innovation; Cherry Bombe’s Women in Food Award; Just Damn Good; Classic Product Reimagined; and Fan Favorite (voted on via Foxtrot’s website).

The Hero Winner will also receive $25,000 to be put towards their business, along with $45,000 in marketing support. They will additionally receive a mentorship session with three judges. Category Winners will receive $5,000 of business support and $20,000 in marketing support.

New this year, Foxtrot will bring Up & Comers to life through events in three markets: Chicago, Austin, and Washington, DC., which will invite local foodies to interact with a panel of female powerhouses to discuss working as women in food. Hosted and moderated by Kerry Diamond (Founder, Cherry Bombe), Carla Dunham (CMO, Foxtrot), and Ashley Alden (VP of Merchandising, Foxtrot), panelists will include local entrepreneurial women in the food industry in addition to established national brand leaders.

Given the inclusive nature of this program, submissions from all genders will be accepted. Learn more about how to submit for Up & Comers and attend local events here.