This June, Kroger launched a Digital Farmers Market initiative to shop locally as they partnered with local farms and businesses.

The e-commerce marketplace for local farmers and businesses was released in June as a delivery-only service that offers a uniquely local assortment by bringing together favorite local vendors – from farmers and bakeries to food artisans. The initial vendor list includes 3Bros Cookies, Cu’i Watermelon Drink, Deer Creek Farm, Just Bakery and Noble Honey.

These products are only available at the Kroger Farmers Market and are not found in stores yet.

Cu’i Watermelon Drink CEO Tanisha Henry discussed the impact of the program for her drink in an interview with the Atlanta Voice.

Henry joined the Digital Farmers Market initiative when a Kroger representative stopped by her stall at the Atlantic Station Farmers market and asked about her drink.

“A lady from Kroger stopped by the booth and was just amazed,” Henry said. “She was like ‘you mean to tell me that that’s a natural juice sitting in the sun and does not have to be refrigerated?’ And she’s like ‘oh my god, you’re exactly what we’re looking for.’”

From there the process began. Henry received an email about the program and the connection was born.

Now working with Kroger, Henry says that she originally approached Kroger five years ago or so in Cu’i’s 10-year history and was unable to make something happen but that’s all changed.

“I’m blown away, I’m so excited to be in the beginning stages of this whole opportunity,” Henry said. “I’m enthused. It was like so exciting, they needed me. They wanted me,” Henry said. “That was really really exciting and I’m so excited to be a part of the program.”

In the first few weeks of the program, Henry says that business hasn’t changed as much but the process included samples being sent in and Kroger gave it a test run to the products that were included in the process.

Cu’i is currently the only juice on the website with the next beverage being a tea-based drink.

Henry started Cu’i because she wanted there to be more health drink options.

“When you’re younger and go in the store, you grab that drink and it’s your favorite drink, you can drink it every day it quenches your thirst and it’s like thank you,” Henry exclaimed. “But now that we’re older, it’s like – not a lot of options. I decided to jump on the bandwagon when everyone was juicing and make my own drink.

“I started juicing watermelons,” she continued. “Which was excellent. It tastes good, it was great to the point I was like, dang I wish I could buy this in the store. And so I decided to do it myself.”

When Henry first started Cu’i she set up a meeting at Whole Food and asked a simple question.

“What do I need to do to get this on your shelves,” Henry said. “They gave me a packet and were like ‘here if you can get through this, you can get on our shelves.’ That packet was my checklist to put my whole entire product together.”

Getting Cu’i on the shelves saw a different process. Henry had to talk with a chemist to do the nutritional panel, watermelon farms to get the best ingredients and even bottling companies. 

Henry admits that she had no clue but she just started putting pieces together.

“That network connection got me connected into the beverage industry,” Henry said. “One person connected me to the next and then it was a ripple effect.”

Although Cu’i is getting bottled in Waco, Texas the drink is still based in Atlanta, Ga., but Henry also revealed her watermelons come from California due to its year-round production.

Although Henry and her Cu’i Watermelon Drink are now with Kroger, this doesn’t mean that Cu’i won’t be out in Atlantic Station anymore. Henry was there recently during the Fourth of July weekend selling her product just like how she started.

Cu'i Watermelon Drink was sold in Atlantic Station for awhile and even to this day, Cu'i and Henry can be found there. (Photo Credit: Tanisha Henry)

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