Kroger Co. will begin selling meal kits from its Home Chef unit to 500 additional Kroger-owned stores in markets across 15 states and allow customers who buy the kits online to customize their meals.
With the expansion, Home Chef kits will be available at more than 700 of Kroger’s nearly 2,800 retail food stores, which operate under a variety of banner names. The company says it expects to roll out the brand at more stores this year, as well as to introduce additional Home Chef products, but did not provide specifics.
The grocery retailer, which ranks No. 86 in the Internet Retailer Top 500, last year paid $200 million to acquire Home Chef, a brand that was born online and still sells subscription meal-kit plans and kitchenware via HomeChef.com.
Home Chef also recently introduced a feature it calls Customize It that enables online shoppers to swap, double or upgrade ingredients in the meal kits they buy. The company added the option in response to customer requests, says Home Chef CEO Pat Vihtelic.
Home Chef, founded in 2013, says it delivers more than 3 million meals per month. In December, Kroger started selling Home Chef meal kits in 65 Walgreens locations in the Chicago area.
Since 2017, Kroger has been working on a strategic plan, called Restock Kroger. Among other things, the goal is to expand Kroger’s digital and ecommerce efforts and make broader use of personalized customer data.
Speaking at the National Retail Federation 2019 conference in New York City in January, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said the Restock Kroger strategy aims to transform Kroger into a growth company. Initiatives include offering 100 SKUs on Alibaba’s Tmall Chinese marketplace, an investment and exclusive agreement with U.K.-based Ocado Group PLC, developing products for its organic line of products Simple Truth, grocery order pickup at Walgreens stores and introducing scan-and-go shopping technology in Kroger stores.
Last year, Kroger agreed to buy a stake in Ocado and license Ocado technology that helps other grocers run automated warehouses and deliver food to customers’ doors. Ocado is No. 22 in the Internet Retailer Europe 500.
Kroger also has teamed up with Microsoft Corp. to test new in-store shopping features, which include “digital shelves” that can show ads and change prices on the fly and sensors that keep track of products and help speed shoppers through the aisles.