Kroger dedicates new research center to food innovation
While many retailers have opened innovation centers in recent years focused on technology, Kroger last week opened a Culinary Innovation Center in downtown Cincinnati.
The test kitchen and education center, measuring 12,000-square-feet, features multiple cooking stations, spaces and capabilities.
In a statement, Daniel Hammer, Kroger’s VP of culinary development and new business, said the R&D lab will allow Kroger to accelerate product development for its private labels, produce new recipes for Prep + Pared Meal Kits, explore new restaurant concepts, host food tastings and focus groups, and increase associates’ culinary knowledge. Kroger will stream video of educational sessions for its associates across the country.
Mr. Hammer noted that the center supports Kroger’s “focus on redefining the customer experience and developing talent through food inspiration and uplift as outlined in Restock Kroger.”
The Restock Kroger initiative includes reducing capital investments in new stores while building out its e-commerce and omnichannel businesses, using technology to optimize product assortments and investing in customer service. Expanding its private brand business, which has grown from $15 billion to $20 billion from 2011 to 2017, was also called out as an ongoing focus with Restock Kroger.
Kroger’s statement on the innovation center opening also noted that the company introduced its first restaurant concept, Kitchen 1883, in November 2017 and plans to “rapidly” expand its Prep+Pared Meal Kits, introduced earlier last year.
The opening comes days after Kroger held its second Natural Foods Innovation Summit in Cincinnati to support new brands and products. Said Mr. Hammer, “Kroger has operated grocery stores since 1883; we know food. People will always eat, but the way they eat will always change. Our new center is one more tool we have to keep our pulse on customer trends and expand our foodie culture.”
In late January, Kroger was rumored to be close to acquiring Boxed.com, the bulk e-grocer, a potential move some felt was a response to Amazon, Walmart and Target all investing aggressively in online grocery.
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DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What will Kroger gain from its Culinary Innovation Center? Should food innovation be just as important as tech innovation to Kroger and other grocers?