Kroger is the latest retailer to create its own innovation lab, opening the Culinary Innovation Center in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio on Feb. 15.
The opening of a food-oriented Innovation Center is timely as the grocer moves ahead with its Restock Kroger plan. Kroger launched the initiative to invest in technologies that improve the company’s store offerings, personalize communications with customers, revamp product assortment and leverage data-driven shelf optimization.
“As we focus on redefining the customer experience and developing talent through food inspiration and uplift, as outlined in Restock Kroger, this R&D lab will allow us to accelerate product development for Our Brands, produce new recipes for Prep + Pared Meal Kits, explore new restaurant concepts, host food tastings and focus groups, and increase our associates' culinary knowledge.” said Daniel Hammer, VP of Culinary Development and New Business of Kroger in a statement.
Kroger broke ground on the 12,000-square-foot, LEED-designed Center in March 2017. The commercial kitchen features multiple cooking stations, spaces and capabilities, including technology that allows video streaming of educational sessions to Kroger associates across the country.
“This is a smart move,” said Neil Saunders, Managing Director of GlobalData Retail in a RetailWire discussion. “Most U.S. grocers are way behind their UK and global counterparts on food innovation, and I see this as a major opportunity for growth. If you look at how retailers like Marks & Spencer and Waitrose use food innovation to drive sales opportunities, you can see where Kroger may be headed with this initiative. It’s not the total solution, but it’s a good step in the right direction.”
The grocery giant is no stranger to innovation, having already developed solutions that include:
- FAST (Food at Safe Temperature) Alerts, IoT technology installed in 2,800 stores that monitors temperature trends and alerts store management and facilities engineers when anomalies indicate a problem;
- EDGE (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment) shelf-edge high-resolution screens that display prices, nutrition and allergy information, videos and images that might boost sales. EDGE is being tested in approximately 20 Kroger stores and will roll out to more locations in 2018; and
- Scan, Bag, Go, which allows shoppers to scan products with a provided handheld scanner or the Kroger mobile app to speed up self-checkout. The grocer is expanding the technology to 400 stores in 2018.