Kroger’s New Lab Focuses on Digital Grocery Innovation

The lab will focus on connecting with customers and advancing Kroger's digitization efforts.

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Need to Know

  • Kroger is opening a digital innovation lab at Northern Kentucky University in a bid to expand the grocer’s digital strategy.
  • Kroger has also partnered with the University of Cincinnati to form a separate innovation lab.
  • The interest in higher education is rooted in Kroger’s desire to attract a talented technology workforce.
  • Digital sales at Kroger have grown 21% in the last quarter.

Analysis

In its latest digital initiative, Kroger is opening an innovation lab at Northern Kentucky University (NKU). This launch is a continuation of Kroger’s existing partnership with NKU and a natural next step in advancing the supermarket giant’s digital strategy. 

The Kroger Technology & Digital Innovation Lab will allow students to gain hands-on learning experience alongside associates from Kroger’s Research & Development group and will focus on “initiatives that directly impact Kroger customers across the nation, including nutrition, health and wellness and video analytics.”

Says Yael Cosset, senior vice president and chief information officer of Kroger Technology & Digital says “Our partnership with Northern Kentucky University provides the opportunity for our associates to work with NKU faculty and students on projects aimed at solving real, innovative business challenges.”

This is not Kroger’s first initiative involving higher education. The major brand has also partnered with the University of Cincinnati to form its 1819 Innovation Hub last year. This past spring, the lab hosted five interns who worked on numerous research and innovation projects. 

Kroger has also explored other tech-first efforts, such as its “Scan, Bag, Go” program, which allows customers to scan products into the checkout system as they shop. The feature also utilizes digital shelves that enable Kroger to update pricing and to advertise to shoppers. 

Technology-driven initiatives are not new for Kroger. The grocery giant also recently dipped its toes in hydroponic technology, which will allow grocers to grow produce in-store. “Our partnership … allows us to innovate by combining ground-breaking in-store farming technology with our passion for fresh, local produce and ecological sourcing. Kroger is excited to be first to market and offer the best of the season, and we’re proud to lead the U.S. on this journey,” explains Suzy Monford, Kroger’s group vice president of fresh.  

Kroger has also recently targeted the alcohol e-commerce sector, by partnering with DRINKS to provide a build-your-own wine selection and ship-to-home delivery. 

The investment in tech is paying off. In the last quarter, digital sales at Kroger have grown 21%. 

According to Chris Hjelm, Kroger executive vice president, the growing interest in the higher education space for digital projects is “all about talent and how we attract talent for Kroger’s mission, which is increasingly techno-centric.”

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