The Kroger Express concept, which combines Kroger’s “grocery authority” with Walgreens’ “expertise in pharmacy, health, and beauty,” will roll out to 13 Walgreens stores in Northern Kentucky.
"This concept brings together the best of two great brands to rethink convenience and redefine the way America shops for food," Rodney McMullen, Kroger's chairman and CEO, said.
The first concept is operational in Florence, Kentucky, with the remaining 12 pilot stores to open early next year, the companies said.
“The Kroger Express concept creates easy access to our most popular Our Brands products through a fill-in grocery shopping experience for Walgreens customers,” said Robert Clark, Kroger's senior vice president of merchandising.
The smaller-format stores will offer 2,300 products (a typical US grocery store contains nearly 50,000, according to the Food Marketing Institute) including Home Chef meal kits, national brands, and Kroger’s private label ‘Our Brands’ products (including Kroger’s organic Simple Truth brand).
"This innovative new concept is an opportunity to test and learn, as we determine how we can best work together to further elevate our customer offering," said Stefano Pessina, executive vice chairman and CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc.
"We continue to evolve our offerings to meet the changing needs of our customers and provide a more differentiated shopping experience. We've been implementing new approaches to promotions, product selection and other areas to deliver greater value in our stores,"
Home Chef expands to Walgreens
Since Kroger acquired Home Chef for $200m earlier this year, the meal kit company has rolled out to 225 Midwest Kroger locations with additional markets to be added in 2019.
The idea behind adding meal kits to store shelves was meant to capture shoppers right in the meal planning mindset with a convenient, planned out fresh meal.
In October, Home Chef meals introduced an even simpler version of its offerings with the ‘Express’ meal kit products ready in 15 minutes.
Home Chef Express meal kits – two-serving recipes that rotate biweekly – will now be available at 65 Walgreens stores.
"Customers have responded favorably to the retail meal kits at our Mariano's stores in the market and other Kroger Family of Stores located in different cities. The Walgreens expansion provides more Chicagoans convenient access to a quick, simple meal," Clark said.
"Making Home Chef Express meals available at Walgreens is another way Home Chef is making meal time easy," added Pat Vihtelic, Home Chef CEO and founder.
Big retailers going small
The Kroger, Walgreens store concept fits into a larger trend of brick & mortar grocery evolving to meet immediate consumer needs through smaller formats that squeeze the most value out of every store inch with curated product selections and services, according to SPS Commerce, a cloud-based management software company catering to retailers and suppliers.
“The smaller stores emphasize shopper convenience of being able to get in and out of the store quickly because it takes less time to get to the back of the store and all the different departments,” wrote Bekki Windsperger, senior customer strategist at SPS Commerce.
“Additionally, many are catering to different types of shopping ‘units’ – not just the families with parents and two or three kids who buy the bulk packs of pork chops, but couples, retirees, singles and college students.”
Outside of Kroger and Walgreen, other large retailers such as Walmart and Target have introduced downsized versions of their stores.