Kroger Adds More Robot Fulfillment Centers Including Two for 30 Minute Delivery

Centers are being built in the Northeast, California and Florida.

Supermarket giant Kroger announced today that it will be building out new robot-powered Customer Fulfillment Centers (CFCs) in the Northeast, California and Florida.

These CFCs are smart warehouses that employ extensive use of robotics and software — courtesy of Ocado — to efficiently assemble e-commerce grocery orders for delivery. Kroger wasn’t specific about the exact locations of its forthcoming Northeast and California locations, only that they would offer next- and same-day delivery.

But more intriguing are the facilities Kroger will open in South Florida. According to the press release the move will:

…mark the introduction of two automated local fulfillment centers with Ocado, enabling Kroger Delivery to serve customers as fast as 30 minutes with a selection of 10,000 fresh food items and essentials, and to deliver same-day and next-day orders with 35,000 items.

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Traditionally there have been two main strategies for automated grocery fulfillment: Bigger, centralized facilities that serve a wide area, and smaller micro-fulfillment centers that are built into the back of existing grocery stores.

Kroger has been building out big, dedicated centralized facilities across the country over the past few years. But the big trend grabbing all the headlines (and big funding) for the past twelve months has been on-demand speedy grocery. Here in the U.S., startups like Gopuff, Gorillas, JOKR, Food Rocket and more have launched small, dark delivery-only grocery stores that carry limited inventory and promise to get you your goods in as little as ten minutes.

These new services are clustered in bigger, urban areas — mostly NYC — and there is the overriding question as to whether or not they can even economically scale. But when Gopuff gets more than $3 billion in funding to deliver goods in a half hour around the clock? That puts pressure on other retailers like Kroger.

Kroger isn’t the only one feeling the need for speed. Stop & Shop announced today a partnership with Instacart today to offer half hour grocery delivery across the Northeast.

Between robot warehouses, smart shopping carts and even drones, Kroger has shown it’s not afraid to adapt to new technologies. The question is how big a shift in consumer demand Kroger is predicting. Does Kroger see speedy delivery as a flash in the pan or a deeper change in grocery shopping behavior? In other words, will Kroger speed up its automated speedy delivery rollout?

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