Kroger Explores “Farm-to-Aisle” Grocery Shopping

Earlier this week, Bloomberg writers Deena Shanker and Matthew Boyle reported that, “Visitors to Seattle-area Kroger supermarkets next week will be able to walk out with fresh parsley, cilantro and other greens grown in the store, the latest example of grocers bringing the farm right to their aisles.

“Kroger’s deal with German startup Infarm includes two stores with plans for 13 more to come online by March of next year. It’s part of a broader push by the nation’s biggest traditional supermarket chain to improve sluggish sales by amping up its fresh-food offering, while also enhancing its environmental cred. The greens—including crystal lettuce and Nero Di Toscana kale—only need tending once or twice a week and will sell for no more than Kroger’s existing store-brand organic produce, according to Suzy Monford, Kroger’s group vice president of fresh.

“‘We’re removing touches in the supply chain, which is more economical and allows us to pass those savings along to customers,’ Monford said in an interview. ‘We know that fresh food drives shopping trips and it’s a real differentiator.'”

The Bloomberg article stated that, “In 2013, vertical farming startups received $4.5 million in venture funding, according to AgFunder, an investor in food and ag tech companies with an active media and research arm. In just the first half of 2019, they raised $140 million. Infarm, for its part, raised $100 million in a Series B round in June.

As these new forms of farming gain steam, the companies behind them are looking for ways to appeal to major customers and, ultimately, the consumer at the store. Brooklyn-based Square Roots builds farms inside of refurbished shipping containers, and recently announced a new partnership in Grand Rapids, Michigan, putting the containers at the headquarters for food distributor Gordon Food Service. Gotham Greens, a Brooklyn-based greenhouse grower, has six locations in New York and Chicago, including on the rooftop of a Whole Foods. Indoor vertical farming company Plenty, which raised $200 million in a Series B round in 2017 from the likes of Jeff Bezos, recently announced a soccer-field sized farm planned for Compton, California.

“While farming models differ, the basic pitch remains the same: Growing food closer to the urban shopper, in computer-controlled micro-climates, means less transport, less water usage and less pesticides, fertilizer or food safety concerns, if any at all, all while delivering more shelf life, more flavor, and overall, a better eating experience.”

The Bloomberg article added that, “Kroger’s Monford admits that the company still has ‘a lot to learn’ about in-store farming, but says the venture’s environmental footprint is pretty minimal. ‘It’s just water and light.'”

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