Kroger is in an expansion mode with its delivery services. The retailer has opened a new spoke in Birmingham, Ala. Serving as a last-mile cross-dock location, the new spoke will operate as a seamless extension of the regional fulfillment center in Atlanta, making Kroger Delivery available to more customers in the greater Birmingham area. Kroger was joined by the local community to officially open the spoke and celebrate the new associates.
"Kroger Delivery starts by bringing the shopping experience to wherever our customers are, whether they are using the Kroger app or browsing our weekly ad at Kroger.com. Here, customers can access our seamless experience that promises an extensive assortment, thousands of digital coupons and an entirely personalized shopping trip," said Bill Bennett, Kroger vice president, and head of e-commerce. "Through this zero-compromise service, customers can get fresh, affordable groceries brought to their door through a best-in-class white glove delivery experience, enabled by our refrigerated trucks and amazing trained drivers. This cutting-edge technology sets a new unmatched standard for grocery delivery."
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Local shoppers also have access to the newly launched Boost by Kroger annual membership program. For either $59 or $99 per year, Boost provides customers with benefits like unlimited free delivery on orders of $35 or more and two Fuel Points for every $1 spent on groceries and general merchandise purchases through delivery, pickup and in-stores. Kroger estimates the membership can save customers more than $1,000 per year on fuel and grocery delivery.
The approximately 50,000-sq.-ft. facility will work in conjunction with the Atlanta fulfillment center, increasing the network's reach to customers up to 90 minutes from the hub. The facility is located on West Oxmoor Drive in Birmingham's Jefferson County and will employ more than 160 associates.
"For people who live in food deserts, getting groceries can be a real challenge. Eliminating the distance to the grocery store from the doorstep can positively impact our citizens who are most in need of healthy food options. As a community we are excited about Kroger choosing Birmingham for this expansion and are eager to partner with them in exploring more ways to solve for food deserts," said Cornell Wesley, director of the department of innovation and economic opportunity for the City of Birmingham.
[Read more: Kroger expands delivery in the South, Midwest]
"The Birmingham Business Alliance team was proud to assist Kroger with their momentous launch in the Birmingham market. Kroger's commitment to being a champion employer for our community has been evident since day one, and we are looking forward to supporting their continued success here," said Emily Jerkins Hall, president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance.
The expansion to Birmingham is the result of a partnership between Kroger and Ocado Group. In 2018, the companies announced a collaboration to establish a delivery network that combines artificial intelligence, advanced robotics and automation.
The delivery network relies on highly automated fulfillment centers. At the hub sites, more than 1,000 bots move around giant 3D grids, orchestrated by proprietary control systems. The grid, known as The Hive, contains totes with products and ready-to-deliver customer orders. As customers' orders near delivery times, bots retrieve products from The Hive and present them at pick stations for items to be sorted for delivery, a process governed by algorithms that ensure items are intelligently packed. For example, fragile items are placed on top, bags are evenly weighted and each order is optimized to fit into the lowest number of bags, reducing plastic use. Bags also are recyclable, reflecting Kroger's commitment to its Zero Hunger | Zero Waste commitment to rid its communities of hunger and waste.
[Read more: Kroger's Boost membership launches nationally]
Kroger's end-to-end cold solutions keep groceries fresh once loaded into customized refrigerated delivery van, which can store up to 20 orders. Powerful machine learning algorithms optimize delivery routes, considering factors such as road conditions and optimal fuel efficiency. Vans may travel up to 90 miles with orders from the hub and spoke facilities to make deliveries. Associates at the spoke facility will deliver orders within their service area, adding ZIP codes as demand grows.