As C-stores continue to adopt fresh food items and grocery store influences, an emerging trend is grocery chains launching their own c-store offerings. This turn of events makes sense, as larger grocers have the experience in providing produce and made-to-order deli items.
Other chains have already tried bringing their grocery and retail expertise to the convenience market. These giants include Amazon, Dollar General, Wal-Mart, and more. Kroger is joining some pretty distinguished company with this endeavor, and it promises to be an interesting ride.
Fresh Eats MKT
Kroger’s new concept is designed around offering a full-fledged c-store experience. Branded as Fresh Eats MKT, it’s obvious that the chain is focusing on fresh food items and quick service grocery purchases. Rather than scaling the size of the store down, the flagship location is an impressive 12,000 square foot building with an attached Starbucks, Coca-Cola Freestyle machines, a drive-thru grocery pickup lane, and more.
An Easy Leap
The company also owns nearly 1,500 grocery stores with attached fueling stations, making the idea an obvious choice. In addition to grocery stores with gas purchasing options, the chain also owns over 780 standalone convenience stores. Push these concepts together and Fresh Eats MKT isn’t such an odd idea after all.
The larger retail store size paired with the variety of offerings seems to be pointing less to a concept of Kroger adopting a traditional c-store role, but rather an attempt at blending retail ideas. This may be a direct response to Amazon Go, and if nothing else, is a reassuring step to stay relevant with the times.
In fact, looking at the amount of fresh produce and food items, including fruits, vegetables, and bakery items, the store does not resemble a c-store much except for the attached quick service Starbucks and the checkout counter.
As of now, the only Fresh Eats MKT is in Blacklick, Ohio, with the jury still being out on whether the company will build more locations. There are rumors of two more locations opening in Columbus and New Albany, but only time will tell.
True C-Store, or Smaller Grocery Chain?
Given the push into standalone c-store offerings, it would be easy to become nervous at Kroger’s newest chain. However, with only one finished location and larger store format, Fresh Eats MKT may wind up simply scaling down the grocery experience. Whether this new offering will be a direct competitor to established c-stores cannot be determined just yet.
So, the good news: It isn’t time to panic just yet.
The important news: This move by Kroger is just one of several steps taken by a major retail chain to enter the convenience shopping market. In short, the industry is changing. And whether it’s Amazon Go, Kroger, or something else: independent operators need to be prepared to change with the times.
Now is the time to upgrade your back-office systems, streamline your processes, and step up your marketing, customer acquisition, and loyalty-building strategies. Like it or not, changes are coming to the industry and remaining competitive and ahead of the curve are a must.
Read more about convenience store news and industry trends here.