Kroger plans to roll out Home Chef meal kits to 500 more stores

Kroger Co. will begin selling meal kits from its Home Chef unit to 500 additional Kroger-owned stores in markets across 15 states and allow customers who buy the kits online to customize their meals.

With the expansion, Home Chef kits will be available at more than 700 of Kroger’s nearly 2,800 retail food stores, which operate under a variety of banner names.  The company says it expects to roll out the brand at more stores this year, as well as to introduce additional Home Chef products, but did not provide specifics.

The grocery retailer last year paid $200 million to acquire Home Chef, a brand that was born online and still sells subscription meal-kit plans and kitchenware via

Home Chef also recently introduced a feature it calls Customize It that enables online shoppers to swap, double or upgrade ingredients in the meal kits they buy. The company added the option in response to customer requests, says Home Chef CEO Pat Vihtelic.

Home Chef, founded in 2013, says it delivers more than 3 million meals per month. In December, Kroger started selling Home Chef meal kits in 65 Walgreens locations in the Chicago area.

Since last year, Kroger has been working on a strategic plan, called Restock Kroger. Among other things, the goal is to expand Kroger’s digital and ecommerce efforts and make broader use of personalized customer data.

Speaking at the National Retail Federation 2019 conference in New York City in January, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said the Restock Kroger strategy aims to transform Kroger into a growth company. Initiatives include offering 100 SKUs on Alibaba’s TmallChinese marketplace, an investment and exclusive agreement with U.K.-based Ocado Group PLC, developing products for its organic line of products Simple Truth, grocery order pickup at Walgreens stores and introducing scan-and-go shopping technology in Kroger stores.

Last year, Kroger agreed to buy a stake in Ocado and license Ocado technology that helps other grocers run automated warehouses and deliver food to customers’ doors. Ocado is No. 22 in the Internet Retailer Europe 500.

Kroger also has teamed up with Microsoft Corp. to test new in-store shopping features, which include “digital shelves” that can show ads and change prices on the fly and sensors that keep track of products and help speed shoppers through the aisles.


New multi-level H-E-B opens in Houston

Houston Heights -area residents can now shop in their new 92,000-square-foot, multi-level H-E-B. The grocery store opened at 2300 N. Shepherd Drive and is just the second multi-level H-E-B in the Houston area.

It offers a large variety of beer and wine options, fresh produce, Texas-made goods and H-E-B Meal Simple and H-E-B Organics products. Some other features include a colorful floral department, a coffee shop called The Roastery, a bakery and both seafood and meat markets. Shoppers can also take advantage of the store’s Curbside Pickup and home delivery options.

“It’s been very exciting for all of us. We’ve really been focused on bringing the community a very unique store that speaks to the culture and the needs and desires of the Heights customers and community,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B group vice president of public affairs, diversity and environmental affairs.

Area residents have been “incredibly happy” about the arrival of the new store, Herron said, noting that a video posted recently by H-E-B promoting the opening garnered hundreds of positive responses and only one negative one.

A special Sip + Stroll event held at the store for the opening brought out members of H-E-B leadership and community influencers. Scott McClelland, president of H-E-B in Houston, said he had long “coveted” a store in the Heights and was thrilled about building new relationships in the area.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever been more excited about a store opening than this one because this one truly is a community effort because if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here right now,” he said. “This one took you all helping us pass the alcohol ordinance because without out that, we couldn’t have built. And what we promised was if you passed it, we would give you a store that you would be very proud of.”

The new ordinance allows the new store to sell beer and wine.

Herron said the multi-level store was designed to provide an extensive inventory on a relatively small property of just 3.5 acres. Parking is on the first level, and special escalators and elevators allow customers to get their shopping carts up and down from their vehicles.

In a special Heights touch, shoppers can marvel at 13 sweater-wearing chicken sculptures created by a local artist as they approach the second level. Also, large letters spell out “Heights” without the I because customers themselves create that letter, McClelland said.

Being active in the communities H-E-B serves is important to the San Antonio-based grocer. In recent months, the H-E-B Heights team has been out at events like Lights in the Heights, helping out with Kids’ Meals and providing meals at the Heights Manor Apartments.

H-E-B also presented two $5,000 checks to the animal shelter Friends for Life and to HITS Theatre, which provides arts education to Houston children.

“Really when I think about this, we’re here before in the community, and we’re going to be long after the store opens,” Herron said. “That’s what our commitment is all about.”

After months of effort by not only H-E-B but members of the Heights community, the new store was celebrated with toast before the Sip + Stroll guests went inside the store to explore.

“I’d say in the 28 years I’ve been with H-E-B, this is the first time that we’ve ever done an alcohol toast at a store opening,” McClelland said with a smile. “You’ve got to start somewhere, so let’s start in the Heights. This store wouldn’t be happening if it wasn’t for what’s in this glass. Here’s to a successful new store and here’s to the Heights. Drink up.”