Kroger announced on Friday that it will build out its next automated customer fulfillment center (CFC) in Phoenix, AZ. This marks Kroger’s first robot-powered warehouse in the U.S. Southwest region.
These CFCs use robotic technology from UK grocery Ocado (which Kroger is an investor in). Online orders are assembled automatically inside the center through a series of totes on rails, and packaged up for delivery.
Kroger announced a few years back that it would build out 20 such warehouses across the U.S., and has since started work on sites in a number of different locations including: Monroe, OH, Groveland, FL, Forest Park, GA, Dallas, TX, and Pleasant Prairie, WI, Frederick, MD, Romulus, MI, as well as the Pacific Northwest, Great Lakes and West Regions. The first Kroger CFC is expected to open in Monroe this year.
Grocery e-commerce, which got a boost last year thanks to the pandemic, is expected to become the new normal for many shoppers. Online grocery is projected to grow over the coming years and take up 21.5 percent of overall grocery sales by 2025.
As such, grocery retailers are building out a variety of automated systems to keep up with that increased demand. While Kroger is building out these centralized delivery warehouses that serve large areas of customers, others are taking a more local approach. Albertsons built out micro-fulfillment centers in the backs of two of its Bay Area stores, and is expanding to more. And Texas grocery chain H-E-B is adding automated micro-fulfillment to a number of its locations.
Kroger’s CFCs are the opposite of “micro” fulfillment. The forthcoming Phoenix facility will be 200,000 sq. ft., and will open 24 months after groundbreaking to support customers across Arizona.