CINNICANTI—Kroger has added two miniature hydroponic produce farms to stores in Bellevue and Kirkland, Washington, with plans for 13 more locations by March 2020, according to GroceryDive.com.
The modular living produce farms use hydroponic technology to grow produce on-site, eliminating the need to transport and store parsley, cilantro and other greens. The technology is from European Infarm, which has 500-plus farms in stores in seven countries: Germany, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Kroger says the farms will produce the freshest, eco-friendly, seasonal produce and that the greens will only need attention from associates once or twice a week. A store spokesperson added the produce will not sell prices higher than Kroger’s existing private label organic produce.
The Kroger-Infarm partnership is a part of the overall industry’s push to meet customer demands for fresher products and lighter environmental impacts, and produce is an important area of the store where most customers still prefer to shop in-person versus online.
By cutting out the supply chain, Kroger has more control over the quality of the produce and can cut down on the use of water, pesticides, fertilizers and emissions from transport. A fresh approach to produce shopping may lure new customers, too. With $60 billion in annual sales, produce is one of the most powerful categories for supermarkets. But growth has slowed lately, with only a 1.7% increase in sales in 2018, according to the Food Marketing Institute. Shoppers however are not buying less produce. Rather, they're shifting their spending, reports FMI. Many have moved away from traditional produce retailers in favor of farmer's markets and natural grocers that offer locally sourced ingredients.
To help NACS retailer and supplier members promote fruit and vegetable sales, the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has collaborated with NACS through the eat brighter!™ program.
The program allows suppliers, distributors and retailers to promote fresh fruits and vegetables with the help of popular Sesame Street character images like Big Bird and Elmo. NACS retailer or supplier members can now pay a one-time administrative fee to gain access to royalty-free images for use on fresh fruit and vegetable packaging and marketing materials.