- Kroger opened a new fresh-focused convenience store in Columbus, Ohio called Fresh Eats MKT on Wednesday, according to Supermarket News. The small-format store will carry many grocery staples, including produce, meat, dairy and bakery items.
- In a presentation earlier this week, Kroger chief financial officer Mike Schlotman called the concept a “small test” for the company, and noted it’s a “different kind of convenience store.”
- Kroger could be rebranding its existing Turkey Hill convenience stores to Fresh Eats MKT. A Turkey Hill manager contacted by Supermarket News said the store was transitioning to the new brand.
Although Fresh Eats MKT may just be a limited test, Kroger clearly sees an opportunity to offer fresh convenience that caters to consumers’ growing preference for quick shopping trips. According to research firm IRI, two-thirds of all shopping trips these days are so-called “quick trips” for fill-in groceries and meals.
It’s the same opportunity that c-stores, which hit record sales last year, are seeing. After years of being known primarily for slushed ice, microwaveable burritos and bags of chips, operators like Sheetz, Wawa and Loop Neighborhood are selling fresh sandwiches, salads, soups and even bins of fresh produce.
Turkey Hill Minit Markets, Kroger’s c-store banner that operates more than 200 locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio, has also stepped up its selection of grab-and-go and on-site prepared foods. The suggestion that Kroger may rebrand Turkey Hill as Fresh Eats MKT suggests the preference for a newer, stronger name, and perhaps a deeper refresh of store offerings.
Indeed, grocers have long operated convenience stores, and now some of them are beginning to convert those formats into what are essentially mini grocery stores. Giant Eagle is rebranding its GetGo gas stations as GetGo Café + Market, for example. In addition to offering more fresh foods, Giant Eagle scaled back the traditional gas station look, getting rid of the curbs surrounding the store and placing fuel pumps in back. Hy-Vee is also updating its convenience stores to include more groceries and prepared foods.
Along with the addition of fresh foods comes another intriguing option for grocers’ c-stores: online order pickup. Wal-Mart is currently testing two “Pickup and Fuel” locations, while Giant Eagle has stated it hopes to add online order pickup to its GetGo Café + Market locations. It will be interesting to see if other retailers engage with this trend and if these supermarket-style c-stores will further change shopper purchasing behavior.