If you live in the American Midwest or South, you most likely do your grocery shopping at your local Kroger, the country’s largest supermarket chain by revenue, the second-largest general retailer behind Walmart, and the 18th largest company in the country. But have you ever stopped to think about the history of this mega-chain? We bet that there’s a lot you didn’t know about this legendary supermarket.
Kroger was founded way back in 1883 by a grocery store employee named Barney Kroger. When Kroger’s employers, the owners of a company called The Imperial Tea Co., refused to make Kroger a partner, he struck out on his own, using his life savings of $372 to open a grocery store he called The Great Western Tea Co. He re-christened it Kroger Grocery and Baking Co. in 1902, and by the end of the 1920s there were more than 5,500 locations.
In many ways, Kroger invented the modern-day grocery store as we know it. He sold bread and other staples along with general groceries so customers wouldn’t have to shop at multiple stores, and in the 1930s it became the first grocery store chain to monitor product quality and implement strict product-testing standards. In the 1970s, it became the first store to introduce electronic scanning and formalized consumer research. And through a no-holds-barred acquisition plan from its earliest days, it bought out many of its regional competitors, leading to complete industry dominance.
Today, there are 2,778 Kroger or Kroger-affiliated markets in America, with 2017 revenues of a whopping $122.7 billion. It runs a chain of big-box stores called Kroger Marketplace, owns a wide network of manufacturing plants, and it has its hands in a couple non-grocery related industries as well. Even if you’ve never shopped at an actual Kroger, we bet that you’ve contributed to their revenue windfall in one way or another. Read on to learn 10 things you may not have known about Kroger.
Founder Barney Kroger invested in the creation of Provident Bank, and sold his holdings in the company in 1928. He also played a large role in helping to avert a bank crisis in 1933; when a local branch was threatened with a bank run, Kroger withdrew $13 million of his own savings in cash and displayed it at the bank, quelling any fears.
Kroger also owns some other major groceries and superstores (including Dillons, Harris Teeter, Ralph’s, Smith’s, and Fred Meyer); convenience stores (including Kwik Shop, Loaf ‘N Jug, and Tom Thumb Food Stores); jewelry stores (Barclay, Fox’s, and Littman), and even a convenient care clinic chain called The Little Clinic.
Private Selection / Facebook
Kroger owns 37 production plants in 17 states, including dairies, bakeries, grocery plants, beverage plants, and meat plants. The company’s private label brands include P$$T… Check This Out..., Heritage Farm, Banner Brands, Private Selection, and Simple Truth Organic.
For several years starting in 2006, Kroger offered a line called Disney Magic Selections through a partnership with The Walt Disney Company. Many of the products were the same ones that had been on its shelves with private label branding previously, and were simply given new Disney-branded packaging and an increased price.
Kroger introduced Kroger Personal Finance in 2007; through a partnership with Visa it offers store-branded credit cards, mortgages, home equity loans, insurance, and identity theft protection. Shoppers can also sign up for i-wireless at more than 2,000 Kroger-owned stores in 31 states; the plans include monthly, unlimited, or pay-per use, and there are no contracts or activation fees. Customers can also get free minutes by using their shopper’s card.
Yelp/ Ann L.
Called Kitchen 1883, the restaurant is named after the year the first Kroger store opened. It serves confort foods like burgers, barbecue short rib sliders, and chicken and waffles alongside handcrafter cocktails, and it's been such a success that a second location is in the works nearby.
Yelp/ Diana P.
In February 2017, Kroger purchased Murray's Cheese, a legendary New York-based cheese shop that's widely regarded as one of America's best. The chain has opened Murray's counters in several Kroger's locations since then, with many more in the works. We're all in favor of more access to high-quality cheese!
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