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Kroger enhances the food experience

Treasure EmporiYUM to expand; eateries set for new Cincy store

The Kroger Co. is sweetening its appeal to foodies with the rollout of a new private-brand merchandising concept and a new urban supermarket with in-store dining.

Over the summer, Kroger plans to roll out the Treasure EmporiYUM to about 200 Marketplace format stores and their online shopping sites, Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen said at the company’s annual shareholders meeting. Banners with Marketplace locations include Kroger, Smith’s, King Soopers, Dillons and Fry’s.

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A food merchandising vehicle, Treasure EmporiYUM showcases select products from Kroger’s roster of exclusive brands, known as Our Brands. The eye-catching, center-store display is designed to generate excitement in new and one-of-a-kind flavors. Its signage touts “a trove of fantastically unique finds” to shoppers.

EmporiYUM items are highlighted across the store with “X marks the spot” shelf tags to create a treasure hunt-style shopping experience for customers. The concept also has its own website and a colorful magazine offered in print at the display and as a digital version online. Both tell the story of how Kroger curated the items and provide more information about the products, along with recipes and other content.

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“Kroger has a world-class food innovation team that provides our customers new and exciting ways to enjoy food they can only get by coming to Kroger,” McMullen told shareholders. “This summer, we will be introducing Treasure EmporiYUM, a curated collection of trend-inspired Our Brands products, in nearly 200 Marketplace stores across the country and through our e-commerce site.”

The Cincinnati-based retailer began testing EmporiYUM last fall at a Kroger store in Newport, Ky. Products spotlighted in the display have included craft sodas and snacks such as chips and nuts; frozen food such as pizza, shrimp, ice cream, treats and hors d’oeuvres; olives and olive oils; small-batch sauces, including steak, barbecue and mac-and-cheese sauce; a range of Italian pastas and tomato and cream sauces; and Fair Trade organic coconut waters.

Brands featured in EmporiYUM include the Kroger label as well as Private Selection, Simple Truth and HemisFares.

“Customer-focused innovation is a part of who we are. One of the most powerful examples of this is Our Brands. Six years ago, Simple Truth did not exist. Now it is the largest natural and organic brand in the country, reaching more than $2.3 billion in sales annually,” McMullen said.

“The team behind Our Brands is always innovating and developing new products for our customers,” he added. “In 2018, we introduced more than 1,000 new products, and 200 alone in the last quarter.”

Food hall on the way

Kroger also aims to bring customers a unique food experience with a new two-story store slated to open in downtown Cincinnati in September, replacing the retailer’s Vine Street location.

Situated at Central Parkway and Walnut Street, adjacent to Kroger’s headquarters, the 45,000-square-foot Kroger store will house a bar and a five-vendor food hall. The location — reportedly the area’s first new supermarket in decades — will anchor an 18-story, mixed-use tower developed by Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC), which is revitalizing the city’s downtown and connecting its Central Business District and Over-the-Rhine (OTR) sections.

“We are especially excited about all the progress we’ve made toward opening our new downtown store at Walnut Street and Central Parkway. Opening this September, the store will offer fresh food and delicious dining options to residents and working professionals in Over-the-Rhine, Downtown and the West End,” McMullen said at the shareholders meeting.

“The new store will be 45,000 square feet, which is twice the size of our Vine Street location,” he noted. “We will offer a greater variety of traditional supermarket items and additional food options, including fresh prepared meals. The store will also feature a Murray’s Cheese Bar, a Starbucks and an amazing food hall.”

McMullen said the food hall will feature the five local restaurants, including Eli’s BBQ, Dope Asian Street Fare, Django Western Taco, Queen City Whip and Kroger’s Kitchen 1883 Café and Bar.

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“When the new store opens, all Vine Street store associates will relocate to the new store or a nearby store,” he added. “At that time, Kroger will donate the Vine Street property to 3CDC to help them continue their efforts to revitalize OTR.”

Eli’s BBQ already has three of its five outlets inside three Kroger supermarkets, including two in Cincinnati and one in the Newport, Ky., store. According to the Cincinnati Business Courier, the food hall at the upcoming Kroger store in downtown Cincy will be similar to that of the retailer’s Mariano’s stores in metropolitan Chicago.

In late March, Mariano’s opened a new concept, Rouxster’s Cookhouse, at its Bronzeville, Ill., store, and the banner soon plans to open another at its Park Ridge, Ill., store. Just days before, barbecue food chain Pork & Mindy’s launched mini restaurants in both locations, the first of more than 20 to be opened this year across Mariano’s 44 Chicago-area stores.

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