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The Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Kroger is expanding its partnership with delivery service Instacart, with plans to have it available in 120 metropolitan markets around the country, or roughly 1600 of its stores.

The story says that “Kroger customers will be able to use the new service via the supermarket's web site or mobile app. Customers choose items they want to purchase then arrange to have it delivered to their home.

“Under pressure by digital juggernaut Amazon, which delivers a selection of groceries, Cincinnati-based Kroger has ramped up its home-delivery options with a series of distribution services. While Kroger has signed Uber and Shipt to provide delivery in some markets, the latest deal makes Instacart the grocer's major delivery service.”

TechCrunch writes that this deal “builds on Instacart’s momentum, following partnership deals with chains like Albertsons, Aldi, Sam’s Club, and Loblaw.

“In all, Instacart is now available to 70 percent of all households across the country. Last year, the company announced its goal to reach 80 percent of U.S. households by the end of 2018, and its most recent funding round seems to be propelling the startup to achieve that goal.”

And, the Dallas Morning News reports that Kroger is expanding its new Kroger Ship service - which is a “ stock-up service for its 4,500 Kroger-branded products and … 50,000 other center-aisle groceries, household cleaning products and pet foods,” delivered via FedEx or the US Postal Service (USPS) in one to three business days - to the Dallas marketplace.

At the same time, Kroger announced that it is partnering with the university of Cincinnati’s 1819 Innovation Hub to operate an innovation lab that will serve as a “destination for thinking, making, doing, discovery, and delivery.” The lab will be staffed by engineers and software developers, and will offer a student co-op and internship program.

"Kroger's new partnership with the University of Cincinnati is one more way we are investing to create the now and future of retail," Kroger's Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer Chris Hjelm said in a prepared statement. "This innovative collaboration is driven by Restock Kroger and provides the Kroger Technology team another creative space to partner and develop solutions to redefine the grocery customer experience."
KC's View:
I applaud Kroger for being aggressive about this stuff, but my concerns about the Instacart alliance remain.

If it is just a short-term solution for Kroger, that’s fine … sometimes you have to make such moves in order to jump start the system, while simultaneously looking for longer term solutions that will allow it to really own the delivery experience, not outsource it to a company that also is doing business with competitors. Instacart ought not be anybody’s long-term solution … its business model is god for Instacart, but not sustainable for anyone else.

Unless, of course, Kroger is toying with the idea of buying Instacart. In which case it is only everyone else doing business with Instacart that ought to be concerned.