Kroger is testing unmanned vehicles to be used for delivery. CONTRIBUTED

How 10 big moves from Kroger will affect 2019 grocery shopping

Kroger made several moves in 2018 in a race among grocery stores to be the most convenient.

Changing consumer habits have forced area retailers to evolve, accelerated by Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods Market in 2017. Throughout 2018, Cincinnati-based Kroger has made major moves to beat the curve when it comes to convenience and technology.

Here are 10 big moves this year that shoppers can expect to impact 2019.

Kroger has significantly invested in renovating Miami Valley stores over the last year as part of Restock Kroger plan. In total, more than 1,000 stores are affected by plans to optimize space and enhance technology.

In the area alone, three Kroger stores have reopened since Nov. 30 with two more set to finish renovations in January.

More Kroger shoppers will have a chance to pick up groceries without leaving their cars or have their purchases delivered without leaving homes after Kroger’s aggressive expansion in 2018. Major store renovations have paved way for growing curbside pickup at Kroger stores and the company continues to expand delivery through Instacart. Kroger Ship also debuted in 2018, sending grocery products through mail carriers.

Kroger rolled out meal kits from its merger with Home Chef in October. The meals that start at $8.50 per serving can be found in Kroger stores and on Home Chef’s website.

As private labels continue to grow in popularity, Kroger expanded its Our Brands, including Simple Truth, overseas. It also introduced a new clothing line called Dip. About 80 percent of the line’s items are $19 or less.

Shoppers may soon be expected to bring their own bags to their local Kroger store. The region’s largest grocery provider is doing away with plastic bags, citing experts estimates that 100 billion single-use bags are thrown away every year in the United States and less than 5 percent are recycled. The company has started a process to phase out the bags by 2025.

Kroger brands may also start popping up in area Walgreens stores come next year if a pilot program in Northern Kentucky is successful. The 13 pilot stores offer 2,300 frequently purchased products in a mini store within Walgreens. Customers can also pick up Kroger orders at those Walgreens stores.

Kroger will continue working to develop faster delivery methods into 2019, including its autonomous vehicle pilot in Arizona. The company recently announced that it’s moving to the next phase where unmannded vehicles will be introduced to the streets.

A new membership program at Kroger is expected to lower the cost of commonly-prescribed generic medications for area shoppers.

The largest grocery provider in the region launched a program this month called Rx Savings Club in partnership with GoodRx, an online platform that compares current medication prices and finds discounts.

Kroger will open a second headquarters in downtown Cincinnati to house its growing digital team.

The second headquarters will be in the Atrium Two building in downtown Cincinnati. At first, the headquarters will house 600 digital associates, but the team is expected to grow to over 1,000 within three years. Kroger’s digital sales grew more than 60 percent, according to the third quarter earnings report.