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04/30/2021

Kroger Launches Drone Delivery Test

Centerville, Ohio and southern California chosen as test markets for first flights
Gina Acosta
Executive Editor
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Kroger's drone-powered grocery delivery program comes after the company’s digital sales last year doubled to more than $10 billion.

America’s largest grocery retailer continues to transform grocery e-commerce with the introduction of a drone delivery pilot taking flight this spring in the Midwest.

The Kroger Co. and Drone Express, a division of TELEGRID Technologies, LLC., today announced a pilot to offer grocery delivery via autonomous drones, expanding the retailer’s grocery ecosystem and providing customers with anything, anytime, anywhere.

"Kroger’s new drone delivery pilot is part of the evolution of our rapidly growing and innovative e-commerce business – which includes pickup, delivery, and ship and reached more than $10 billion in sales in 2020,” said Kroger’s Jody Kalmbach, group vice president of product experience. “The pilot reinforces the importance of flexibility and immediacy to customers, powered by modern and efficient last-mile solutions. We’re excited to test drone delivery and gain insights that will inform expansion plans as well as future customer solutions.”

How the Drone Grocery Delivery Pilot Works

The pilot will aim to offer customers unparalleled flexibility as Drone Express technology allows package delivery to the location of a customer’s smartphone not only to a street address, simply meaning a customer will be able to order delivery of picnic supplies to a park, sunscreen to the beach, or condiments to a backyard cookout, for instance.

Kroger is designing bundled product offerings ideal for meeting customer needs within the current weight limits for drone delivery, which is about 5 pounds. As an illustration, Kroger will offer a baby care bundle with wipes and formula, a child wellness bundle with over-the-counter medications and fluids, and a S’mores bundle with graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. Using Kroger.com/DroneDelivery, customers can place orders and have eligible orders delivered within as little as 15 minutes.

“Autonomous drones have unlimited potential to improve everyday life, and our technology opens the way to safe, secure, environmentally friendly deliveries for Kroger customers,” said Beth Flippo, Chief Technology Officer, TELEGRID. “The possibilities for customers are endless – we can enable Kroger customers to send chicken soup to a sick friend or get fast delivery of olive oil if they run out while cooking dinner.”

Drone Express will commence test flights this week near the Kroger Marketplace in Centerville, Ohio (1095 South Main Street). The flights will be managed by licensed Drone Express pilots from an on-site trailer with additional off-site monitoring. Customer deliveries are scheduled to begin later this spring, and a second pilot is scheduled to launch this summer at a Ralphs store in California.

“The launch of the pilot in Centerville is the culmination of months of meticulous research and development by Kroger and Drone Express to better serve and meet the needs of our customers,” said Ethan Grob, Kroger’s director of last mile strategy and product. “We look forward to progressing from test flights to customer deliveries this spring, introducing one more way for our customers to experience Kroger.”

Kroger's drone-powered grocery delivery program comes after the company’s digital sales last year doubled to more than $10 billion, and by the end of 2023, digital sales are forecast to double, according to the company.

Last month Kroger opened its first two Ocado robotic fulfillment centers. The companies expanded their relationship last fall to leverage Ocado’s in-store fulfilment (ISF) capabilities, which include proprietary software that supports employees’ efforts to assemble orders by making it easier and more efficient to find products when fulfilling pickup orders. 

Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.