Kroger Co. has spent years—and hundreds of millions of dollars—investing in technology to give it a digital edge in the grocery business. But when the coronavirus changed customers’ buying habits overnight, the grocery chain wasn’t as ready for the online shift as some of its competitors.
The nation’s biggest grocer, Kroger has poured money into projects ranging from a self-driving grocery delivery robot to a partnership to sell goods in China through Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. It also bet that a delivery model using remote fulfillment centers, popular in Europe, would resonate stateside. Yet, when the pandemic sent a tsunami of customers ordering groceries online for the first time, it was unable to meet higher demand.
The wide-ranging investments slowed adoption of technology for grocery delivery, leaving Kroger behind some of its competitors, said former executives, current employees and a vendor.
A Kroger spokeswoman said the technology investments and partnerships were timely and allowed the grocer to quickly expand e-commerce services.
In response …