Kroger tests natural, organics e-commerce site

Kroger (NYSE:KR) is piloting an e-commerce site for natural and organic products in its Colorado-based King Soopers division, then will evaluate the test for a possible rollout to other markets.

The nation's number two retailer launched KingSoopers.com/LiveNaturally featuring more than 36,000 items available to customers within the Denver metropolitan area, The Produce News reported.

The e-commerce site provides the convenience of online shopping for these products, while extending the grocery retailer's product selection for King Soopers customers, the company said in a statement. All items are free of more than 101 artificial ingredients and preservatives customers prefer not to be in their products.

Kroger calls the e-commerce website the next step in its effort to make seamless, omnichannel shopping a reality. "Increasingly, our customers are looking for more simple, convenient and relevant ways to shop, whether it's in-store, on our website or on their mobile devices," said Russ Dispense, King Soopers president. "It has never been easier for King Soopers customers to shop online for thousands of natural and organic products."

The launch follows Kroger's acquisition of online vitamin merchant Vitacost.com last August, Internet Retailer reported.

"King Soopers has a long heritage of leading in the natural and organics space, so we are excited to launch our pilot in Denver," said Kroger VP of digital and Vitacost Kevin Dougherty in the statement. "KingSoopers.com/LiveNaturally extends the in-store shopping experience to create a true 'endless aisle' experience with ship-to-home service for thousands more healthy foods, vitamins, minerals and supplements than are available in our stores today."

"Endless aisle" refers to a retailer's ability to offer more products online than it can in a typical store.

Kroger is expected to become the nation's leading retailer of organic foods within two years, supplanting Whole Foods in this category, according to Business Insider, citing a recent JPMorgan Chase report.

KingSoopers.com/LiveNaturally will use the same e-commerce platform and fulfillment network as Vitacost.com, one of the larger web-only companies in the nutrition and healthy-living market. It will also use the buy-online-fulfill-at-store technology developed for Harris Teeter, a grocery chain in the Southeast that Kroger acquired in January 2014.

"This could be an exciting development for Kroger and one which helps it to develop a true omnichannel presence," said Neil Saunders, managing director of retail research agency and consulting firm Conlumino. "Meanwhile, the acquisition of Vitacost.com, which offers healthy and natural products online, has also helped Kroger to expand its digital footprint."

The e-commerce site offers "featured collections" labeled as popular, organic, gluten free, paleo or vegan. It also has items in product categories such as vitamins and supplements, beauty, natural home, babies and kids, pets and the Simple Truth private label.

The site has four areas of "featured" shops. The featured food shops include organic breakfast foods; non-GMO popcorn; nut butters and spreads; raw kale chips; natural candies; fair-trade chocolates; and sprouted seeds and nuts. The featured health shops include real food supplements and natural immune support. The featured beauty shops include paraben-free shampoos and SLS-free toothpastes. The featured home shops include earth-friendly paper products and biodegradable laundry detergents.

For more:
-See this article in The Produce News
-See this Kroger press release
-See this Business Insider article
-See this Internet Retailer article
-See the King Soopers Live Naturally website

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Kroger buys dunnhumbyUSA assets, launches new data company
Kroger charts path to digital transformation
Kroger CIO envisions big tech changes across the enterprise
Kroger CFO talks acquisitions
Kroger's organic food line hits $1B in sales

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