Kroger is one of the most recognizable chains there is. Chances are, you’ve shopped there at some point whether it’s for groceries, a bottle of wine, or even makeup or clothing. The grocery store has a very long history, and has gone through a lot of changes since it was first founded. Kroger has grown from humble origins to being a household name, but in spite of its popularity, most of its customers would be surprised to know these details about the store.
They’ve been in business for more than a century
Kroger is a lot older than most people probably realize. Founder Bernard Henry Kroger was the son of German immigrants. His father, John Henry Kroger, was a merchant who owned a dry goods store in Cincinnati. Despite watching his father’s business fail, Kroger was inspired to go into business for himself in 1883. He was only in his early 20s when he started the company, and would later go on to pass the company down to his own son, Bernard H. Kroger Jr.
He dropped out of school at 13
It would be impressive enough that Kroger was in his early 20s when he started his business, but what is even more surprising is that he dropped out of school at the age of 13. The financial panic of 1873 destroyed his father’s dry goods business and he died shortly after, forcing the young Kroger to drop out of school and go to work to help support his family. The knowledge he learned from his father helped him become a salesman, which led to Kroger eventually going into business himself, in spite of his lack of education.
It started off as a tea company
While these days you can go to Kroger for everything from bananas to toilet paper, it started off with much more limited offerings. Kroger actually entered the world of business ownership selling tea. Along with a friend, Kroger opened the Great Western Tea Company in 1883. He bought out his partner the following year and expanded the business under that company name before finally renaming it Kroger Grocery and Baking in 1902.
Kroger pioneered the on-site bakery
At the turn of the 20th century, grocers who sold bread and other baked goods would have to buy them from bakers and resell them in their stores. Unhappy with this idea, Kroger decided to open his own bakery. This not only cut down on the cost of purchasing baked goods but also allowed Kroger to sell them at a lower price, leading to greater profits margins and revolutionizing the grocery store baking industry.
Kroger was the first to sell fresh meat with groceries
While modern consumers are accustomed to going to one store to purchase all of their food, this is a relatively new concept. Meat would typically be purchased from a butcher, bread from a baker, and groceries from a grocer. Kroger’s implementation of on-site meat counters was revolutionary at the time and made him the first in the country to sell meat and groceries under the same roof.
The founder received death threats because of his low prices
Kroger’s prices were so low that other business owners were threatened by him. When he began selling his own bread, bakery chains were scared that he would put them out of business. He began receiving death threats from his competition. One of the notes delivered to his home read, "If you don’t raise the price of bread at once you will be killed or shot." Kroger wasn’t intimidated, though; he responded to the threats by expanding his bakeries.
They introduced product testing
Kroger was well known for his dedication to providing consumers with the best quality. This dedication to quality and customer service led the company to become the first grocery chain to monitor the quality of products sold. This is something that’s expected of stores today, and we have Kroger to thank for implementing the policy back in the 1930s. The innovations don’t end there. Kroger was also the first grocery stores to use electronic scanners, first testing the technology in 1972.
Kroger was the first store where you could do your own grocery shopping
In the 19th century, groceries were typically delivered to the home. The customer would order what they wanted and the order would later be delivered by horse-drawn wagon (although Kroger delivered groceries with Model T trucks beginning in 1913). In 1916, Kroger upended the delivery system by introducing self-service shopping to the public, allowing customers to go to the store, shop, and bring the merchandise home themselves instead of waiting for a delivery.
They turned down the chance to be the first supermarket
Kroger could have been the first supermarket in the country if only they had listened to former manager, Michael Cullen, in 1930. Cullen proposed massive stores with large parking lots, and a variety of goods sold at low prices. According to Forbes, Cullen believed that "anticipated greater use of the automobile and home refrigeration would allow customers to abandon daily trips to the butcher, baker etc., in lieu of weekly trips to the supermarket–where everything could be purchased under one roof."
Kroger rejected Cullen’s idea so he left and opened King Kullen, the first supermarket. The format would later be adopted by Kroger after Cullen proved its success.
Kroger restaurants will soon be a thing
Your grocery shopping is about to turn into an even better experience. Kroger will soon be opening their first restaurant, called Kitchen 1883. If the launch is successful, it’s likely that these restaurants will soon be in Kroger stores all over the country. The menu will feature comfort food and even hand-crafted cocktails so that you can unwind with a good meal after your shopping trip.
You’ve probably been to a Kroger-owned store without even knowing it
Think you’ve never been to a Kroger? Think again. There are a lot of companies owned by Kroger, so even if you’re certain you’ve never set foot inside a Kroger in your life there’s a good chance you’ve given them your business. Some of the more well-known stores owned by the grocery giant include Dillons, King Soopers, Ralph’s, Quality Food Centers, and Smith’s Food and Drug.
Kroger is one of the biggest supermarket chains in the world
Kroger is one of the world’s largest supermarket chains — which is an astounding feat considering that it doesn’t even have stores in all 50 states, let alone in any other countries. According to the Kroger website, they have almost 2,800 stores located in 35 states. Kroger’s lack of international presence does nothing to hurt business and the multi-billion dollar company’s revenue comes in third compared to all of the other supermarket chains in the world.
They’ve been criticized for false marketing of their Simple Truth chicken
Kroger found itself in trouble in 2014 for some shady marketing. According to a lawsuit, the store claimed that the chicken meat sold as part of its "Simple Truth" line was "humanely raised." It was found, however, that the chickens "were raised under standard commercial farming conditions." Kroger agreed to remove the claim that the animals were from a humane environment from all packaging, although they maintained that the claim was accurate.
They own one of the largest jewelry chains in the country
One of America’s biggest jewelry retailers, Fred Meyer Jewelers, is affiliated with Kroger. The jewelry chain has been around 1973, but it was its merger with Kroger that helped it become the country’s third largest jewelry chain. While the store does also operate online and in department stores, many Kroger Marketplace locations have a jewelry department featuring Fred Meyer Jewelers.