- The University of Cincinnati and Kroger are teaming up to operate an innovation lab inside the institution's new 1819 Innovation Hub research facility, according to a press release.
- The Cincinnati-based grocer will provide R&D engineers and software developers who will work with the university's faculty members. The partnership will also provide a student co-op and internship program.
- The hub comprises a 12,000-square-foot makerspace and micro-factory, state-of-the-art classrooms and multipurpose rooms. Construction of Kroger's 2,500-square-foot portion of the hub is expected to be complete in October.
By teaming up with the University of Cincinnati, Kroger is signaling its investment in attracting young talent to the grocery industry. While grocers know that staying relevant to millennials and Gen Z shoppers is key to reinvigorating the stale space, many are still figuring out what that means to their operations.
The university partnership, however, could help Kroger do just that. With opportunities for internships and co-ops, the deal will help create a pipeline of students who may not have otherwise considered the grocery industry as a possible breeding ground for tech innovation.
While Kroger appears to be the first grocer in the U.S. to work with a university, major food brands are seasoned partners with colleges. Late last year, Ferrero International, an Italian chocolate giant, established an innovation center on Cornell University's technology campus in New York City. The move gave Ferrero the opportunity to develop new technologies and recruit students to join the company.
Partnering with universities gives food brands access to state-of-the-art facilities in which to conduct their research, and it helps universities garner attention and financial support as well as position their students for recruitment.
The Whistler Center for Carbohydrate Research at Purdue University is known to have many food companies as its members including Nestlé, General Mills and Mondelez International. The types of on-campus research jobs these labs provide are appealing to students and give companies a chance to show off the work they do as well as the career opportunities available.
The success of such initiatives depends largely on the student and faculty member talent the institution offers to support them. Kroger's innovation lab could catapult it ahead of other grocers depending on what is developed by its research students. And regardless of how cutting edge the innovations coming out of the lab are, it could be considered a worthwhile investment for Kroger if it is able to attract top new talent.