This blog normally writes about food, not food retailers, but I can;t resist saying something about the news today that Kroger, the country’s largest supermarket chain, is buying Roundy’s, a Midwest operator that’s become known for its new store concept, Mariano’s, which is taking the Chicago area by storm.
Mariano’s is one of the new wave of supermarkets — it has more produce, more prepared foods and a smaller center store footprint, in industry parlance. That’s because people are buying less and less processed, prepackaged foods, no longer trusting big brands to give them healthy products in such formats.
Rather than try to copy the Mariano’s concept, Kroger is simply buying it. That’s what big companies do. The question now will be can Kroger continue to grow Mariano’s, perhaps taking it national, or will it kill it as big companies often do when they buy up smaller, more innovative brands.
One only has to look at the same Chicago market, where Safeway bought local chain Dominick’s and ran it into the ground, eventually shutting it down and leaving the market opening that Mariano’s is now exploiting.
One more irony here, Bob Mariano, who now heads Roundy’s and who named his new store concept after himself, once headed Dominick’s and was moving it to more of a fresh store concept before Safeway took it over and killed it.
From what I’ve read, he will stay with Kroger. Will he be able t continue working his magic there or will he eventually leave, stifled by the larger company’s way of doing things?