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Albertsons in sync with market shifts

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Albertsons Cos.’ decision to acquire Plated, one of the leaders in the burgeoning meal kit service business, is further evidence of the ferment in the nation’s grocery sector and the company’s determination to capitalize on the changes under way that are transforming the industry.

Established in 2012, Plated leverages technology and data to give consumers the recipes and ingredients they need to cook tasty meals at home. The service is designed to provide food shoppers with access to choice, flexibility and culinary ­expertise.

The deal, terms of which were not disclosed, will give Albertsons Cos. another means of meeting the needs of customers wherever and however they choose, according to chairman and chief executive officer Bob Miller, and enhance the company’s drive to tailor its offerings to the requirements of individual shoppers.

Plans are for Plated meal kits, which feature fresh ingredients and expert recipes (its culinary team is headed by Elana Karp, who was trained at Le Cordon Bleu), to be available in many of Albertsons Cos.’ 2,300 stores across the country.

The scale and purchasing power of Albertsons Cos. will give Plated, which will continue to operate as a distinct entity headed by cofounder and chief executive Josh Hix, a leg up as it works to become the first omnichannel meal kit service with national reach, one of the stated goals of the acquisition. In addition, access to the new parent company’s store network and increasingly sophisticated digital capabilities will enable Plated to reach 35 million customers each week, a marketing coup that would have taken a substantial amount of time and resources to replicate by other means.

The acquisition of Plated exemplifies the mindset of Miller and the Albertsons Cos. management team. It’s easy to forget that only 11 years ago the company, which is now the second-largest operator of traditional supermarkets in the U.S., was a startup backed by a group of investors led by Cerberus Capital Management. After an initial period during which it closed many of the 661 supermarkets it purchased in the sale of the assets of Albertson’s Inc. and reenergized its remaining stores, the company embarked on a series of strategic acquisitions, capped by the 2015 deal that brought 1,325 Safeway locations into the fold.

Miller and his colleagues have succeeded in building a retail empire by adhering to a simple set of goals — to be the favorite local grocer (Albertsons Cos. is committed to a decentralized operating model and maintains 20 different banners) and, in the words of Miller, “run really good stores that are full, fresh, friendly and clean.”

While members of the management team remain committed to the fundamentals of retailing, they understand that the supermarket business isn’t static and are positioning Albertsons Cos., which already has one of the largest e-commerce grocery businesses in the country, to take full advantage of advances in technology and big data and other ­innovations.

The embrace of Plated, which bills itself as a disruptive force in the traditional food supply chain, demonstrates the flexibility of their thinking and their eagerness to find new means to attaining an old end — doing the best possible job of meeting the food and beverage needs of consumers. If the past is prologue, Albertsons Cos. can be expected to be a major force as the definition of grocery retailing is revised and expanded for the digital age.


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