Kroger to start selling products directly to Chinese shoppers

Kroger is partnering with internet giant Alibaba to sell products in China. The plan to test an online store geared to Chinese consumers is the first such move overseas by Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S., and marks its latest effort to keep pace online with the likes of Walmart and Amazon. 

Kroger will offer products from its organic and natural line, Simple Truth, through Alibaba's Tmall platform, the retailer said Tuesday in a news release. The move will give Kroger access to more than half a billion Chinese consumers, it said.

Since its launch five years ago, Simple Truth is now Kroger's second-biggest selling brand in the retailer's stores, and now accounts for more than $2 billion in annual sales.  

"E-commerce enables Kroger to quickly scale to reach new customers and markets where we don't operate physical stores, starting with China," Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief digital officer, said in the statement.

Many U.S. companies sell their goods on Tmall as way to reach Chinese customers without having to open stores in the country. 

Cincinnati-based Kroger, which operates about 2,800 stores in roughly three dozen states, tallied $122.7 billion in sales in 2017. 

Kroger shares have risen nearly 11 percent in 2018, making a comeback after getting hard hit after Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods last year. 

Kroger shares closed 2.3 percent higher in New York.

The supermarket chain's moves to counter rivals includes a partnership announced in June with autonomous vehicle startup Nuro to test the delivery of groceries in unmanned vehicles. 

In May, Kroger also bought a 5 percent stake in British online grocer Ocado and said it would license technology used to run automated warehouses and deliver groceries to consumers' door.