Kroger Co (NYSE:KR) is buying Home Chef, the third-largest private meal-kit company in the U.S., in its second deal this month. KR stock closed down 0.5% on Wednesday.
The Cincinnati-based grocer will pay $200 million initially and as much as $700 million more if Home Chef hits performance targets. The deal comes about a week after Kroger bought a approximately $250 million stake in British online grocery operator Ocado Group PLC, which will see the companies opening a series of automated warehouses for grocery delivery in the U.S. KR stock gained just 3% following last week’s announcement.
Home Chef competes in the hypercompetitive space with Blue Apron Holdings Inc (NYSE:APRN) and HelloFresh SE, creating meal kits that are designed for the segment of the market that still wants to cook food but doesn’t have time to shop for groceries. There are more than 100 meal-kits companies operating online. Home Chef said it delivers three million meals a month nationally, at an average of around $9.95 per serving.
A number of grocery stores have started their own meal-kit lines, including Kroger whose existing Prep+Pared meal kits would fold into Chicago-based Home Chef, likely operating as a stand-alone company, according to the Wall Street Journal. Albertsons Cos. purchased Plated last year.
InvestorPlace contributor Dana Blankenhorn last week commented that Kroger is filing Ocado under its “Restock Kroger” program, announced last October, which reads like a corporate rebranding exercise. “That may be why the company is still not exciting Wall Street. There was a vogue for the shares in the middle of this decade, even a 2015 stock split, but the shares now trade over 40% off those highs.”
Kroger has a market cap of under $22 billion, about two-thirds a single quarter’s sales, which came in at $31 billion for the three months ending in February. Groceries are a low-margin business, and Kroger earned just $854 million on that business during the quarter.