The Kroger Co.’s Home Chef meal-kit subsidiary plans to open its first production and distribution center on the East Coast, in Baltimore.
Chicago-based Home Chef said Friday that the 170,000-square-foot facility, located at 1701 East Patapsco Ave., will accommodate the brand’s online meal delivery service and represent its largest production center by volume, generating over 30% of its meal solutions delivered nationwide.
The new production and distribution center is expected to create more than 500 jobs in Baltimore by 2024, according to Home Chef. The company said it will bring increased efficiencies for docking, storage and facility flow.
“Our new facility will put us even closer to our customers, allowing us to deliver fresher ingredients and a wider range of meal options to East Coast homes,” Home Chef CEO Erik Jensen said in a statement. “Maryland is a great place for our first home in this part of the country, and we look forward to making a positive impact in the Baltimore community.”
Home Chef was acquired by Kroger in mid-2018 and has since rolled out its products to over 2,200 Kroger Co. stores nationwide. In quarterly earnings calls, Kroger executives have cited strong sales for Home Chef since the pandemic, and last fall the brand topped sales of $1 billion. Jensen became Home Chef CEO in February 2022, succeeding founder Pat Vihtelic, who served on the company’s advisory board through the end of last year.
“Our merger with Home Chef brought significant capabilities in store- and restaurant-quality meal solutions,” Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen said in a conference call Thursday on fiscal 2022 results. “We will be expanding our Home Chef production facilities to meet this growing customer need.”
The Baltimore facility will be Home Chef’s fourth production and distribution center, with the others located in Chicago; San Bernardino, California; and Atlanta. The latter, a 181,000 square-foot site in Douglasville, Georgia, was the most recent to open, in July 2022. The new facility is Home Chef’s first to incorporate a full-service kitchen for cooking and batch production of ingredients to be used in its meals. According to the company, the 6,000 square-foot kitchen handles the cooking of vegetables, starches and grains, as well as in-house sauce production.
Home Chef said it offers meals online and in-store in range of formats, from Classic Meal Kits to “minimal mess” Oven-Ready and Fast & Fresh meals, as well as family-friendly options, Culinary Collection recipes “for more adventurous home cooks” and a selection of add-ons such as protein packs, beverages, salads and desserts. Its online meal delivery service rotates more than 30 meal options weekly. Last October, Home Chef launched a line of co-branded meal kits with TV chef Rachael Ray, slated to roll out to more than 1,300 stores across Kroger Co. supermarket banners through this March.