Predictive Cultural Intelligence Case Study

How Kroger became America’s largest sushi retailer

Cultural background

Sushi, a culinary staple with centuries-old roots in Japanese culture, began to significantly influence American tastes in the late ’80s and ’90s.

This growing interest was part of a larger American fascination with various aspects of Japanese culture, including Nintendo, manga, and anime.

Kroger sushi timeline

Kroger’s bet on the future

Recognizing the Japanese trend within American culture, Kroger, a leading grocery chain, invested in fresher ingredients to meet the increasing demand for sushi.

Kroger’s strategy paid off remarkably. By 2020, the company had become the nation’s biggest sushi retailer, a position it realized upon reviewing data from the consumer research firm Circana.

This achievement was marked by impressive sales figures, with Kroger selling over 40 million pieces of sushi annually. The company’s sushi sales, part of a broader trend in the U.S. retail sector, saw a surge of 72 percent by value and 50 percent by volume over four years.

An evolving business model

Kroger’s success in the sushi market reflects a strategic shift in its product offerings.

Initially starting with simple sushi varieties like California rolls in 1991, Kroger expanded its range to include more intricate options, catering to diverse customer preferences. This expansion was about variety and quality, as Kroger focused on using fresher ingredients.

The company’s sushi offerings have evolved to include items like crunchy combo and spicy combo boxes, with particular popularity for its California crunch roll and rainbow roll. Some of its stores, like Ralph’s in Southern California, have even introduced Latin fusion rolls, demonstrating a keen understanding of local tastes.

Moreover, Kroger’s focus on sushi aligns with its strategy to diversify beyond typical grocery items. It aims to capture a portion of customers’ budget for restaurant dining. This approach has brought new customers to Kroger stores and encouraged existing shoppers to visit more frequently.

What it means for retailers and hospitality

Kroger’s success story in becoming the top sushi seller in the U.S. underscores the importanc eof cultural intelligence in business. By identifying and responding to cultural trends, companies can tap into new market opportunities and drive significant growth. This case serves as an inspiring example for businesses looking to understand and leverage cultural insights effectively.

The big results:

  • Kroger became the leading sushi seller in America
  • Understanding customer taste’s helped Kroger evolve its business model beyond groceries