Leading US supermarket chain Kroger is moving into the online marketplace business in order to offer an extended product range to compete with the likes of Amazon.

Kroger’s digital marketplace of third-party sellers will go live this autumn via a partnership with Mirakl, a software platform specialising in B2C and B2B digital marketplaces.

The move will see the Kroger Ship direct-to-customer platform that launched in 2018 extended beyond everyday groceries to a range of other categories, including natural and organic products, international food, speciality items, housewares and toys. More than 50,000 items will initially be available to customers.

“Kroger has long been a retail giant, and by integrating an online marketplace into its leading e-commerce experience, Kroger is continuing to lead from the front,” said Adrien Nussenbaum, CEO and Co-founder of Mirakl. “It’s clearer than ever that digital marketplaces are the foundation of the next generation of commerce, and we look forward to supporting Kroger as it takes advantage of this opportunity.”

Analysts suggested the extension of the retailer’s Ship service into a broader e-commerce marketplace will turn up the competitive heat on retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target and Costco given Kroger’s data, analytics and media muscle, along with its national scale. Kroger has nearly 2,800 stores across the US and generates annual sales of more than $121bn.

Kroger has been investing heavily in e-commerce technology and channels over the past two and a half years under its ‘Restock’ programme designed to realign the business to latest shopping and eating trends. The company’s recent first-quarter results showed its digital sales had surged up 92%, buoyed by demand for home deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The expansion of our Kroger Ship platform will continue to bring together our industry-leading customer insights and merchandising data to offer our customers a digital shopping experience that includes staples available in our physical stores as well as products that are exclusive to Kroger.com,” said Stuart Aitken, Kroger’s senior vice president and chief merchant and marketing officer.

“As part of our continuing transformation, we look forward to accelerating the development of our e-commerce platform and providing our customers with even more choices.”