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Kroger. (Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press)

Kroger announced Monday its has picked Romulus as the site for a $95 million customer fulfillment center aimed at the rapidly growing online grocery shopping segment.

The high-tech automated center, one of three planned by Kroger in the U.S., will create 250 jobs, the company said in a news release.

The 135,000-square-foot Romulus facility will be built on 22-acre site at 15675 Wahrman, as part of the Detroit Region Aerotropolis Development Corporation area. Once ground breaks on the site, the facility is expected to be operational in 18 months. 

The CFC model in Romulus — an automated warehouse facility with digital and robotic capabilities — will be used to serve customers across the region, Kroger said. This facility will support the Michigan, northern Ohio and Indiana markets.

Kroger announced in June it was partnering with Ocado Solutions, which provides the infrastructure for automated warehouse operations, to build fulfillment centers in the Great Lakes, Pacific Northwest and West regions, but did not name exact locations. 

Online grocery shopping has grown exponentially this year. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, customers flocked to ordering groceries online for curbside pickup or home delivery. Shopping services like Instacart and Shipt saw sharp upticks in customers and orders. Shoppers also rushed to ordering through Amazon, Target and Walmart. Most grocery stores, if they hadn’t already had a shopping service, began to do so.

Fast forward seven months into the pandemic and many shoppers have settled into online grocery shopping as a new normal.  

Ongoing research and surveys from Brick Meets Click/Mercatus Grocery Shopping Survey showed online grocery shopping for pickup or delivery sales was $5.7 billion in August. While the latest numbers are down from June’s peak of $7.2 billion, research showed it’s five times