May 17 (UPI) -- Kroger has partnered with British online supermarket Ocado to integrate its technology allowing customers to order online and receive home deliveries.
The U.S. grocery chain announced Thursday its alliance with Ocado and its plans to bring the British supermarket's "unparalleled technology" to the United States. The move could ramp up e-commerce competition with Amazon, which bought the Whole Foods chain last June.
Kroger agreed to buy a stake in Ocado and license technology that helps other grocers run automated warehouses and deliver food to customers' doors. The deal -- the British company's biggest yet, according to Bloomberg -- will bring Ocado's robotic and digital capabilities to Kroger.
At one of Ocado's warehouses, the company's artificial intelligence robots can fill a 50-item order in minutes, chief technology officer Paul Clarke wrote last week.
"We are actively creating a seamless digital experience for our customers," Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said in a statement. "Our partnership with Ocado will speed up our efforts to redefine the food and grocery customer experience - creating value for customers and shareholders alike."
The Cincinnati-based grocer said it's already working with Ocado to identify three sites for the development of new, automated warehouses in 2018. In the next three years, they will identify up to 20 warehouse sites.
"Ocado's unique, proprietary and industry-leading technology is set to transform the shopping experience of consumers around the world," Tim Steiner, CEO of Ocado Group, said in a statement. "We will be preparing the business for a transformative relationship which will reshape the food retailing industry in the U.S. in the years to come."
In March, Walmart announced plans to expand its grocery delivery service to more than 40 percent of U.S. households, or 100 metro areas, by the end of the year.