Nov 6 – The Kroger Co. revealed a new logo today and a “fresh for everyone” brand transformation campaign that the company said celebrates its love for customers and associates, a food-first culture and a long history as America’s favorite grocer. The campaign will include new in-store signage and animated figures that the company is calling “Krojis” (Kroger emojis) that will help deliver the marketing message. American Grocery Association – Daily News Brief.
We returned to Cincinnati for Thanksgiving. My sister lives there and she was doing the big dinner. Arfie and I flew in Tuesday evening to enjoy some of Ohio’s cold wet November weather. We gave thanks that we’d return to North Miami in three days.
Arlene, my sister, was doing a classic Thanksgiving Day dinner with turkey, mashed spuds, walnut dressing and Iroquois style succotash (which means mixing corn and lima beans with red peppers then frying the whole thing up in butter until it’s a nutty brown). Arlene got roped into being a parent adviser at the local grade school PTA. They were selling pies for their fall fundraiser. Arlene bought six of them. What we didn’t eat, she threatened to send home with us.
Wednesday’s dinner was a strip down affair. Wendy, my other sister, and I were going to take over kitchen chores while Arlene build her energy for the morrow.
Wendy was never known for haute cuisine. She planned to make pasta in tomato sauce which is exactly what it sounds like – boiled spaghetti drenched with Kroger’s finest canned tomato sauce. “The secret to eating it,” advised Leonard, her significant other, “is to take a little spaghetti cover it with a small amount tomato sauce and cover the whole thing with as much Parmesan cheese that you can find. Then eat a lot of rolls.”
It was the holidays and I was feeling both generous and hungry so I said, “how about if I make a couple of pizzas to go along with it. We’ll have an Italian night just like the pilgrims did in 1761.”
Both Leonard and Arlene jumped on this especially after they figured out that ‘make a couple of pizzas’, actually meant ‘buy a couple of pizzas.’ How could that go wrong?
So off Leonard and I went to the neighborhood Kroger’s to see what we could find. If you live in New England, the Deep South or the Southwest, Kroger’s not a store you have probably ever shopped at. Here in the Midwest, it is the only store you can shop in.
Two weeks before Thanksgiving, Kroger kicked off a national rebranding of their stores with something called “Fresh For Everyone”. The ‘Fresh For Everyone’ theme consisted a bunch of cartoon characters cleverly tinted in light and dark colors, with females equaling males and everybody looking pretty damn straight. Kroger called them Krojis (like emojis, get it?). Above the ‘toons smiling faces were words ‘Fresh For Everybody’ in big letters. The theme, says the Kroger’s marketing release, ‘celebrates its love for customers and associates, a food-first culture and a long history as America’s favorite grocer’, three assertions certain to astound anyone who has ever shopped at Kroger.
Well I might be just a yahoo from Florida, but when I saw the word ‘Fresh’ I thought ‘Fresh’ as in our food is fresh. Based on the little smiley faces, I figured ‘Everyone’ meant Kroger was proud to serve anyone no matter their race or gender (providing you were straight and not Asian).
If you’ve ever shopped for vinyl replacement windows, you’ll have noticed that the companies with the poorest customer reviews have the most pictures of the American flag in their advertisements. Perhaps you’ll see DISCOUNTS FOR VETERANS in big letters at the top of the page or goofy slogans like ‘Have you hugged at Vet today?’ or ‘Proud to Sell Only American Made Products’ at the bottom. That’s the first rule of advertising: when you have crap, wrap it up in an American flag and call it magic wampum. Most people ignore the reviews and fall for the flimflam. We want to believe the glitter and what could be shinier than a big American flag?
The same thing applies to Kroger. From my experience at Kroger, ‘fresh’ as in fresh produce, dairy products or meats, has nothing to do with the word’s definition in Webster. Fruits are more bruised then not, lettuce wilted, milk on its last sell date (and uncannily goes sour the day after that), and meat has a decent chance of smelling fetid when you open its package. Stale food has long been a hallmark of a Kroger store but when you own the market like they do in Cincinnati, well you can do that.
The Kroger advertising people aren’t stupid. They know their customers think the food stinks. So plaster the stores with a new slogan – Fresh For Everyone. Let people assume ‘Fresh’ refers to the food you sell. Say it enough times, people may believe it in spite of the banged up tomatoes they are rummaging through.
Leonard and I settled on Kroger’s Deli Pizza. They are the kind you bake yourself for that homemade flavor. The only ones in stock were ‘Meat Lovers Pizza’; the toppings purported to be sausage, pepperoni and Canadian bacon. Well yum. We figured we could dress it up with some mushrooms, onions and extra cheese. I bought two.
While Wendy was boiling the tomato sauce, I spiced up the deli pizzas with the veggies and cheese. They looked pretty good going into the oven. Leonard beamed as he uncorked a couple bottles of Merlot.
The pizzas took twenty minutes for the crust to brown and the cheese get bubbly. Wendy kept the spaghetti boiling until the pizza came out. It was a little soggy but as Leonard said, put enough cheese on anything and you have a great meal.
Leonard started his third glass of Merlot as I sliced up the first pizza. It was perfect – crisp crust, crinkled onions, everything slathered in cheese. Leonard put it on a pizza stand and took it into the dining room.
I swirled around the second pizza to find a good cutting angle. As I turned the stone, some brown liquid dripped out from one edge onto the counter top then to the floor. I grabbed a paper towel and sopped it up. It was the color of used motor oil.
As the pizza cooled, the oozing stopped. I gingerly lifted up edges of the pizza looking for the source. It was all coming from the right side but I couldn’t pinpoint exactly where. But it stopped after I slipped more paper towels under the crust. I figured when I sliced it, I’d find the where the brown goop was coming from.
I never did. I cut the pizza into eight pieces. There were dark spots on the crust of two pieces but the heat of the pizza stone must have allowed the liquid to either evaporate or get sucked back into the crust.
When Leonard returned, I showed him the blackish paper towels. “Maybe we should just throw it out,” I said.
He replied, “Are you crazy. Have you seen the spaghetti? There’s nothing here that can be worse than that. Besides, baking it for twenty minutes should’ve killed anything that’d make you sick. Let’s eat.”
The deli pizzas were the hit of the evening. I even had a piece from the second pizza after trying to eat a plate of the spaghetti. Leonard was right, Kroger could probably have put turpentine on the thing and it still would be better than over cooked tomato sauce poured on top of gummy pasta.
Thanksgiving was two weeks ago. I am back in Florida. We don’t have any Kroger’s here so it is easy for me to say I’ll never buy another thing from them again let alone a Deli Meat Lover’s Pizza. But I will always be perplexed. What could they have done to it to make the pizza bleed motor oil? And how does that fit in with ‘Fresh For Everyone’? The little Krojis – would they be pictured gulping down a chewy piece of pizza with brackish brown sauce dripping from their little smiling mouths? That’s the part I will miss – watching ‘America’s favorite grocery’ trying to make gold out of shit again. It’s the American way.