By
updated 1/11/2011 8:52:52 AM ET 2011-01-11T13:52:52

The Kroger Co. will open gas station No. 1,000 Wednesday, a milestone that underscores the growing link between groceries and gas in the drive to build customer loyalty.

Besides the new station at a Kroger supermarket in Middletown, Ohio, the nation's largest traditional grocery chain continues to expand its customer rewards tie-in with Shell Oil.

In less than a year, the program has grown to nearly 5,000 Shell stations in 26 states. Kroger has nearly 2,500 stores in 31 states.

Other grocery chains have also expanded fuel rewards. Bryan Pearson, president of the loyalty marketing firm LoyaltyOne, says fuel rewards are popular because while few drivers like gassing up, they enjoy watching pump prices roll back.

Discounts usually start at 5 to 10 cents a gallon for $100 in groceries bought.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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