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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Convenience store operators considering expansion of their fresh produce offer can now turn to "Are You Fit for Fresh?," a simple 10-point checklist developed by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, and the United Fresh Produce Association. The list helps store owners look at critical areas to assess whether a specific store should grow its fresh produce offer.
C-stores are increasingly adding more health and fresh items, according to a NACS member survey conducted in June. More than three-quarters of retailers (77 percent) say they sell fresh fruit and vegetables; 57 percent sell packaged salads; and 47 percent also sell cut fruit and vegetables. C-stores have also expanded their selections of these items, as over the past six months, 50 percent of all convenience retailers say they have expanded their fresh fruit sales; 30 percent have increased their cut fruit and vegetable offers; and 21 percent offer more salads.
Additionally, Nielsen data shows that sales of fresh fruits and vegetables in c-stores grew 10.3 percent, nearly four times the overall 2.7-percent growth rate of produce sales in the United States in 2014.
"A strong produce program can attract new customers, increase sales, plus deliver strong margins," stated NACS Chairman of the Board and NACS-United Fresh Convenience Task Force Co-Chairman Steve Loehr, vice president of operations with La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip. "This resource helps retailers ask the right questions about customer demand and resources required to effectively execute a quality program."
The new publication is the second deliverable from the partnership that NACS and United Fresh formed in June 2014 to identify best practices to grow produce sales in c-stores. Earlier this year, they published the 26-page Building the Business Case for Produce Sales at Convenience Stores. More than two-dozen retailers, distributors and produce companies helped develop and review the document.
"We want to provide solutions from the entire fresh produce supply chain to help convenience store retailers capitalize on this 'fresh' opportunity," said NACS-United Fresh Convenience Task Force Co-Chairman Ron Carkoski, who is also United Fresh's past chairman of the board and president and CEO of the Ephrata, Pa.-based Four Seasons Family of Companies. "Retailers who share an interest to develop a fresh program can be ensured that our effort will address best practices and educational programs to achieve success."
NACS and United Fresh are developing follow-up resources and sessions to help retailers execute quality produce programs and will lead a session at this year's NACS Show in Las Vegas.