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ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, and the United Fresh Produce Association are teaming up to boost the sale of fresh produce in convenience stores.
A joint task force met for the first time at the United Fresh 2014 convention in Chicago last week.
The goal of the partnership is to identify best practices that can be shared across the industry to assist c-store operators in developing their own fresh produce supply chains and in-store management.
With more than 151,000 locations across the country, convenience stores are increasingly seen as an excellent destination for consumers to buy fruit and vegetables. In 2013, produce sales at convenience stores were up 16.7 percent, more than doubling the overall 7.3-percent growth rate of produce in the United States, according to the announcement.
"Consumers are increasingly seeking grab-and-go, convenient options for their produce needs. Convenience stores present a tremendously underdeveloped source of produce sales in communities," said NACS President and CEO Henry Armour. "We are excited to work with United Fresh to give retailers the tools to affordably acquire merchandise and sell produce in their communities as part of our broader nutrition initiative."
At its initial meeting in Chicago, the task force reviewed current challenges in supply chain management, in-store handling and merchandising, and other barriers to produce success for convenience retailers. The task force also began identifying best practices in meeting each of these challenges, learning from those retailers and produce suppliers who are finding the greatest success today.
The associations plan to develop tools and services to share best practices and successes with the broader memberships of NACS and United Fresh.
"The business opportunities for convenience stores that manage fresh produce well are vast, for direct sales as well as enhancing the image of stores as a provider of fresh and healthy food options. Fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, ready-to-eat meals and snack products, and even whole commodities can deliver attractive margins and new customer segments to retailers," said Tom Stenzel, United Fresh's president and CEO.
Convenience store sales of produce reached $328 million in 2013, and the groups believe sales can increase dramatically over the next five years from this joint task force's efforts.