As consumers increasingly look for clean labels, sustainable sourcing and food that remains fresh along the path from farm to table, the demand for local food has grown.
In response, some restaurants have added their own gardens to offer “hyper-local” or grown-in-house fare, while others tout “locally-sourced” menu items. Many supermarkets, fast-food chains and even Walmart have worked to incorporate more local foods. Chipotle has a local grower support initiative.
The c-store industry has been slower to adopt the trend, with many retailers still focused on getting a profitable food program up and running in general.
Greenville, S.C.-based Spinx is one c-store that sees the demand and the benefit for incorporating local produce into its foodservice selection.
Spinx, which operates 81 c-stores across South Carolina, partners with a supplier that sources some of the fruits used in its Fresh on the Go foodservice program from local farms.
CSD spoke with Sandy Turner, director of marketing and advertising for Spinx, about the chain’s decision to offer local options to customers.
CSD: What types of items are available through the Spinx’ Fresh on the Go program?
Sandy Turner (ST): Our Fresh on the Go menu has grown to include things like Italian subs and wraps, sandwiches on pretzel rolls and ciabatta, as well as an ever-changing variety of salads, veggie and fruit cups as well as yogurts. We are constantly evolving this menu to make sure we are providing the type of items that our customers seek out.
CSD: What inspired Spinx to incorporate produce from local farms into its Fresh on the Go program?
ST: We saw that sourcing food locally was becoming increasingly important to the customers in our markets so from a business standpoint we looked for ways that we could provide this to our customers. We reached out to our produce supplier and they were able to with some specific items. We have been providing locally-sourced produce—specifically apples and watermelon—for about three years.
CSD: Which items in the Fresh on the Go offering come from local farms? How are the items prepared?
ST: The items that are sourced locally are primarily watermelon—which make for delicious, juicy watermelon cups in the summer months—and apples, which are sold both whole and also sliced and added to fruit cups. Spinx handles the preparation and production of the items in our central kitchen, in Simpsonville, S.C.
CSD: What has been the customer response to the local offering? What is the benefit to c-stores in offering fresh, local food and how do you think it influences the perception of your food program?
ST: Our offering of freshly-prepared items has been well received since we introduced the program in 2011, as well as the introduction of local fruits in 2013. Customers have responded positively as we have continued to learn our customers’ likes and dislikes and make changes accordingly.
CSD: Your new Greenville, S.C. location includes a community garden that will serve as a way to educate the children living in the local community about healthy eating. What role does Spinx play in the garden?
ST: The garden is a partnership between Feed & Seed (a non-profit organization connecting farms to markets in South Carolina) as well as Farm to Belly/Choosy Kids program. The community garden is on the Spinx property and the use of the land as such has been an ongoing conversation between our team and the folks at the Feed & Seed organization and their contacts. Feed & Seed will organize with Farm to Belly and handle the planting and all related activities of the garden, with the idea of bringing in and educating the local community.