Fresh-Cut Produce Thrives At C-stores

Convenience stores are a “tremendous growth channel” for fresh produce, notes  United Fresh Produce Association spokesperson.

In today’s health-conscious world, convenience stores are stocking up on produce, changing their image in customers’ minds from merely the place to fill up on gas and grab a pack of cigarettes to a one-stop shop for everything from a fill-up to grab-and-go-snacks to even dinner and larger grocery needs.

The Packer reported that according to produce marketing and sales agents, c-stores are stocking up on fresh produce.

Grab-and-go is already a strong concept for c-stores, and fresh cut fruit and veggies fit directly into the trend. Customers can eat it in their cars on the way home from the store and it makes a quality lunchbox addition for kids. Both signs that fresh cut produce can thrive at convenience stores.

Fresh Produce has worked for Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. for several years.  In 1999 the chain recognized a need for cut fruit and vegetables and found processors who would cut and deliver the offering to its stores. 7-Eleven had an advantage in that it already had daily delivery of fresh foods, which made the transition easy. Today, in addition to subs and wraps, 7-Eleven is able to offer salads and cut fruit bowls.

Still, Steve Kenfield, vice president of sales and marketing for HMC Group Marketing Inc., Kingsburg, Calif., warns distributors to evaluate each c-store chain separately, and make sure they know how to market and sell the product. “There’s a wide range of convenience stores,” Kenfield told The Packer. “There are some that look almost like a fresh market, and there are some that you pump your gas and buy beer and cigarettes, which won’t hold much value for produce.

“You put a one-off item in a convenience store, and nobody will see it or expect to find it there, no matter how much the concept resonates with upper management, unless (customers) see it, understand it and expect to find it there and enjoy their experience when they buy it there,” Kenfield said. “I think you’re going to see in the right venue, with the right product, that’s a point of contact with consumers with that right item. But you’re not going to see it overnight.”

While it might not be the best fit for every store, the c-store sector is a  “tremendous growth channel” for fresh produce, noted Jeff Oberman, fresh-cut processor board and vice president of membership and trade relations for the United Fresh Produce Association. “It’s a natural fit,” he told The Packer. “When we talk about new channel development, we see the c-store segment to be a real champion for fresh-cut produce in emphasizing our strengths on convenience.”


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