THE United Fresh Produce Assn. and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) announced a new partnership to significantly increase the sales of fresh produce in convenience stores.
A new task force made up of members of both groups met during the United Fresh 2014 convention in Chicago, Ill., earlier in June.
As the leading associations representing produce suppliers and their convenience store customers, United Fresh and NACS formed the partnership to identify best practices that can be shared across the industry to assist convenience 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 a convenient destination for consumers to buy fruits and vegetables. Produce sales at convenience stores were up 16.7% in 2013, more than doubling the overall 7.3% growth rate of produce sales in the U.S.
"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," United Fresh president and chief executive officer Tom Stenzel said.
"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," NACS president and CEO Henry Armour said. "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 sales success for convenience retailers.
The task force also began identifying best practices in meeting each of these challenges, learning from 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.
Convenience store sales of produce reached $328 million in 2013, and the groups believe sales can increase dramatically over the next five years with the efforts of the task force.