Twofold | NACS – Magazine – Past Issues – 2015 – January 2015
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Advancing Convenience & Fuel Retailing


Celery sales surge at the beginning of every year.  A new crop of dieters with New Year’s resolutions, embrace the vegetable every January. Why? Celery is considered a perfect diet food, high in fiber and low in calories. Some even call it a “negative calorie” food, meaning you may even exert more calories chewing it than you consume.

But the crunchy vegetable’s popularity doesn’t last long. A few weeks into the year celery sales tend to drop off to near-normal levels. Then, at the end of January, they surge even higher. Dieters again? Not even close. This time it’s the Super Bowl, the biggest eating day of the year that doesn’t involve turkey. This time, celery isn’t used to manage one’s weight — it’s used to grab gobs of blue cheese or ranch dressing that come with some tasty chicken wings.

So is celery the perfect diet food — or is it the perfect delivery system for creamy salad dressing? You already know the answer: It’s somewhere in between. And that, in a nutshell, summarizes our industry’s conundrum around a host of societal issues. Are we the cause of the obesity crisis in this country where one in three Americans are considered obese? After all, we do sell an awful lot of tasty snacks. Or are we the solution, because our industry’s fresh produce sales are growing much faster than other channels, and we are leaders in sponsoring youth sports and other calories-out programs?

You could take this rationale through a whole range of issues, and NACS President and CEO Henry Armour did just that in his NACS Show speech this past year in October. (You can watch Armour by going to and clicking the “We Explored” tab.) And like nearly every other NACS Show speaker, he focused on how the industry is addressing its challenges — and redefined itself.

In 2014, we focused on exploration: We sought out experts to help us learn more about critical topics important to our industry, we formed collaborations with groups like United Fresh to help grow produce sales in convenience stores, and we learned what consumers really thought about our industry and the issues facing society. Essentially, we took a 360-degree look at our industry and created a process to recast our image, to give it a refresh. We’re calling it Project Refresh.

That will be our focus in 2015 — to refresh our industry’s image by providing you tools (and toolkits) to tell your story, whether to customers or zoning boards or legislators. And we’ll explore new collaborations that advance our industry’s — and society’s — best interests. We have a number of ideas and opportunities already in play to advance these objectives.

Maybe in the coming months, as celery demand falls and prices decline, we can go big and sponsor a celery-eating contest a la Nathan’s hog dog eating contest. I can see it now: “And the winner, eating 42 stalks of celery and still losing two pounds, is…”

Jeff Lenard is the NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives.  He can be reached at or (703) 518-4272.