Your loyal customers are likely locals stopping by for a grab-and-go occasion or to refuel their vehicle. Their kids have grown up with your store. They may even have been employed or know someone who has at your store because 17% of Americans have worked in a convenience store – that’s 1 in 6 people. Celebrate their community and the hard work that their neighbors have put into it.
Do you have the resources to effectively acquire and merchandise fresh fruits and vegetables? These are real concerns, and there are resources to help you decide the right program and the right strategy for success.
Convenience stores in the United States have very different distribution models for that affect how they obtain fresh product. There are other distribution issues besides cost and frequency of delivery: ensuring freshness, food safety and correct storage temperature throughout the entire delivery cycle. Refrigeration equipment and skills required to manage fresh product may also impact shelf life. Produce that doesn’t have to travel far can stay fresher longer. Buying local fruits and vegetable, when possible, helps promote your tie to your community.
If you decide to carry fresh produce, first check with your distributor to assess availability. Perhaps looking beyond the traditional distribution may be the right solution. Whether you plan to carry a few bananas and apples, or packaged cut produce, here are some ideas to get you started:
- Take this quiz: Are You Fit for Fresh?
- Build a business plan with NACS resource,Building the Business Case for Fresh.
- Sell more than just whole fruits and vegetables by including convenient cut, diced and sliced fruit in cups or bags. Sliced fruit is much more appealing to those kids losing teeth who can’t bit into apples and pears!
- Read up on distribution options and food safety in: Convenience Store Distribution Options for Fresh Produce
- Visit the USDA Food Hub Directory to find local farms and distributors in your area.
- Reach out to local growers to directly deliver fruits and vegetables.
- Join the National Nutrition Incentive Network with Wholesome Wave to gain more exposure, especially if you serve many SNAP shoppers
- Involve farmers as third-party sellers and host a local farm stand on your property or in your store on a regular basis. If you have a parking lot or adjacent lot large enough to hold one, host a weekly farmers market with multiple farmers and vendors from your area.
- Doctors have begun prescribing fruits and vegetables to patients. Advertise that you accept such prescriptions.
- Offer free fruit to kids. Get them hooked!
Here’s how some retailers are successfully expanding their fresh offer:
- Food Land Mini Mart in Ohio has sold fresh produce for more than a decade
- Kwik Trip Inc. has been recognized by the White House for its fresh offerings
- NACS Magazine’s June 2016 cover story focused on category data and retailer insights about carrying fresh produce
- Through Family Express’s Free Fruit for Kids program, children age 12 under can receive a free banana, pear or apple.
The growth of the craft beer industry presents great opportunities to grow your sales and be more local. Craft beers pair well with upscale foodservice offers, and there may be opportunities to partner with a local brew pub or brewer that is too small to develop a “growler” program.
To get started:
- Ask your beer and/or wine distributor for local selections and carry a variety of styles, rotating selection frequently.
- Host tastings with local brewers and wineries, consulting local laws to ensure compliance.
- Consider starting a draft beer program with growlers or crowlers with a frequently rotating selection. Many brew pubs only produce kegs, so the only way enthusiasts can enjoy the beer is from the brew pub or from a 32- or 64-ounce growler that can be taken home. You can brand the vessels with your logo and like a refill mug, only allow fill-ups with your bottles. This encourages loyalty.
- The same applies for local ciders and kombuchas, both of which are rapidly growing in popularity.
These retailers are successfully selling more craft beer:
- Triangle Stop (North Carolina) has an extensive beer and wine collection, including tastings and filling taps
- Kum & Go in Iowa added growlers to new flagship stores.
- Explore beer trends by listening to the NACS Convenience Matters podcast, episode #36
- Sunoco stores implemented growlers in New York and South Carolina stores
- Stop and Go Mini Mart in Bend, Oregon has excelled in his beer growler program. Read more and listen to the NACS Convenience Matters podcast featuring Kent Couch.