NACS Wants Bubba to Eat His Veggies

Groups team up to increase sales of fresh fruits, vegetables at convenience stores

Convenience store produce; fresh fruits, vegetables (CSP Daily News)

ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the United Fresh Produce Association (UFPA) have announced a new partnership to significantly increase the sales of fresh produce in convenience stores.

As the leading associations representing produce suppliers and their convenience store customers, NACS and UFPA have formed the partnership to identify best practices that can be shared across the industry to assist c-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 fruit and vegetables. In 2013, produce sales at c-stores were up 16.7%, more than doubling the overall 7.3% growth rate of produce in the United States.

"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," said Tom Stenzel, UFPA president and CEO.

"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," said NACS president and CEO Henry Armour. "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."

A new task force of members of both groups met during the United Fresh 2014 convention in Chicago last week. It reviewed current challenges in supply-chain management, in-store handling and merchandising and other barriers to produce success for convenience retailers. The task force also began identifying best practices in meeting each of these challenges, learning from those 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 their broader memberships.

Convenience store sales of produce reached $328 million in 2013, and the groups believe that sales can increase dramatically over the next five years from this task force's efforts.

NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies.

UFPA serves companies at the forefront of the global fresh and fresh-cut produce industry, including growers, shippers, fresh-cut processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, industry suppliers and allied associations.