Fill up at alternative formats

02/01/2013 03:51:00 PM
Tom Burfield

click image to zoomIt seems like everybody is getting into the fresh produce business.

Besides your typical grocery retailers, a growing number of dollar stores, convenience stores and, in some cases, neighborhood drugstores now offer at least a minimal selection of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Consumers are making produce purchases at alternative stores to save time, snap up a good value or just because they’re convenient.

“Time matters,” says Dick Meyer, president of Mesa, Ariz.-based Meyer & Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in the convenience store industry.

That’s why consumers pop into convenience stores to pick up a banana, apple or other fresh produce item when they stop for gas, a cup of coffee or to use an ATM.

“They can be in and out in less than five minutes,” he says.

Core-Mark International, South San Francisco, Calif., specializes in marketing fresh foods and other products to convenience stores, drugstores and other small-format locations, says Rob Hoeff, director of fresh foods.

About 5,000 of the company’s more than 30,000 customers buy whole fresh fruit, he says. Five years ago, the number was zero.

Hoeff was hired from Safeway Inc., a Pleasanton, Calif.-based supermarket chain, to put together a fresh food program for Core-Mark.

“Produce is definitely a key component in that,” he says, including whole items such as bananas, apples, oranges, lemons and limes.

Value-added items include salads, such as Ready Pac Bistro Bowls, along with Ready Pac cut fruit, snacking trays and Crunch Pak brand snack items.

Convenience stores are geared for the person on the run and for immediate consumption, he says, since their customers consume 70% of what they buy before they reach their destinations.

“It’s definitely not where they’re stocking up to take things home for the kids’ lunch,” he says.

Convenience store customers traditionally have been men, he says. But the addition of fresh produce could alter that demographic.

“The fresh food program offers a way to bring the soccer mom or the female who is stopping to put fuel in her car into the store,” Hoeff says. “It brings new foot traffic into a store as well.”


7-Eleven gets fresher

Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc., a subsidiary of Japanese firm Seven & i Holdings, operates about 9,500 convenience stores in North America and recently discussed plans to double the amount of fresh items in its stores to 20% of their volume.

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