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C-Stores: Opportunities for fresh produce growth

Out of bananas and apples? Have a taste for fresh, locally grown blueberries or need some heirloom tomatoes to mix into a nutritious salad?

Some consumers are heading to their local convenience stores and not only filling their tanks but making purchases of fresh produce.

What’s more, a number of convenience stores ranging from Wawa, Buc-ee’s, Casey’s General Store, Huck’s, and Rutter’s to Thorntons, 7-Eleven, and Couche Tard (owners of Circle K and Mac’s Convenience Stores) are going beyond the bananas, apples, fruit cups, and salads to offer a wider array of fresh products from locally grown fruits and vegetables to healthy snacks and prepared meals.

The Evolution

While convenience stores or C-stores have not been traditional outlets for substantial fresh produce sales, many are continuing to challenge this perception and better satisfy customers looking for one-stop shopping.

It’s a trend that started before Covid-19, and has expanded, even though the pandemic has imposed a few bumps in the best way to move forward.

One example of a C-store that has embraced fresh produce is Rutter’s. The York, PA-based chain of 78 convenience stores started two years ago to not only provide more fresh produce, but locally grown produce.

Chad White, foodservice category manager at Rutter’s, says sales of fresh produce have not yet reached their full potential, but he believes they will eventually as health-conscious consumers become more used to seeing fresh fruit or vegetables in convenience stores.

“I think it’s a piece that falls right in line with overall health trends,” White observes. “I also think consumers are looking for local and fresh and want to work with local businesses.”

This is an excerpt from the cover story of the November/December issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the full feature.