As the common perception of a convenience store slowly evolves from a destination for tasty but unhealthy food into a place to buy healthier options, more customers are stopping by in search of fresh fruit and vegetables — but there is still considerable room for growth in produce sales.
Few convenience store shoppers reported buying fresh produce at a c-store within the past month, according to the exclusive Convenience Store News 2015 Realities of the Aisle consumer research study.
More women did so than men, supporting the view that women are more interested in buying healthy foods, but the purchase gap is small at 8.4 percent vs. 7 percent of those surveyed.
Those who do buy produce at c-stores are more likely to be high-income shoppers who make $100,000 or more per year (11.3 percent); fall into the age groups of 25–34 (12.9 percent) or 35–44 (10.2 percent); and live in the Midwest or West (9.5 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively).
Having children makes a considerable difference, too — only 4.6 percent of those without children buy produce at c-stores compared to 11.6 percent of parents, suggesting that whether or not their own eating habits change, these consumers want a healthier diet for their kids.
Even when buying products straight from the garden or orchard, consumers show a sweet tooth. Looking at the shopping baskets of those who bought prepared food at a c-store within the past month, fresh-cut fruit beat out fresh-cut vegetables at 11.3 percent vs. 7.2 percent.
Compared to other fresh product choices, both fresh-cut fruit and vegetables are slightly less popular than salad (12 percent purchased in the past month), but considerably more popular than organic/all-natural products and low-fat/low carb items.
It is important to note that the limited availability of fresh produce at c-stores is a major factor in the low percentage of purchases. The number of consumers who expressed interest in purchasing fresh-cut fruit or vegetables if such products were available is much higher than those who reported having done so already — 30.8 percent for fruit and 21.2 percent for veggies.
Fitting with the shopping trends of those who already buy produce at a c-store, more women than men said they would like to do so. Female shoppers are most interested in fresh-cut fruit at 38 percent. Additionally, fresh-cut fruit is most in demand to those in the Northeast (34 percent), while the Midwest is most interested in fresh-cut vegetables (23.4 percent).
Offering fresh produce comes with extra challenges, including making sure it stays fresh while on c-store shelves, but consumer attitudes and shifting trends in foodservice make it clear that the segment represents a promising opportunity for committed retailers.