ALEXANDRIA, Va. — NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, was named Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) Partner of the Year at PHA's 2019 Summit: Accelerating a Healthier Future in Chicago on April 2.
The PHA Partner of the Year Award is presented to a partner that demonstrates how it is executing key strategies with and beyond its PHA commitments, including focusing on those populations disproportionately impacted by obesity; doing well while doing good; using an innovative approach to address childhood obesity and other chronic diseases; or creating a ripple effect within its respective industry.
NACS was one among five finalists selected for the PHA Partner of the Year Award. Other finalists included McLane Co. Inc., the Des Moines Area Religious Council, Produce Marketing Association/Sesame Street eat brighter! and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension, as Convenience Store News previously reported. Mercedes-Benz USA received the award in 2018.
"This award recognizes both the efforts of our industry to make the healthy choice the convenient choice and the power of PHA to provide the connections and resources to make a difference in communities," said NACS President and CEO Henry Armour. "Convenience stores serve 165 million Americans per day, and most customers are in and out of our stores with their food and beverage purchases in about three minutes. That is why it's so important for retailers to provide cues that can help their customers make healthier choices."
NACS became the first retail-focused association to make a commitment with PHA in 2017. The association outlined five specific elements of its commitment to PHA:
- Continue to encourage appropriate NACS members to engage with PHA.
- Disseminate a web-based nutrition resource that could help c-stores identify products as being healthier options and assist them in defining their better-for-you sets.
- Continue to engage small-format stores — specifically corner stores — that are often the only food source for residents in highly rural or urban settings.
- Develop and disseminate Drink Up marketing materials that encourage c-store customers to stay hydrated.
- Emphasize wellness at the NACS office and at its industry-specific events.
The latest community-focused initiative from NACS includes a collaboration with the Produce Marketing Association and eat brighter!, a program that allows participating NACS retailer and supplier members to use "Sesame Street" character images to promote fruit and vegetable sales.
According to NACS, the partnership with PHA and other nutrition-focused groups has helped the association share new ideas and insights as to how convenience retailers can offer a greater variety of healthy options. NACS research confirms this progress:
- More than two in five NACS retail members (41 percent) said they stocked more fresh fruit and vegetables over the first six months of 2018, and 24 percent stocked more cut fruits and vegetables.
- C-stores have expanded their selection of health bars (45 percent of retailers surveyed said they stocked more), nuts/trail mix (35 percent stocked more) and packaged salads (37 percent stocked more). Similar increases were reached in 2016 and 2017.
- More than half of all NACS retail members (54 percent) said they sold salads in 2017, a 10-point increase from 2013.
Consumers have also noticed these changes. One in three consumers (32 percent) said convenience stores offered more prepared foods and 19 percent said they noticed more healthy options, such as salads on store shelves, according to a 2017 NACS consumer survey.
"We now sell a quarter of a billion dollars of fruit, which today is as popular of a snack in our stores as popcorn or pretzels. Water sales are $4 billion, a healthy increase from just a few years ago. And one in $6 is spent on prepared food in stores," said Armour. "With the help of PHA, convenience stores are redefining what it means to be a great community partner, and we continue to bring this message to our entire NACS membership."
Alexandria-based NACS has 1,900 retailer and 1,800 supplier members from more than 50 countries.