The Pantry To Expand Fresh Initiative To 400 Stores

On the heels of the early success of its “Fresh Initiative,” The Pantry is planning to roll out the program to 400 stores by the end of the calendar year.

“We continue to be encouraged by the Fresh Initiative, with the Charlotte and Raleigh markets leading the way,” said President and CEO Terry Marks during the company's second quarter fiscal 2011 earnings call on May 10.

The success in those markets has taught the company a lot, and The Pantry is now in the process of rolling out the program in Birmingham, Ala., Marks said. In addition to the 400 stores that will receive the Fresh Initiative by the end of this year, approximately 75 percent of the stores are being targeted for the new program over the next few years.

The Pantry launched the Fresh Initiative in the Raleigh market in June 2010, followed by the Charlotte market by the end of 2010, bringing the total to approximately 100 locations, as Convenience Store News reported in its September 2010 cover story on The Pantry.

In the second quarter, foodservice growth in both markets was significantly higher than in the balance of the company's markets, Marks explained during the call. “We are very pleased with the performance of these two markets,” he added.

Mark Bierley, senior vice president and CFO, said The Pantry is still refining some aspects of the Fresh Initiative and taking a deep look into what categories it wants to invest in as well. “We are learning from it and incorporating these changes into Birmingham and the [full] rollout,” he explained.

For example, the company learned to enhance the flow of its stores. “Our focus is on eliminating non-value or low-value activity,” Marks said, adding that the remodel design for Birmingham and onward revolves around things that require higher touch, such as roller grills and pastries, so they are easily accessed.

The Pantry is also taking this opportunity to significantly improve its cold dispensed products, which Marks said is a critical food accompaniment category.

What will not change is the company's focus on its Bean Street Coffee program. “Our approach to coffee will not change. It is the anchor of our Fresh Initiative,” the CEO stressed.

Moving forward with the program, the company made market improvements in its construction department to handle the many projects on tap, Bierley noted. The Pantry also made improvements to its field support and category management, and is now “confident” it has the tools it needs to roll out the Fresh Initiative on a broad scope.

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