Convenience stores used to be the stop to shop for a soda and a bag of chips after getting gas, but now more consumers are using them as an efficient way to grab a bouquet of fresh flowers, a premade salad, a cup of soup or bakery item.
In fact, the amount of fruits and vegetables sold in the convenience stores has grown to be roughly the same as popcorn or pretzels.
Bucking past trends, produce sales in convenient stores are now about $242 million per year, according to Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores. While this is still a fraction of the $61 billion in produce sold at grocery and big box stores annually, it demonstrates new opportunities for convenience store operators.
This past week, the group released data that showed convenience stores experienced a 16th straight year of record in-store sales in 2018, with total sales surging 8.9% to $654.3 billion.
"The value of convenience has never been higher," said Lenard.
People, specifically millennials, are keeping fewer foods in their pantry and reaching more often for prepared foods. And the higher the income, the fewer grocery trips that consumer is likely to make. Millennials would prefer to grab a premade salad after work than go home, make a meal, eat alone and clean up dishes.
In the past two decades, growth among large North American grocery chains has been just 2%, according to a recent report by McKinsey. The consulting firm anticipates that by 2026, $200 billion to $700 billion in grocery sales could move toward other nontraditional channels, like convenience stores.
Amazon-owned Whole Foods is catching on. The Whole Foods Market Daily Shop is the grocer's first "grab-and go" convenience store in the upscale New York neighborhood of Chelsea, where shoppers will find Whole Foods staples, prepared foods, fresh produce and even a curated flower section.