Not just for Slurpees, coffee and glazed donuts anymore, 7-Eleven convenience stores are aiming high in their fresh food ambitions.
In a New York Times interview in late December, the retailer said it aims to have 20% of sales come from fresh foods in its American and Canadian stores, which would be double current levels.
“We’re aspiring to be more of a food and beverage company, and that aligns with what the consumer now wants, which is more tasty, healthy, fresh food choices,” Joseph DePinto, the chief executive of 7-Eleven, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Seven & i Holdings, told the Times.
The world’s biggest convenience store chain, founded in 1927 in Texas, now operates, franchises and licenses approximately 7,550 stores in the U.S., according to the company’s website. The company said it sells 320 fresh bakery items every minute and 169 million donut and pastry items in a year.
In total, 7-Eleven chain has 48,000 stores in 16 countries.
Steve Lutz, executive vice president of the Nielsen Perishables Group, said he couldn’t speak to 7-Eleven’s performance with fresh foods because those numbers are not public.
“We know that in general fresh foods are doing pretty well in a number of these small quick serve alternative format stores,” he said.
Lutz said prepared sandwiches, deli items, prepared meals on the go, and convenient and prepared fruits and vegetables are being offered to cultivate consumers who want to eat healthy on the go.
“Those stores are getting traction in food and to the extent that fruits and vegetables are becoming more convenient friendly, the products become more workable for those formats.
The Times story reported the chain has assembled of culinary and food science experts to help it develop new convenient and tasty menu items. One new menu item cited is called the Bistro Snack Protein Pack, featuring mini pita rounds, cheddar cheese cubes, grapes, celery, baby carrots and humus.
More and more of the nearly 150,000 convenience stores in the U.S. are looking at expanding fresh food sales, said Dick Meyer, president of Mesa, Ariz.-based Meyer & Associates, a convenience store consulting firm.
Of the 150,000 convenience stores in the U.S., about 90,000 are operated by single-store operators.
“Those people are a mixed bag and they are as good as their distributors,” he said.
Core-Mark International, South San Francisco, Calif., is a distributor to 29,000 retail operations in North America through 28 distribution centers, and Meyer said the company has ramped up its fresh offerings to convenience stores.