Temple, Texas-based McClane Company Inc., is the biggest distributor to convenience stores, Meyer said, supplying perhaps about 40,000 convenience stores, including 7-Elevens, Valeros and others.
Foodservice demands daily deliveries, which is difficult for a convenience store that usually gets weekly or twice a week delivery.
Highlighting fresh food is the latest ways that some convenience stores are appealing to changing consumer needs, Meyer said. In the 1970s, convenience stores had only begun to offer gasoline. He said it didn’t take long for convenience stores to become the top outlet for gas.
Fresh food is more complicated than gas or coffee, Meyer said, and not all convenience stores have embraced the challenge since fresh food began to appear in stores in the 1990s.
Meyer said the highly regarded QuikTrip Corporation, headquartered in Tulsa, Okla., increased its focus on fresh foods about five years ago. The $10 billion chain has 600 stores in 11 states. Now QuikTrip has daily delivery of fresh foods from its it distribution centers.
Kwiktrip, based in Lacrosse, Wis., is another convenience store chain that has had success with fresh. “They have their own commissary and trucks going every day to the store, and they sell 10 million pounds of bananas every year,” Meyer said.
He said Subway, which has been a client of Meyer, has been successful in expanding its restaurants in convenience stores into a billion-dollar division.
Lutz said Schotts and Wawa convenience stores have also been strong performers with fresh and prepared foods.
Meyer said convenience stores have more points of distribution than other retail sector, so those outlets have tremendous opportunities because of the traffic they draw.
Convenience stores have more ATMs, sell more coffee and sell more gas than any other retail outlet, Meyer said. “They’re convenient, they are on the way to work, they are on the way home, and it takes five minutes to get in and get out,” he said.
The key for produce suppliers is finding stores that can successfully execute fresh food and providing them the logistical solutions to make fresh food work, Meyer said.
Lutz said foodservice distributors often bring products to convenience stores because they are familiar with delivering product in small batches.
“Produce has an opportunity to have find the good operators,” he said. “If you have (successful operators) and distribution daily so things are fresh, boy, you can sell them anything,” he said.