NACS, Cumberland Farms commit to expanding access to healthy options

NACS, Cumberland Farms commit to expanding access to healthy options

Corner stores, bodegas and gas stations have a bad reputation when it comes to the healthfulness of the foods and beverages they offer, but the National Association of Convenience Stores and Cumberland Farms hope to change that by teaming up with Partnership for a Healthier America to provide consumers with healthier choices and "clues" on how to find them.

“Convenience stores sell to 160 million Americans – more than half the US population – every single day… but what defines our industry is a very small unit of time: Three minutes,” which is the amount of time it takes on average for customers to leave their cars, stop in the store, shop and return to their cars, Rahim Budwani, the current chairman of NACS, told attendees at PHA’s Building a Healthier America Summit in Washington, DC.  

That is not very long, which “is why, it is so important to give them clues that encourage healthier choices in the stores," Budwani said.

“Our commitment to PHA will enable us to provide both the point of sale materials and nutrition guidance to help retailers market additional healthier items that meet PHA criteria. This helps the customer and helps grow sales of healthier merchandise, whether food or drinks,” which is particularly important to smaller operators like me, said Budwani, who is also the CEO of 6040 LLC.

Among these “clues” that NACS will give consumers over the next three years as part of its commitment to PHA are Drink Up marketing materials that encourage convenience store customers to stay hydrated with water.

The trade association also will provide retailers access to a web-based nutrition resources that will help them identify healthier options and curate better-for-you sets that facilitate fast, healthy shopping, Budwani said.

NACS will pay special attention to corner stores and bodegas in rural and urban food deserts and help them “transfer ideas they can use in their stores” to stock and sell healthier options, he added.  

The trade association also will practice what it preaches by emphasizing wellness at its offices and industry events and pointing member partners to healthier options at trade events, he said.

Finally, NACS promises to encourage its members to engage with PHA, which several already did prior to this Summit, including Kwik Trip (La Crosse, Wisc.), Sheetz (Altoona, Pa.), Loop Neighborhood (Fremont, Calif.), Twice Daily (Nashville, Tenn.), U-Gas (Fenton, Mo.), Enmarket (Savannah, Ga.), Ricker’s (Anderson, Ind.) and Aloha Petroleum (Honolulu). In addition, three NACS distributor members have joined PHA, including McLane Company, Core-Mark International and Esstar.

Cumberland Farms commits to PHA

The most recent addition to this list, also announced at the PHA Summit, is Cumberland Farms, a retailer in the Northeast, New York and Florida, with 600 stores and 8,000 employees.

Recognizing consumer demand for healthier options and the valuable role that convenience stores play in feeding shoppers in food deserts, Cumberland Farms commits to emphasize and expand its selection of healthier products to reach nearly 1 million customers daily, more than 70% of whom are in food deserts, Charles Jarret, the company’s CIO, said at the Summit.

To do this, he said, “we reinvented our supply chain to make sure that we have the capacity to support the new demands of fresh and healthy. … We can now manufacturer, warehouse and distribute more of our own high quality, perishable foods than ever before.”

The chain also is updating its private label brand based on PHA’s food guidelines to ensure that it has the right mix of healthful, staple and indulgent treats, “and everything in between,” Jarret said.

In addition, Cumberland Farms will take steps to ensure more people have access to healthy foods by donating more than 100,000 pounds of healthier products to local food banks during its commitment to PHA, and offering employees discounts and more than 40,000 coupons for healthy foods every month, Jarret said.

Looking forward, Jarret concluded, “We are already hard at work on the goals to prove the clear choice, and the convenient choice, can indeed be the healthy choice for millions of Americans."

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