Wholesalers’ investment in fresh produce is paying dividends for retailers

Convenience stores have seen fruit and veg sales soar by up to 30% over the past year on the back of improvements in the supply chain and changing shopper habits.

Retailers have told C-Store that fruit and veg have driven overall growth, while other fresh categories such as meat and bakery have also performed well.

Londis Bracknell retailer Arjan Mehr said: “Fruit and veg sales have gone up 24-29% year on year, which is phenomenal given the competitive and economic environment.” He said more people were shopping locally, but the biggest factor was changes implemented by his wholesaler.

“Londis has made exceptional changes to the quality, packaging and labelling, while deliveries have increased to three or four a week, which facilitates ‘little and often’ so fruit and veg isn’t sitting there getting old.” He said retailers were also investing in equipment such as better chillers.

Leamington Spa retailer Sunder Sandher, whose sales are up 14%, said: “People have gone mad for fruit and veg and bake-off. There is wastage involved, but if you train your staff you can minimise it.”

Heather Stoddart, a Spar retailer in Maltby, Rotherham, said the quality of fruit and veg from her wholesaler, Blakemore, was “second to none”. She added: “We get six deliveries a week so there’s no waste problem.”

She believed changing shopping habits had contributed to recent sales growth. “People think about the quality of food more - and with high levels of unemployment, people have time to look for bargains.”

North East Nisa retailer Saki Ghafoor, who reported 15-20% category growth, agreed: “There is definitely more demand for fresh produce, helped by encouragement from the government and the Change4Life initiative.”

According to IGD’s latest ShopperVista research, 51% of shoppers in December 2011 rated having a healthy option as an important factor when buying food, up from 46% in 2010.

“Fruit and veg sales have gone up about 15% and I’m now planning to move produce outside to boost growth further. Booker has some very good lines, such as £1 and 50p value lines.”
Chan Aujla
King’s Norton Post Office and Premier store

“We’ve always been strong on fruit and veg, with sales growing. We recently started a ‘5 pieces of fruit for £1’ line, sourced from a local supplier, which is doing really well.”
John Cuthbertson
Premier at the Union, Dundee

“We have implemented a Budgens-led project that revamps the section to look more farmshop-style and brings the whole section to life. It also focuses on seasonal products so it’s an educational tool as well.”
Jinx Hundal
Budgens, Norfolk