My Local CEO Mike Greene has thrown down the gauntlet to symbol groups and wholesalers to improve their fresh offer to enable independents to compete against the multiples.

Speaking at the recent ACS Summit, Greene said the fresh offer in the independent sector was “terrible” and was not being led by the supply chain. “We’re not going to beat the supermarkets [c-store chains] with canned and packaged grocery,” he said.

Greene told C-Store that his comments were not directed specifically at My Local supplier Nisa, which he described as the “best of a bunch that needs to change”, but insisted it was an industry-wide problem.

“We won’t be taken seriously by consumers until we sort fresh out. The biggest differences between multiple c-stores and indies are price and fresh, and the price gap is closing. When a multiple takes over an indie they often grow sales by 40% because of fresh.”

He said suppliers should ask themselves why the best independents, such as East Sussex retailer Jempson’s, are now producing their own ranges. However, he said My Local stores would not source fresh locally in the future, as he preferred to work with partners. “Partnership is about challenging each other, it’s not always harmonious,” he explained.

He said suppliers needed to focus on consolidation and economies of scale, citing Booker’s Farm Fresh label - which is being used across four brands - as an example.

“Nisa has made strides by introducing date coding on fresh and changing meat supplier for the better,” he added.

My Local was averaging 1% sales growth a week, while Easter sales were up 11% over the previous week, Greene said.

Also speaking at the ACS Summit, Chris Gheysens, CEO of US c-store chain Wawa, emphasised the importance of fresh food to his business. “The mission of our supply chain is to drive fresh produce daily to 700 stores,” he said. “You have to pick where you want to win. The companies which have won regionally are the ones which have differentiated.”