What does being 'good at fresh' mean? With shopper habits changing and the continued decline of the main supermarket trolley shop, consumers are increasingly looking to 'top-up' little and often on everyday essentials, and this mission is built around the key fresh categories, writes HIM's Ed Sibley.

One in eight of these visits are as a result of a primary need for fruit and veg or fresh protein, and it's vital that convenience stores wanting to capture this spend display fresh foods with pride. Traditionally, range and pricing of fresh categories have been barriers to purchase for many shoppers in convenience stores, so offering a credible and trustworthy range of fresh is key.

Shoppers tell us that in order to create the perception of a 'credible fresh food offer', the number one thing stores need to do is ensure a 'clean and tidy shopping area'. This demonstrates how first impressions can dominate shopper perceptions of a store. 'Smart and tidy staff' and 'clean fridges' were third and fourth in importance.

So which categories should be the focus to satisfy the modern top-up shopper? Some 65% of shoppers on the fresh food-led top-up mission have a particular eating occasion in mind, so it's important to think about the full solution rather than a specific category.

These meal-led missions are likely to span multiple categories, across chilled, fresh, ambient and even frozen. Fresh range needs to be considered in tandem with associated categories and meal solutions. One-third of shoppers we spoke to did not believe they could pick up all ingredients from their local c-store for basic meals such as spaghetti bolognese, or chicken stir-fry. They are often right!

Obviously, going big on fresh isn't right for every store. Highly transient or smaller stores may choose to focus instead on food to go, or rely on traditional footfall-driving categories such as news and tobacco. But for those who want to grow their fresh and chilled sales, thinking mission and solution rather than category has to be the way forward. And the stores which really stand out won't just have a great fresh range, the whole store will shout 'fresh'.