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Convenience Stores and the Partnership For a Healthier America Form An Unlikely Dream Team


You may be unfamiliar with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), but you’ve probably encountered their work.

In pursuit of their goal to make the country healthier, PHA has brokered commitments with more than 200 companies and organizations—and impacted the lives of many millions of Americans. Companies like Subway, Walmart, Cerner…

…and convenience stores.

Consumer behaviors have changed. According to the FDA, one-third of Americans’ calories are consumed outside of the home. The convenience store industry has responded by offering a wider range of products—including healthier food—and many leading companies have taken an extra step and formed partnerships with PHA. Next week, I’m speaking at PHA’s Building a Healthier Future Summit in Washington, DC prior to the announcement of new commitments.

But much of this work has taken place behind the scenes and I decided to get the inside story by reaching out to Amaris Bradley—PHA’s Director of Partnerships.

Here’s eight things you need to know.

(I had the opportunity to meet Amaris Bradley at the 2016 NACS Show in Atlanta.)

#1: Working together gets results
PHA’s goal is to reduce childhood obesity and improve the country’s health, and it’s able to do so by working with companies rather than against them. Together, they develop a series of commitments and initiatives—the success of which are determined by independent third parties.

For example: Kwik Trip offers a free piece of daily fruit to its employees, and Sheetz agreed to place a minimum of ten healthier items near the registers in its new stores.

#2 ‘Healthy’ is good for business
Companies can only help if they stay in business and that’s why PHA brokers commitments that have the potential to increase revenue.

One year after Kwik Trip formed a partnership, bulk produce sales grew by 5.5%. Additionally, Kwik Trip currently sells, on average, 400lbs of bananas per store, per day.

#3 Star power
PHA was founded in 2010 in conjunction with, but independent from, former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign. Whereas Let’s Move! was a project based out of that office, and therefore temporary in nature, Mrs. Obama wanted PHA to continue its work long after her time in the White House. That’s why it’s a separate non-profit organization. Today, she continues to serve as its honorary chair.

#4 Leave politics at the door, please
As Amaris explained, PHA’s work is nonpartisan. Their goal is to make healthier choices available for busy, American families. Period.

As a commitment to nonpartisanship, PHA’s leaders include prominent individuals from both sides of the aisle. Former republican Senator Bill Frist (R) serves as an honorary vice-chairman alongside Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

#5 The “perfect storm”
The relationship with convenience stores began when PHA saw an opportunity and reached out. Many leading companies were already beginning to increase the availability of healthful food, and PHA recognized that convenience stores would make ideal partners for two reasons. First, there are more of them than dollar and grocery stores combined; and second, the landscape had changed with consumers demanding access to healthier food.

Two early-adopters—Kwik Trip and Sheetz—joined in 2014.

#6 Expert advice
There are different definitions of “healthy” depending on who you talk to.

To help companies navigate this often confusing territory and make healthful decisions that will increase revenue, PHA has a team of in-house experts. Amaris, for example, is a Registered Dietician and holds a Master in Public Health from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

These services—along with marketing and communications support—are free to members.

#7 Making fruit and veggies “cool”
PHA created a brand called FNV—meaning fruit and veggies. Rather than promoting health benefits, FNV takes a marketing approach that relies upon a fun, sassy message with high-profile celebrity endorsements. The idea is to make eating fresh produce “cool.”

#8 Small staff, big results
Although the Partnership for a Healthier America’s work affects millions of Americans, it’s a lean organization with a staff of twenty-five people.

Analyst, Convenience Store and Retail Trends

Frank Beard is a passionate advocate for convenience stores who brings a wide range of experience to the GasBuddy team. His "30 Days of Gas Station Food" experiment has raised awareness of the fact that most — if not all — convenience stores have healthful options available. He's spoken at events like the 2016 NACS Show and the Partnership for a Healthier America's 2017 Summit, and he's a contributor to NACS Magazine and NACS Daily. Having visited more than 1,000 convenience stores in 24 states, Frank helps communicate the fact that convenience stores truly are the perfect pit stop.