Fornetti, an international bakery with 8,000 European locations, has opened some of its first U.S. locations at Road Runner stores in Conway, Fort Smith, Heber Springs, Little Rock and Hot Springs.
Fornetti's breads, pastries and donuts are baked on-site; by spring of 2017, the company expects to be in all Road Runner stores throughout the state, according to Fornetti USA CEO Nick Peters.
"We are truly excited to partner with Road Runner as we know locals will love our baked goods the moment they try them," Peters said. "Road Runner's track record in leading the market with innovative concepts make them a natural partner for us as we introduce even more consumers to the great tastes of Fornetti in-store bakeries."
According to Peters, the convenience store market is growing despite many people in the older generations viewing it "as a second rate food supplier." He cited data from Nielsen that spending at convenience stores has more than doubled from 2011 to 2015
"The convenience store market is going through a re-shape," Peters told Arkansas Business. "Giant stores have saturated the market. The growth now is in convenience stores so we're starting to see convenience stores rebrand, remodel and improve."
Peters said that the largest demographic group using convenience stores is millennials. That means convenience stores must improve the quality of the food they serve because millennials care more about ingredients than other customers, he said.
At Fornetti, food is prepared in the factory where pastries are proofed and frozen. The baking takes place in store. There, ovens have scanners that read barcodes on each product telling it how long to bake and at what temperature. Most items take 15-20 minutes, Peters said, and workers can operate the system after about 5 minutes of training.
Fornetti is based in Kecskemét, Hungary. In Europe, its locations include convenience stores, supermarkets and standalone stores. Peters said the company wants to bring standalone stores to the U.S.; it plans to test the concept in California and Texas in the next few months.
Arkansas' in-store bakeries are located in Road Runner stores at 545 Skyline Drive in Conway; 6320 Rogers Highway in Fort Smith; 1500 Bypass Road in Heber Springs; 3039 Albert Pike Road in Hot Springs; and 800 South Broadway St., 11401 Cantrell Road and 13400 I-30 in Little Rock.
The Road Runner stores are owned by Coulson Oil Co. of North Little Rock, which ranked No. 27 on Arkansas Business' most recent list of the state's largest private companies.
Fornetti is also launching stores in Oklahoma.
All locations offer a variety of products including chocolate and fruit-filled pastries; donuts; artisan breads; and baguettes.