“More than ever, I truly believe that food is our future,” says Jack Kofdarali, 2015-16 chairman of National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), Alexandria, Va.

But, although all signs point toward food as the industry’s future, it won’t happen without work.

“We’re going to have to fight for customers in an already crowded marketplace,” says Kofdarali, who also serves as president of J&T Management Inc., Corona, Calif. “We’re also going to have to tell our story and correct misperceptions about our offer. And, we’re going to have to address an increasingly long list of regulations that stand in our way—whether related to food or our other products.”

He said that it is eye-opening to travel from California to the East Coast—and Europe—and see so many retailers executing at a very high level with food.

“Their focus is not just on food made fast, but on food that is really good—both in taste and in quality,” adds Kofdarali. “And, here’s the most important thing—it’s making them money.”

The “NACS State of the Industry Report of 2015” shows how high prepared food sales also push the sales of other items higher.

“Prepared foods are bringing in more customers, and retailers are selling more food and other items,” he says. “Over the past few years, especially during my time as NACS chairman, I have seen the future of retail. But, that future also isn’t guaranteed—even if we have the smartest business plans and the best execution—because there is one other element that affects our business and that is regulation.”

Some examples of regulation include warning labels on certain beverages, a litany of fuel-related regulations and constantly changing weather patterns.

“NACS really serves as your umbrella to protect you, whether it’s bringing together our industry to speak as one voice on Capitol Hill, or telling our positive story through our reFresh initiative—especially around food and nutrition,” says Kofdarali. “Our NACS In-Store events bring elected leaders to stores in their community, so that we can show them the positive impact that we have in their districts and the negative impact bad legislation has on our businesses. After all, we can’t take on all the issues we face by ourselves.”