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Patrons today are foregoing the standard three-meals-a-day routine in favor of meals punctuated by snacks. According to Technomic’s 2014 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report, almost a third of customers surveyed are snacking more now than they were two years ago.
Most customers purchase their snacks from a retail location like a convenience store or supermarket. However, only 30 percent of these snacks come from stores’ prepared-food sections, showing there is a clear opportunity for c-stores to strengthen their foodservice snack programs and draw patrons to their proprietary snacks.
One way c-stores can attract more patrons to their prepared snacks is by offering healthier choices. According to the report, 42 percent of females and 37 percent of males said they are snacking on healthier food items more than they were two years ago.
Operators can attract health-minded patrons by promoting fresh produce. In August, Tedeschi Food Shops launched a program in which fresh produce is delivered to its stores three times a week. Options offered chainwide include bananas, apples and oranges, while larger-volume stores carry seasonal options such as blueberries, mini watermelons and pumpkins.
That’s not to say customers aren’t craving sweet snacks as well. Thirteen percent of customers surveyed in the Technomic snacking report said they’re eating more sweet items than they were two years ago. C-stores can appeal to patrons with a sweet tooth by featuring treats with seasonal sweet flavors. For instance, Wawa introduced pumpkin cannoli chips & dip for the fall, and 7-Eleven added limited-time mini Cinnabon cinnamon rolls in November.
C-stores should also consider menuing unique snack options to differentiate their snack selection from other c-stores and limited-service restaurants. In the last few months, Corner Store added savory puff pies in varieties like Sriracha Club and Spinach and Feta. Other recent distinctive snack options include QuickChek’s fried pickles with ranch, and Sheetz’s potato tots available with toppings like cheese and chili.
Furthermore, according to Technomic’s 2014 Lunch Consumer Trend Report, 38 percent of consumers skip lunch once or twice a week and eat snacks instead. These consumers are likely replacing lunch with savory options rather than sweet snacks, underscoring the opportunity for c-stores to offer unique savory items in their foodservice programs.