Consumers are running faster than ever before, and their overburdened schedules and on-the-go lifestyles have shifted the landscape of the convenience store industry. Coupled with consumers attempting to make healthier choices and their desire to reduce fat and calories while boosting protein content, the convenience stores of old are stepping into a new arena.
The most successful convenience store operators capitalize on these two consumer motivators. Recognizing that the average consumer cannot change the pace of their lives, these savvy retailers have expanded their offerings to include healthier options to the traditional convenience fare.
By offering pre-packed salads, fresh-baked snacks, store-made sandwiches and other fresh options, convenience stores have made themselves a destination for healthier alternatives and offered consumers options that are not available in fast-food and quick-service restaurants.
As the head of an international sales team, I spend a tremendous amount of time on the road and have found myself migrating to 24-hour convenience stores for quality food choices from salads and fruit, to soups and hummus, in addition to roasted chickens and protein-rich snacks.
Convenience store retailers are also recognizing the buying power of Millennials, who are currently at an age that has long supported the 2 p.m.-to-midnight buying period at convenience stores. However, these teenagers and young adults who historically would have swung through for a sugared drink and packaged food are now calling for better food choices and driving the shift.
Offering healthier alternatives gives convenience stores the opportunity to tap into the more than $160 million in annual sales currently being achieved by fast-food establishments, while managing to maintain smaller staffs, less spoilage and greater options.
How Is This Possible?
One great advantage to the convenience store industry is the availability of high-quality products that arrive at their stores either ready to serve, thaw and serve or par-assembled.
From one quality-driven distributor, a retailer can get a wide assortment of items and with the support of the vendor, receive menu-planning advice from excellent chefs and bakers. Foodservice providers have an immediate pulse on trends, opportunities and seasonal varietals across all categories and generally can react more quickly than retailers who have to deal with planograms and inventory issues.
Expanding better-for-you offerings can increase your sales by capturing all of those customers who run in for one targeted item and who historically would not have considered a prepackaged baked good or sugary snack.
“Prepared fresh on site” conveys the homemade or made-from-scratch quality of the items now available, including fresh baked goods and breakfast offerings in addition to rich, quality desserts.
In addition, working with a quality foodservice provider allows convenience operations to expand the sales in every daypart. Serving a nutritious slice of quiche or frittata in the morning as an alternative to a bagel or at lunch as an alternative to a hot dog can capture the health-conscious consumer and expand the offerings throughout the day.
Having the ability to refill your baked goods case the moment you sell out of the fresh doughnuts delivered that morning captures every busy consumer who may not be on the same schedule as the “9 to 5’ers." For some, “breakfast” doesn’t happen until 4 p.m. and for others, it’s at 1 a.m.
As the demands on busy adults change, so does the opportunity to serve them.
Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.