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Today’s consumer is digitally connected to the world around them, which makes them more informed, discerning and demanding of the retailers they choose for their everyday needs. While convenience and value always play a role in delivering solutions for busy lives — particularly when it comes to snacking — it is becoming increasingly important to create experiences for consumers that provide differentiation and inspiration to drive loyalty in this highly competitive retail environment.
There are five key areas that represent growth opportunities for convenience stores looking to meet the evolving on-the-go snacking needs of their customers.
1. Satiate & Sustain Through Nutrient-Dense Solutions
Busier, longer days blur lines between meals and snacks, with consumers now eating around the clock. With consumer desire for satiety and energy, protein is in the spotlight. Apart from traditional sources, plant-based and alternative proteins are also on the rise as consumers embrace low-meat/meat-free diets.
C-stores can amplify protein in products and messaging beyond traditional categories and reposition products for all-day relevance. Examples include: all day breakfast products (e.g., breakfast sandwiches and bowls); “superfood” enhanced snacks (e.g., quinoa and chia); a system approach to bars and beverages (e.g., showcasing positive benefits — energize, refresh and focus options); and vegetable-based solutions (e.g., baked pea snaps and cold-pressed juices).
2. Move Toward "Authenticity:" Hyper-Local, Regional & Single Origins
Consumers associate higher quality with products that showcase origin and authentic roots. C-stores can look deeper into global and local cuisines for new products and ingredients to introduce new assortments around regional (e.g., from Mexican to Yucatecan), hyper-local (e.g., from American barbecue to Kansas City barbecue) and single origin (e.g., coffee, chocolate and beyond) platforms.
Examples include authentic street tacos; indigenous flavors for salty snacks such as Tikka Masala, Kansas City barbecue or Vermont White Cheddar; and single origin ready-to-drink beverages.
3. Mix Traditional With the Unexpected to Crack the Flavor Code
Modern-day consumers seek culinary adventure and expect new, imaginative flavors to delight and surprise. To further differentiate and grow, c-stores can get bolder in flavor by layering familiar flavors with local or global twists, using “hero” carrier items to introduce new flavors, as well as complementary pairings to create well-balanced blends. Flavor profiles to consider include: hot and sweet (e.g., jalapeño honey); salty and sweet (e.g., maple bacon); sweet and savory (e.g., sweet potato); and spicy and aromatic (e.g., smoky sriracha).
To enhance trial and repeat, convenience stores can leverage “limited-time original” messaging and proprietary flavor programming.
4. Make Indulgence More Permissible
Consumers do not want to compromise on taste in order to follow a healthier diet for themselves or their families. To stay relevant, c-stores should strive to marry high taste expectations with health in on-the-go snacking solutions.
Positioning snacks around calorie portioning, low salt/sugar, paleo-friendly, allergen-free (e.g., gluten, dairy, soy), probiotic and “free-from” claims cue health benefit appeal, even in non-traditional categories like frozen desserts and salty snacks.
Targeting kids with new healthier options can also attract new customers, as parents look to balance taste and health for the entire family.
5. Leverage the Next Evolution of Snacking: Communal
Snacking owns modern-day eating occasions, displacing the “three square meals a day” sit-down ritual. As casual, communal dining concepts gain further traction in foodservice, snacking will evolve from being an “alone” eating occasion to one “shared” with others. This style of eating allows consumers to experience a variety of cuisines and flavors all within the sitting.
C-stores can capitalize on this foodservice trend by incorporating shareability and social/playful elements into both fresh and packaged foods. Examples include: tapas/bento-box style snack packs; game-themed salty snacks (e.g., Doritos Roulette) and candy (e.g., Skittles Riddles); and sharable packaging (e.g., Pop’Box Popcorn).
Why should just brands or foodservice venues have all the fun? Convenience stores can easily position themselves as primary destinations for more satisfying, experience-rich, on-the-go snacking options, simply by creating “only here” experiences for core consumers that address the above industry trends.
Editor’s note: This Bonus Content story is an add-on to the Convenience Store News Guide to Snacking, published in May. More stories from the guide can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.