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    Who Buys Prepared Food at C-stores?

    CSNews study shows it's middle-income young males in northern climates

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Convenience stores still have a ways to go in attracting more female customers for their prepared food offerings. Purchasers of foodservice at convenience stores tend to be young males, located in the Northeast and Midwest, earning between $35,000 and $49,000 per year. Although, an almost equally high percentage of consumers making between $75,000 and $99,000 per year also purchase prepared food at c-stores, according to new findings released from the 2011 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle consumer study.

    Thirty percent of male respondents said they purchased prepared food at a c-store at least once in the past 30 days, compared with only 19 percent of female respondents, the study revealed. The largest concentration of foodservice purchases were in the 25- to 34-year old age category (36 percent) followed by consumers in the 35- to 44-year old group (31 percent). Only 14 percent of consumers aged 55 or older said they purchased prepared food at a c-store in the month before the survey.

    By region, the purchase of prepared foods at c-stores was pretty evenly divided across the country, but was most prevalent in the Northeast (29 percent of consumers purchasing) and Midwest (27 percent).

    Likewise, income distribution of foodservice purchasers at c-stores was fairly evenly divided, with the highest percentages in two categories: those making between $35,000 and $49,000 a year (30 percent) and those in the $75,000 to $99,000 income group (29 percent). The lowest percentage of foodservice purchasers at c-stores were in the poorest and richest income categories: the less than $35,000 group (20 percent) and the $100,000 or more group (25 percent).

    Overall, consumers purchased prepared food at c-stores a mean average of 4.75 times per month. Twenty-nine percent of consumers said they purchased prepared food twice a month, while 20 percent said they bought prepared food once a month. Nearly 30 percent, though, purchased foodservice five times or more during the month prior to the survey. Interestingly, the greatest concentration of heavy purchasers (five times or more) was in the 25-to-34 age category.

    This year’s study showed once again that foodservice generates high rings at the register for convenience store operators. Nearly 51 percent of consumers said they spent between $5 and $19.99 on foodservice at c-stores in the past month. Only 13 percent spent less than $5, and 36 percent said they spent $20 or more. The mean average spent over a month was $21.38, according to the Realities of the Aisle research.

    Men spent more than women on prepared food at c-stores – ringing up a mean average of $23.74 over the past 30 days compared with $17.32 for women. However, the sweet spot for women shoppers appears to be the $5 to $19.99 range, with 61.2 percent of women spending in that dollar range, compared with only 44.6 percent of men spending that amount.

    The lunch daypart drew the most consumers for c-stores. Nearly a quarter of respondents said they purchased prepared food at c-stores during the 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. time slot. Almost 20 percent purchased during the afterschool/dinner hours of 4 to 7 p.m., while 16.5 percent said they ordered foodservice at a c-store during the breakfast hours of 6 to 9 a.m.

    Significant percentages also purchased in the after-lunch snack hours of 1 to 4 p.m. (14.7 percent) and early evening hours of 7 to 10 p.m. (11.3 percent). Foodservice business is practically non-existent between the overnight hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. (only 0.8 percent).

    Interestingly, women outnumber men as foodservice purchasers in all three of the major dayparts of breakfast (17.3 percent vs. 16.1 percent), lunch (24.5 percent vs. 23.8 percent), and dinner (23.5 percent vs. 17.3 percent), while men outnumber women in all other timeslots, especially the evening hours when women have been known to avoid convenience stores for safety reasons.

    For more foodservice findings from the Realities of the Aisle study, see the July 4 issue of Convenience Store News.

     

    By Don Longo, Convenience Store News
    • About Don Longo Don Longo is editorial director of EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News, Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner and Hispanic Retail 360 media brands. He has covered retailing for more than 30 years as a reporter, editor and publisher. Previously, he spearheaded the editorial efforts at a variety of business publications focused on mass, drug, grocery and specialty store retailing. Convenience Store News won American Business Media’s Jesse H. Neal Award for Best Issue of the Year in 2008 and 2012. Longo has won numerous other editorial awards over his career and is frequently quoted in the national and local news media on the subjects of retailing and consumer trends.
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