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August 19, 2016

Eight low-cost—and proven—tactics for how c-store operators can grow their healthy offer.

By Jeff Lenard and Carolyn Schnare

Continued growth in sales of healthier, nutritious foods in c-stores and other retail locations underscores the need for new retail strategies that capitalize on current changes in consumer demand. To help our members develop those strategies, NACS has led an effort to create and communicate new opportunities for convenience retailers to expand their selection of better-for-you offers and, as a result, grow their businesses.

As part of this effort, NACS commissioned the 2015 Hudson Institute report, “Health and Wellness Trends and Strategies for the Convenience Store Sector,” to identify opportunities for the convenience store channel. The research was clear: “By focusing on products and messaging that meet the need for healthier products—on-the-go, breakfast and kid-targeted— convenience stores can drive significant new growth.” (NACS shared much of this research in our October 2015 cover story, “Blending Health and Convenience.”)

All of the information uncovered in the report was enlightening, but we needed to put the insights to the test, so we implemented in-market tests designed to assess the business value of specific better-for-you merchandising and marketing strategies. We connected several NACS retail members with Cornell Food and Brand Lab behavioral economists and the Project on Nutrition and Wellness to create a series of in-store pilots. Each of the test scenarios we tried focused on growing healthier food and beverage sales, but with operating simplicity and low- to no-cost of implementation.

Eight concrete tactics were uncovered and form the basis of our new toolkit, “Ideas That Work to Grow Better-for-You Sales,” and are shared below.

1. Grab Them Immediately
Offer a “grab-and-go” area at the entrance of your store with a small selection of healthier snacks and better-for-you items. This immediately sets the tone for your offer throughout the entire store. Items could include fruit, vegetables, water, yogurt, milk, eggs, 100% juices and whole-grain breads.

IMPLEMENTATION: Convenience is one of the key drivers of food behavior, so make the most of it. Merchandising quick, easy to eat, healthy snacks in areas with heavy traffic (front of store), or that are frequent destinations inside the store (drink coolers), will increase purchase of those items.

Product can be displayed in a fresh case, endcap or in baskets or bins, as long as it is clearly visible as customers enter the store. Be sure to display a variety of items (a display of just bananas is not enough!) so it is clear that customers have a choice of options.

Bundle together healthy items (e.g. bottled water, fruit and a yogurt or low-calorie sandwich), bag them and provide a quick grab-and-go lunch. A prominent display shows and reminds customers that these items are available inside the store, which helps prime customers to make healthier choices during future visits.