November 8, 2017
By: Melissa Molnar, Digital Marketing Specialist
Recently the NACS conference in Chicago took place, and Harbor Category Managers attended to learn about the most exciting things happening in the convenience store industry. We sat down with Chelsea, Harbor’s Category Manager for Beverage, Grocery and Grab & Go, to learn about what was trending at the show for her categories. Chelsea shared that there were two major trends shaping these products, better-for-you and portability.
Better-for-you food was popular in 2017, and it will be continue to be popular in 2018. Customers are seeking items that are clean label, full of protein, and cater to their busy lifestyles. Consumers are less likely to stop and eat a meal, and instead are eating on the go. Products are changing to fit these lifestyle needs. P3 Portable Protein Packs, Hillshire Snacking Small Plates, and Lunachables are examples of on-the-go, pre-portioned and protein filled products. More brands are creating products that are healthy and portable, so be on the lookout for innovations in this category in the New Year.
When it comes to Beverages, consumers are drinking healthier products, while at the same time, palettes are changing. Functional beverages that are better-for-you and offer other benefits are what customers are looking for. KeVita Kombucha with probiotics, Naked Juice and La Croix are popular products for 2018. These drinks cater to all age groups, and offer refreshing healthy choices in the beverage case. People are more aware of sugar and calorie count than ever.
Grab and Go is more than just the cooler, and traditional meal items are transitioning to be more portable too. Innovations to make pastries more portable will be a big part of that category come the New Year. A new product that will be launching is the Prairie City Walkin’ Waffles. These waffles are targeted toward busy customers who are looking to snack on something sweet while on-the-go. Walkin’ waffles will be available in the December Retail Solutions Book for pre-order.
Set your store apart from the competition by stocking better-for-you, seasonal flavors and in-between pre-portioned snacks. These are the products that customers will be buying out in 2018, and Harbor can help you figure out the best options for your store.
October 30, 2017
When it comes to the most important meal of the day, competition is stiff. Although many convenience stores have evolved and expanded their breakfast offerings, so have QSRs, fast-casuals, and coffee shops. McDonald’s offers breakfast all day, Starbucks has expanded their line of sandwiches, and according to QSR Magazine, 40% of Dunkin’ Donuts’ morning sales come from food.
That’s why it’s vital to stand out. Having observed and enjoyed the breakfast offerings at gas stations across the United States, here are four strategies to do just that.
1. Think outside the box. It’s tempting to emphasize traditional and familiar breakfast offerings at the expense of new ideas, that strategy can sometimes be a mistake. “Guests grow tired of seeing the same products month after month,” said Michael Elliot, RaceTrac’s category manager of hot foods, in the February 2017 issue of NACS Magazine. “Featuring unique, new offers give us something to invite our guests to try.”
Consider Pilot Flying J’s recent “town hall” event—where truck drivers recommended that they offer different meat on breakfast sandwiches than bacon and pork sausage. Pilot Flying J is taking these and other suggestions seriously, and celebrity chef Tim Love is helping them improve and upgrade their offerings.
Kum & Go also has options for those who want something different than a traditional biscuit or croissant sandwich. Health-conscious customers can purchase a 260 calorie egg-white, turkey sausage, and cheese sandwich, and those who want something more indulgent can enjoy a breaded chicken sandwich with Belgian waffle buns.
Other brands offer a wide range of options beyond sandwiches. Smoothies are a popular choice at GetGo, and QuickChek has an expansive menu with items like the West Coast Veggie Burrito—which includes egg whites, avocado, salsa, and shredded cheddar and pepper jack.
August 25, 2017
Many convenience store customers are dashboard diners. As mentioned in the May 2017 issue of NACS Magazine, the majority of those who purchase a sandwich or meal (56%) will eat it in the car. At night, nearly 3-in-4 (73%) plan to do the same.
This raises an important question: Do your stores offer car-friendly products and packaging?
Customers are looking for it. A recent survey of more than 3,500 GasBuddy users asked about the foodservice attributes that they look for when traveling. The number one response (63.3%) was “convenient/easy to hold.”
Driving with greasy fingers, struggling to find a place to set our food, setting down a pizza tray only to discover that grease has soaked through and left a mark on the car—it’s frustrating. Even worse: products that spill or slide about can become a dangerous distraction.
The good news is that some convenience stores and companies have already made car-friendly packaging a priority. When considering your options, here are four strategies that work:
1. Use the cup holder
Scrambled eggs are especially messy when they spill. Fortunately for QuikTrip’s customers, the breakfast bowls are sold in car-friendly snap-top containers that fit easily in cup holders. For those who grab and go on their morning commutes, this makes it easy to safely enjoy a few bites at each stoplight.
July 29, 2017
Ethnic-style handhelds, stuffed varieties and big flavors are on trend
he ubiquitous breakfast sandwich has owned the morning for years. Whether in a c-store or limited-service restaurant, the egg, cheese and meat build has stood the test of time.
But innovation marches on.
The breakfast daypart is at peak popularity, and breakfast sandwiches are king. Fifty-five percent of c-store consumers purchase breakfast from a c-store at least once a month, and 51% of those consumers say that they choose breakfast sandwiches when they’re there, according to Chicago-based Technomic’s most recent C-Store MarketBrief data.
As c-stores explore new options to meet this demand, some distinct flavor and preparation trends are emerging.
Globally inspired fare is worth watching. Ruiz Foods, Dinuba, Calif., has added a new breakfast handheld to its El Monterey line. The Breakfast Empanada features a light, flaky pastry crust filled with egg, sausage, cheese and potato. The item takes its inspiration from traditional Latin American cuisine—a plus for the 55% of consumers who say they want c-stores to offer more ethnic foods and flavors for breakfast.
Empanadas also capitalize on the move toward filled grab-and-go breakfast sandwiches. Sheboygan Falls, Wis.-based Johnsonville has a new Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit that is stuffed with scrambled eggs, Johnsonville sausage and mild cheddar cheese.
There’s also Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Convenience’s new Bosco Stuffed Breadsticks—a maple-cheddar topped breadstick filled with scrambled egg and cheese. The item can also be positioned as an all-day snack offering, with varieties such as Cheese & Turkey Ham. The all-day positioning meets the needs of the 39% of c-store consumers who choose breakfast sandwiches and wraps as snacks
November 23, 2016
It is no secret that in c-stores recently, snacking has become king. Snacks for all dayparts and flavor profiles have been seeing stellar growth and show no sign of slowing down.
With this trend there has also been the emergence of protein packed snacking options invading the cold case. There is an important correlation here, but it’s not what you might think. While consumers are snacking more often, they are still eating three meals a day and that “healthy” portable snacks are included as part of that meal consumption.
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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.
July 7, 2016
High quality, fresh food options are attracting Millennials to the new grocerant concept.
Recent research from The NPD Group has revealed that supermarkets have found a new way to attract Millennial consumers, and it is through raising the bar on their foodservice offerings. Supermarkets offering restaurant-quality and fresh food, chef-driven menus in-store have given rise to the Grocerant, and this has inspired Millennials to visit and spend, according to the recently released NPD report, A Generational Study: The Evolution of Eating.
In-store dining and take-out of prepared foods from grocers has grown nearly 30% since 2008, and accounted for 2.4 billion foodservice visits and $10 billion of consumer spending in 2015, based on NPD’s ongoing foodservice market research. Over 40% of the U.S. population purchases prepared foods from grocery stores, and while Millennials use grocery stores less than other generational groups, retail foodservice is gaining traction with them, according to the NPD study, which examines how eating behaviors of key generations are set to change as they move through life stages that examines the influence of age, generation, life stage and values on current and future eating behaviors.
May 31, 2016
Three major factors have been identified as having a significant impact on the state of the global cakes and pastries market.
New data gathered by Technavio analysts has revealed that the global cakes and pastries market is poised for growth over the next few years. According to their latest report, the global cakes and pastries market is expected to reach $60 billion by 2020, growing at a CAGR of almost 4% from 2016-2020.
According to Vijay Sarathi, lead research analyst at Technavio for food research, “The market’s growth is likely to be supported by product developments and flavor extensions in categories such as frozen pies, cake rolls and pound cakes, among others. In addition, the rising consumer focus on quality ingredients has led to the introduction of healthier products.”
Technavio’s lead food and beverage market research analysts have identified the following three factors that will drive the global cakes and pastries market:
Rising urbanization and demand from millennials
Urbanization and rising disposable incomes have resulted in greater purchasing power. The working population in big cities prefers on-the-go foods, such as pastries, cake snacks and sweet pies, among others. Globally, 54% of the population lives in urban areas, and this is expected to increase in the coming years.
Also, the rising millennial population is demanding more on-the-go food options. Millennials constituted the largest workforce demographic in the U.S. and accounted for $1.3 trillion in direct annual consumer spending in 2015, which will grow as their annual income reaches $8.3 trillion by 2025 in the U.S.
May 30, 2016
New report explains ‘The Why? Behind The Dine’
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., & CHICAGO — Fifty-two percent of consumers have purchased a prepared or made-to-order meal at a convenience store in the past month, and over the past three months, 22% of consumers ate prepared foods at home purchased at a c-store and 14% ate prepared foods in the dining area of a convenience store.
The numbers, reported in the second annual “The Why? Behind the Dine” report from Acosta and Technomic Inc., suggest an increasing willingness by consumers to purchase prepared food from traditionally packaged-food retail destinations.
“The changing food landscape includes many meal solutions that didn’t even exist five or 10 years ago,” the report says. “When asked about their behaviors during the three months prior to the survey, diners reported purchasing food across a wide range of options.”
These options included grocery stores, which show an even greater popularity with consumers as a prepared-food alternative.
According to the report, over the past three months:
And the younger the consumer, the more willing they are to purchase food from a grocer.
“There have been a variety of factors affecting the food landscape over the past 30 years,” said Colin Stewart, senior vice president of Acosta, Jacksonville, Fla. “Consumers’ desire for more convenient options in today’s fast-paced world is driving new technologies like mobile apps that can be used to track nutrition, find restaurant and retailer promotions and offers, or order foodservice and groceries for home delivery.”
March 24, 2016
Guess what customers are saying about your stores? Some of the answers surprised even us