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How To Provide On-the-Go Options

March 11, 2016

Customers want fresh food fast, that’s easy to eat on the go and features ingredients that excite. Quality sandwiches deliver fresh ideas that satisfy.

By Marilyn Odesser-Torpey, Associate Editor

As the demand for on-the-go foods with new and exciting ingredients continues, sandwiches are providing an efficient way for c-stores to provide new and customizable options in an easy-to-eat format.

A new consumer survey from Culinary Visions Panel, a Chicago-based market research firm, revealed that Americans are pretty much split down the middle when it comes to looking for lighter, more healthful sandwiches and ones that are fully loaded. Novelty and familiarity also run neck and neck when asked if they like to try new combinations or always order a favorite.

Keeping up with what customers want does not have to be a daunting task, said Rachel Tracy, managing director of Culinary Visions Panel. For the adventurous among your guests, offering some interesting condiments can make the difference between a same-old sandwich and something new and exciting. Limited-time offers (LTOs) are also an easy and cost-efficient way to test new combinations without incurring a lot of waste, she noted.

sandwich quoteThe one thing all consumers are looking for is a good quality sandwich, whether it is made in the stores, by a proprietary commissary or, as in the case of Alta Convenience Stores, by a trusted third party supplier.

“Even with something as basic as a ham and cheese wedge sandwich, the quality can be very different depending upon the supplier,” said Chris Smyly, merchandising manager for the Denver-based chain, which has 57 stores in four states.

Until recently, Alta had its own brand of sandwiches produced for the c-stores by a supplier. But a number of issues, including price increases, out-of-stocks and lack of innovation brought the company to the conclusion that it should change supply partners. Sandwiches at Alta now bear the name of the new supplier.

“For us it was a matter of making a trade-off,” said Smyly. “Either we could have our name on the product and contend with all of the issues with our original supplier or we could make sure we are giving our customers the best possible experience with a top-quality product.”

A bonus is that the new sandwich supply system is more economical for the company “so it is a better value all around,” he pointed out. The new supplier not only offers a greater variety of breads, meats and cheeses, it also has a chef on staff to keep new combinations coming for LTOs. Alta is in the process of rolling out the new sandwiches to 54 of its stores.

Read the full article.

Customers Seeking Fresh Snack Options

March 1, 2016

Millennials take big-picture view when deciding what to buy, says IDDBA

MADISON, Wis. — Fresh-perimeter shoppers are looking for higher-quality, fresh, and less-processed options for their snacking needs, creating opportunities for bakery, deli, dairy, foodservice and cheese departments to capture a larger share of consumer in-store purchases, according to What’s in Store 2016, the annual trends research report published by the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA).

Other findings found in the book’s Eating Trends section include:

  • 56% of Americans snack three or more times a day, up from approximately 20% in the 1990s.
  • Protein continues to be a top source of nutrition, with one-quarter of shoppers seeking protein information on product nutrition labeling.
  • Sales of gluten-free foods grew almost 35% from 2009 to 2015, with future sales expected to exceed $2 billion by 2019.
  • Trending food and cooking movements include ethnic fusion, Peruvian, fermentation and foraging.

Read the full article.

Snacks: Seven Consumer Snacking Trends

December 17, 2015



And five signs snack sales are on the upswing

Sally Lyons Wyatt, client services director for Chicago-based IRI, outlined seven trends that are driving consumers’ snacking behavior today during a March webinar sponsored by Arlington, Va.-based Snack Food Association (SFA).

Here’s a quick peek at each:

1. Niche snacks

They are becoming increasingly mainstream as small brands gain distribution and drive growth. From 2011 through 2014, the all-commodity volume (ACV) for niche snacks jumped from 58% to 85%, driven by better retail placement. “This is adding excitement and attracting millennials, who are advocates of niche snacks,” said Lyons Wyatt.

2. Fresh clarification

The word “fresh” has positive attributes, but remember fresh doesn’t always mean healthy, said Lyons Wyatt. Snack fare such as hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza are examples. But sometimes fresh does mean healthy, as seen by the growth in products such as bagged carrots, apple slices, smoothies, eggs and wraps. Snack-size fruit increased dollar growth 9% from a year ago, according to IRI. All in all, it’s instructive for retailers to not bank on the idea that fresh automatically means healthy.

3. New players to the snacking game

Food trucks and e-commerce are pushing the envelope as snack purveyors. “It’s at an arm’s length,” said Lyons Wyatt, but nonetheless worth paying attention to. The healthy vending trend is also something to watch as machines have evolved to address “consumer needs and demand moments.” Vending no longer dispenses only shelf-stable and cold snacks; some now offer heat-and-eat options. These manufacturers are “blending vending with the consumer experience to meet their needs anytime and anywhere,” said Lyons Wyatt.

4. Core vs. extended snacks

Core varieties rebounded in 2014 and are now ahead of extended snacking categories. Core snacks include salty, chocolate and non-chocolate, while extended snacks are defined as products such as cottage cheese, lunchmeat and eggs. According to IRI data, core-snack dollar sales increased 3.3% and unit sales 1.3%, while extended snacks grew dollar sales 1.6% but saw unit sales fall 1.3%. This trend is an about-face from the year prior, when extended snacks had the upper hand over core. The speculation is that prices trended upward for extended snacks, led by the pipeline opening for premium extended offerings.

While the innovation behind core-snack stalwarts cookies, granola and chocolate candy was apparent, it surprisingly was sushi that topped core snack category growth, with dollar sales at 13.1% growth vs. a year ago. Meat snacks continued to ride a positive wave, with 12.6% dollar sales growth, while bakery snacks grew 11.6% and are now viewed as a snack for the entire day rather than relegated to just the morning.

Innovation within these products created “a buzz,” said Lyons Wyatt, with the bulk of the innovation coming from added fiber, whole grains and protein. Monk fruit sugar as a sweetener option was also a fledgling innovation.

Read the full article.

The Next Wave in Yogurt Innovation

December 3, 2015

Looking for a healthy, grab-and-go snack product to stock in your open-air coolers? Try yogurt.

Not all c-store operators have given packaged yogurt a fair shake. Given the product’s high-protein and low-carb qualities, and the smash success of Greek varieties, it’s been nothing short of a category game-changer.

And there’s more to come.

The Hartman Group, Bellevue, Wash., reveals there are new innovations bubbling up in the segment to build on the strength of Greek yogurt’s success.

Even as the base category flattens out or declines in terms of volumetric growth, The Hartman Group gives three reasons for continued innovation excitement, including:

  • A strong stable of growing, early-stage brands trading at low distribution levels;
  • Premium yogurt has a large number of $1 million-plus early-stage growth brands across the U.S.; and
  • Premium growth is more or less constant in the non-measured channels (i.e. Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, natural/specialty).

Read the full article.