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How Quick Serves Can Embrace Meatless Menus

November 25, 2016

Protein alternatives go mainstream in a big way.

A generation or two ago, Americans who eschewed meat were widely seen as staking out prime real estate on the lunatic fringe. In the popular imagination, vegetarians and vegans were consummate outsiders who dared to reject societal norms, as Marta Zaraska writes in her recent book Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat.

In an excerpt published in Time magazine in February, Zaraska offers a counterculture magazine’s 1971 observation that “to many Americans, vegetarianism represents another weirdo protest of the head generation against mom-and-apple-pie-ism.” But, Zaraska adds, “Something was different in the ’60s and ’70s: Being a weirdo wasn’t so bad anymore.”

These days, of course, not only aren’t those who adhere to, experiment with, or temporarily embrace plant-based diets considered odd, weird, or hopelessly out of step, but their numbers also suggest they are practically mainstream. Data shows that younger consumers regularly eat vegetarian and vegan food; meanwhile, a growing percentage of older consumers are doing the same. Whether the driver is health, animal welfare, or the environment, it’s clear that plant eaters are now living among more like-minded neighbors.

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Younger Consumers Drive Vegetable Consumption

November 21, 2016

The move toward fresh foods for younger generations has also included vegetables.

Millennials and Gen Zs are driving growth in fresh and frozen vegetable consumption, but baby boomers don’t seem to be eating their share, according to The NPD Group, a global information company.

Younger consumers, those under age 40, have increased the annual eatings per capita of fresh vegetables by 52% and frozen vegetables by 59% over the last decade. Boomers, ages 60 and up, on the other hand, decreased their consumption of fresh vegetables by 30% and frozen vegetables by 4% over the same period.

Increased consumption of fresh vegetables is an outcome of the shift to fresh foods among young consumers over the last decade. Generational change is partly responsible for the move to fresh as younger consumers are adopting fresh at a much earlier age than the generations before them. Millennials and Gen Zs will sustain the growth of fresh vegetable consumption as they age into their heaviest consumption years. Over the next several years fresh vegetable consumption is forecast to increase by 10%, an increase that will be tempered by the lower eating rates of boomers, according to NPD Group’s “A Generational Study: The Evolution of Eating.”

 

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Inside the Quest to Bring Healthy Foods to C-Stores

August 25, 2016

Fresh produce and other healthy snacks are front and center in Kwik Trip stores.

For an industry built on prioritizing convenience, supporting healthier lifestyles is as much about changing consumer perceptions as it is about the logistics of stocking and moving more fresh, nourishing food options.

And yet the six convenience-store chains—with more than 1,000 locations combined—that have partnered with the nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) are finding that the challenges of sourcing, merchandising and selling healthier options could pay off in the form of vastly growing their target market.

“The biggest thing we noticed since focusing more on fresh was I could walk into any of our stores any morning and see women and young adults shopping our food—not for hot dogs, but for salads, yogurt parfaits and fruit cups,” says Perry Cheatham, chief operating officer of U-Gas and Gigi’s Café Express, Fenton, Mo. “What we realized through PHA is if we can expand those offerings and they qualify as healthy, we can really grow our demographic.”

First Movers

PHA, created in conjunction with (but separate from) first lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, brokers commitments with the public and private sector to develop strategies for addressing obesity. In addition to U-Gas, Vintner’s Distributors Inc., KwikTrip, Sheetz, enmarket and Tri Star Energy’s Twice Daily have committed to selling and marketing more healthy options, such as produce, low-sodium snacks, whole grains and low-fat dairy. At press time, McLane Co. Inc. announced it had signed on as a partner, pledging to enhance the heather-for-you offerings it supplies to retailers.

“We knew it was a bit risky getting into such a different retail space, but the convenience sector is so critical just because of the sheer number of Americans who walk into a c-store each day,” says Amaris Bradley, registered dietitian and senior manager for PHA, Washington, D.C.

About 160 million Americans enter a c-store each day, and 53% of U.S. consumers say they’d visit c-stores more often if there were healthier options, according to a NACS survey. Add to that the sheer number of c-store outlets compared to any other retail channel, and the opportunity to expand into better-for-you choices seems obvious.

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8 WAYS TO GROW HEALTHY SALES

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.

A Healthier Indulgence

August 11, 2016

Retailers boost snack sales with better-for-you-items

As snacking continues to evolve, convenience stores need to remain flexible to accommodate new and higher demands. Snacks used to be an occasional, quick (and generally unhealthy) bite, but today, younger audiences are looking for not only more snack options, but much healthier ones as well.

According to market research company IRI, consumers are snacking more than ever. While the average consumer snacks 2.7 times per day, almost half of consumers are scarfing down three or more in a day.

This exponential growth in snacking means that c-stores, traditionally a one-stop shop for these quick bites, are now having to straddle both sides: offering the traditional snacks they’re known for but also appealing to the customers seeking better-for-you snacks.

By doing so, retailers can offer options that appeal to a variety of consumers and boost snack sales at the same time.

Research from Technomic shows that 58% of consumers overall—and 64% of women—are seeking healthier items from their local convenience stores. And younger customers “simply expect it,” says Technomic associate principal Donna Hood Crecca. What’s more, 64% of consumers would buy more products from c-stores that offered healthy snack choices.

So what’s the bad news in this new balancing act? Research from Brandware shows that although shoppers want to see healthier snacks on c-store shelves, 65% of consumers think c-stores’ selection of healthy food choices is inadequate.

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The Pursuit of “Healthy” Prepared Foods

July 21, 2016

To succeed at better-for-you food sales, retailers should consider some requirements consumers hold true. 

By Tim Powell

There are few topics that garner as much attention, disagreement and misunderstanding in the c-store foodservice channel than the idea of “healthy” food. The common belief in foodservice as a whole is that consumers request one thing and do something else.

For example, a few years ago a major quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain offered carrot sticks as an alternative to French fries based on consumer input. Sales were so poor in its first few weeks however, the company was forced to discontinue the offering. A launch a few years later caught on, but it is a good example of understanding how and when to offer healthy food in a segment built on meat sticks and a gallon drum of cola.

As shown in the following chart, convenience store consumers are increasingly demanding healthy prepared food options. Increased obesity, stricter government rules on nutritional transparency, legislation and diet-related illnesses (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure) are realities in American society and convenience stores have been cited as culprits in “food desert” debates.

Offering healthy options should become a part of a convenience store’s menu strategy—just like variety, innovation, limited time offers (LTOs) and line extensions. Therefore, Q1 Productions, a business intelligence firm focusing on consulting solutions, offers a few pointers for operators for increasing the success rate and “staying power” of healthier options in a segment with consumers historically indifferent to them. But the following are tips to pay heed:

It must taste good. This may seem obvious but should nonetheless be emphasized. C-store consumers want food that tastes good, period. Q1 research has learned that one of the top reasons consumers do not order healthy items is they fear they will not taste good.

Read the full article.

‘A Dietitian Walks Into a Convenience Store…’

May 27, 2016

Kwik Trip’s healthy strategy paying off, putting the lie to a punchline

Healthy Snackers Making Room For Indulgent Baked Goods

March 29, 2016

Which sweet treats are tempting your customers?

Even though your c-store customers say they want to eat healthier, the truth is they still want to sink their teeth into something sweet, possibly chocolaty, and definitely not good for them.

It’s okay—there’s wiggle room across the snacking spectrum.

The desire for comfort snacks—from cookies to cakes to doughnuts—has enabled the market forpackaged sweet baked goods to continue to thrive in today’s health-focused climate.

Your customers are working hard to eat healthier and are seeking the occasional reward for their efforts—and your store is tailor-made to deliver.

Sweet baked goods sales reached $20 billion in 2014 and will uptick by a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 3% to reach $23 billion in 2019, according to survey data in the recent Packaged Facts report “Sweet Baked Goods: U.S. Market Trends.”

Although other product categories are more suited to healthier reformulations, sweet baked goods manufacturers have responded with products that contain less sodium, sugar and fat, and no high fructose corn syrup and trans fats.

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Consumers Tell All

March 24, 2016

Guess what customers are saying about your stores? Some of the answers surprised even us

 

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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.