Convenience stores are poised to capitalize on the growing trend of consumers seeking healthy, more convenient products, according to a new Hudson Institute report commissioned by NACS entitled, “Health & Wellness Trends and Strategies for the Convenience Store Sector.”
Convenience store shoppers are consuming more healthy food items, such as vegetables, fruits and healthy snacks compared to a year ago, and 75% of convenience store customers say they are eating healthier than they used to, according to the report. In addition, the number of convenience store shoppers interested in healthy foods that can be eaten “on-the-go” has increased from 59% to 66% in the past seven years, and healthier snacking has become the norm.
To grow sales, convenience store operators should look beyond simply meeting the needs of their traditional customers and embrace these growing customer segments that are demanding more and more better-for-you items that can be conveniently purchased, according to the report.
The report’s authors—Hank Cardello, senior fellow and director of the Hudson Institute’s Obesity Solutions Initiative, and Steve French, managing partner and co-owner of the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI)—will present their findings at the NACS Show during the October 13 education session, “Grow Sales the Healthy Way.” The report was also the basis for the October 2015 NACS Magazine cover story, “Blending Health and Convenience.”
The policy think tank’s report encourages convenience retailers to place a focus on two primary consumer segments to grow overall sales: their traditional core consumer segment of “Eat, Drink & Be Merrys” and the growing segment characterized as “Fence Sitters,” who represent 38% of convenience store shoppers and typically spend more, yet are often unsure where they can find convenient, better-for-you options. Overall, 34% of Fence Sitters say that there are “no convenient locations nearby” to purchase healthy foods and 41% say “it is not convenient or easy to find” better-for-you products.
In particular, easy-to-access prepared foods present an opportunity for convenience stores with foodservice operations to capitalize on this customer’s desire to eat healthier more often. Foodservice sales are 19% of the industry’s $213.5 billion in in-store sales.
“Convenience stores have an opportunity to bridge this gap and own convenient foodservice—especially breakfast—when nutrition is considered most important and Fence Sitters are currently eating healthier options during this meal occasion in particular,” according to the report.
There also is considerable opportunity to grow sales through education—both by communicating the availability of better-for-you products and by highlighting how better-for-you “tastes great and is quick to prepare or can be eaten on the go.”
“By focusing on products and messaging that meet the need for healthier products—on-the-go, breakfast and kid-targeted convenience—convenience stores can drive significant, new growth in this emerging category,” the report concluded.
The insights in the report were based on the proprietary Health & Wellness Trends Database managed by the NMI, which has analyzed and compiled more than 80,000 consumer surveys since 2001.