7-Eleven Leverages Millennial Meal Morphing

Adds Chicken Dippers snacks to hot foods menu

7-Eleven Chicken Dippers (CSP Daily News /Convenience Store Petroleum)

DALLAS -- As meals and snacks continue to morph to interchangeable eating occasions, 7-Eleven convenience stores are adding another small-snack, big-value item to its hot foods lineup. Chicken Dippers are pieces of 100%, high-quality white-meat chicken with no fillers that are lightly breaded in a tasty coating and served with a choice of Ancho Chipotle, Ranch or Honey Mustard dipping sauce.

A cupholder in the specially designed Dippers packaging helps keeps the sauce from spilling. Six "dippers" and sauce are value-priced at $1.99 at participating 7-Eleven c-stores.

"Since we launched hot foods nationally five years ago, our chicken breast tenders and wings have been top-sellers, so we know our customers love chicken," said Kelly Buckley, 7-Eleven vice president of fresh food innovation. "Chicken Dippers are flavorful, juicy and can satisfy those who are hungry for a snack or small meal."

The new Chicken Dippers are part of 7-Eleven's proprietary hot-to-go foods currently available in more than 5,200 of 7-Eleven's 7,800 U.S. stores. They are heated in Turbo Chef ovens like the company's whole and sliced pizza, chicken tenders, chicken wings, mozzarella sticks and mini tacos.

"The Chicken Dippers proved so popular during limited-time in-store tests that store operators asked to keep them at the conclusion of the trial period," Buckley said. "It's a full-service experience for our guests. All they need to do is choose which sauce they want. Then they are handed a complete package, ready to go. We believe this is another product we can offer to meet the huge consumer demand for hot chicken snacks."

Year-over-year dining studies show that snacking and all-day dining continue to grow, particularly among Millennials born between 1980 and 2000. In a 2013 study by The Culinary Visions Panel, 30% of the respondents say they are snacking even more than they did a year ago, and late afternoon is prime time for snack attacks. Value drives snackers' food choices, with 70% citing value as very important in their decision-making.

7-Eleven began addressing this growing hunger for minis, bits and bites with the launch of Mini Tacos in 2012 and addition of Mozzarella Sticks and Breakfast Empanada Bites last year.

"Millennials don't observe a three-meal-a-day schedule, but rather consume a mix of meals, snacks and mini-meals throughout the day as does the generation behind them," Buckley said. "They are busy as kids, and life has gotten no less hectic for them as adults. Kids, teens and 20-somethings are the biggest snackers. Our menu has been evolving to include higher quality, value-priced smaller portions, mini-sizes and snacks that appeal not only to Millennials, but also kids and women as well."

While studies may indicate they do more of it, Millennials don't have a corner on snacking. A 2010 study published in The Journal of Nutrition said that 97% of Americans reported eating snacks, with nearly a quarter of the daily calories coming from food not eaten at one of the day's three main meals, more than double what it was in 1970. The percentage of calories derived from snacks in the American diet rose two-fold between the late 1970s and 2010, according to analysis of National Health & Nutrition Examination Surveys data.

Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. operates, franchises or licenses more than 10,300 7-Eleven stores in North America. Globally, there are approximately 52,500 7-Eleven stores in 16 countries. During 2012, 7-Eleven stores generated total worldwide sales close to $84.5 billion.

Part of CSP's 2014 Convenience Top 101 retailers