Industry View: Strategies for Snack Success

Donna Hood Crecca, Senior Director, Technomic

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As the concept of “three squares” continues to fade and consumers gravitate toward a food-on-demand mentality, snacking has taken on new meaning, and new importance for convenience retailers.

Technomic’s Snacking Consumer Trend Report shows 49% of consumers are snacking at least twice a day, and they are likely to purchase those snacks vs. bring them from home. C-stores are positioned favorably to exploit this trend. Convenience, speed of service and price rank among the keys, with millennials prioritizing price more so than other age groups.

But just because you enjoy certain advantages doesn’t mean you skate free. Other outlets are making a serious play. That said, we recommend that c-stores consider at least five key strategic initiatives.

Differentiate by Day-Part

Mid-morning and mid-afternoon are prime snack occasions. But what are you doing about the rest of the clock? We see evenings and late nights as opportunities to satisfy 18- to 24-year-olds’ snack needs. More than four-fifths (84%) of c-store foodservice customers 18 to 24 report visiting c-stores for a snack in the mid-evening. As for the night owls? Nearly three-quarters of millennials said they troll c-stores for a late-night snack.

Creative Bundling

We know that QSRs are masters of the bundle, usually integrating a meal, beverage and snack. What about the snack-specific bundle? Nearly two-fifths (38%) of c-store snack visits include both food and beverage items, and consumers often mix foodservice and packaged items for these occasions. Half of overall snack occasions also include a beverage item.

Snack combo deals that marry a frozen fountain drink with a packaged snack, such as candy, at an attractive price point satisfies that mid-afternoon sugar craving; bundling bottled water with a yogurt-and-fruit parfait from the grab-and-go case appeals to the consumer looking for a healthy power surge. Understanding consumer need states at different snack occasions and day-parts can lead to some creative, and compelling, combinations.

Sippable Snack Appeal

One-third of beverage purchases in convenience locations (35%) are beverage-as-snack occasions. Soft drinks and hot coffee are top choices, with bottled water, fruit juice, iced tea and slushies other popular options. Millennials and Gen-Xers are likely to go for soft drinks, fruit juices and slushies; older consumers gravitate more toward hot coffee and iced tea. Bottled water has broad appeal.

Calling out the attributes of these beverages that speak to consumer need states, from pick-me-ups to craveable flavors, can pique consumer interest and drive incremental sales. Made-to-order options ramp up the appeal of shippable snacks, particularly for coffee and slushies or smoothies.

Sweet and Satisfying

Consumers today consider a small serving of just about any type of food to be a snack, but some traditional items remain favorites. Candy and doughnuts are top convenience snack items, with two-fifths of consumers indicating they would purchase them as a snack. Hot dogs, pizza and breakfast sandwich/wrap round out the top five. Women point to baked goods and sweets as their top choices; men gravitate to hot dogs, pizza and breakfast sandwiches/ wraps, which tend to be more filling.

Smart Snacking Options

Doughnuts and hot dogs may not scream “healthy,” but data shows that stocking both indulgent and healthy snacks is critical.

Fifty-nine percent of consumers responding to our Marketbrief survey say they are looking for more healthy food options at c-stores than they were a year ago. The majority of consumers say they would be likely to purchase fresh fruit (58%) and fresh vegetables (54%) at their local c-store if they were available. Items of interest include freshly sliced fruit, whole fruit, yogurt with fresh fruit and vegetable snacks, such as cut carrots and hummus, all of which can be presented as healthy snacks.

But wait: Think about price. Consumers cite high prices and items that don’t look or taste fresh as barriers to produce purchases in c-stores.

The convenience channel has a great opportunity to improve on foodservice bundling and providing fresh fruit at a reasonable cost. The snacking occasion is ripe for the taking.

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