CHICAGO -- More than half of U.S. households are demanding better-for-you options, Alan Beach, senior vice president of merchandising for 7-Eleven Inc., Irving, Texas, said during this year’s NACS State of the Industry Summit in Chicago.
That means healthier options in convenience stores are not only an opportunity but an expectation. The number of retailers and restaurant operators that offer items with healthy claims has increased by 6% over the past five years, according to Technomic’s most recent Healthy Claims Menu Trends report, powered by Ignite.
Here are three ways the retail industry is catering to consumers’ ever-evolving definition of health this month ...
1. A fresh take on foodservice
Shell Canada is joining forces with fast-casual restaurant chain Freshii to offer customers healthier choices. In June, the retailer will roll out Freshii meals, snacks and juice options at Shell locations across the Greater Toronto Area.
More than 20 Freshii on-the-go items will be sold in the first phase of the product launch at 25 Shell stores. Three of the units will also build out the Freshii restaurant experience. The items will be available via mobile ordering and delivery.
"It's our mission to help make our customers' journey better—whether that's offering the best fuels to get them where they need to go or offering fresh food options to keep them on the move," said Andrea Brecka, Shell Canada retail general manager, in a news release. "We know from our 100-plus years serving Canadians that convenience and choice is critical. Partnering with Freshii allows us to provide healthy and convenient choices to customers on the go that may not otherwise have time in their day to fit in a healthy meal.”
Freshii Founder and CEO Matthew Corrin said Shell’s commitment to health is one of the reasons the collaboration is a good fit. "The bold steps Shell has taken to accomplish their goal—driving half of their revenue from nonpetrol by 2025 with a pillar around health and wellness—makes us very optimistic about the way we can build on this partnership in the years to come," Corrin said in the release.
2. High-tech health
Sally the Salad Robot is coming for the c-store industry. The technology from food robotics company Chowbotics Inc. can toss 10,000 custom salad options from 22 ingredients in about 1 minute. The space-efficient device takes up about as much space as a dorm-room refrigerator, according to Bloomberg, but the ingredients still need to be prepped by hand and filled into canisters. At H-E-B Grocery Co., Sally serves up greens for corporate employees in its San Antonio, Texas-based corporate cafeteria.
For c-stores and other operations without an on-site kitchen, Chowbotics launched an off-premise kitchen that will deliver prepared ingredients and canisters directly to businesses, even cleaning the used canisters.
The company also appointed a vice president of foodservice sales to sell the robot to convenience stores and other businesses.
3. A healthy supply-chain reaction
Retailer Maverik Inc. has made a three-year commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). The retailer is partnering with the nonprofit group to help expand access to healthier food options.
As part of Maverik’s support of PHA, which seeks to end childhood obesity within one generation, the c-store chain will provide healthier packaged and made-to-order options, stock affordable and health-forward items year-round and expand its selection of heathier beverages at the fountain and cooler case, making it the first c-store chain to commit to rethinking the cold vault.
In 2016, McLane Co. became the first supply-chain distributor to partner with PHA. This year the convenience-store distributor is a contender for PHA’s Partner of the Year Award. As part of McLane’s commitment, the company rolled out initiatives that help widen stores’ access to fresh produce, PHA-branded bottled water that reminds consumers to “Drink Up,” and other products that meet the organization’s standards for healthy food and drinks.
Last year, McLane distributed more than 1 billion pounds of fruits and vegetables to foodservice and grocery retailers. The company reduces the barriers to selling fresh produce with free fruit and vegetable point-of-sale kits.