4 Healthy Ways to Appeal to Coffee Lovers

How c-stores can appeal to coffee lovers who seek a better cup
Photograph: Shutterstock

Coffee is often considered a healthy beverage—numerous studies have shown that the stimulating drink not only improves cognition and boosts energy levels, but also contains antioxidants and may be able help ward off diabetes and certain cancers as well as aid cardiovascular and liver health. It tastes great, too.

But whether they’re drinking for health or for the taste, people love their coffee: 59% of consumers say they have purchased regular hot coffee in the past month; 67% say the same about cold or iced coffee; and 62% have purchased a hot specialty coffee drink, according to Technomic’s 2018 Beverage Consumer Trend Report.

This gives convenience stores a hot opportunity to appeal to health-conscious coffee consumers. Check out these four ways to do so.

Offering customization

Black coffee straight is low-calorie: It contains fewer than seven calories per cup, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s only when people start spooning in sugar and stirring in the cream that calories add up. And customers are looking for alternatives: 57% of consumers say it’s important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition, according to Technomic’s 2018 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report.

Savvy convenience store retailers don’t offer customers just a cup of joe, but rather a total coffee experience. Draw traffic and win customers by setting up a coffee station with a variety of complements and let customers build their own coffee beverage. From sugar-free flavors to non-dairy milks and creamers, offering an array of options can attract customers of all stripes.

Gear up

Consider equipment: It pays to operate a number of brewers and satellite stations, each offering a different variety. Specialty-grade, single-estate, sustainably-farmed and organically grown beans are all buzzwords among coffee connoisseurs, and retailers should cover those java bases. Get a cold-brew coffee maker, too because customers like more choices (and cold brew has seen quite a bit of growth over the past couple years). Don’t forget to brew some flavored beans; they offer an easy, low-cal way to offer flavors like hazelnut or vanilla.  

Sweet on sweeteners

Many customers are no longer sweet on granulated white sugar. But they may be tempted by dark raw sugars such as demerara or muscovado. These more natural, minimally refined products possess a rich, molasses flavor. According to Technomic’s Healthy Eating report, 74% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase items described as natural. Honey and maple and agave syrups are also natural sugar alternatives.

Low- and no-cal sweeteners—saccharine, aspartame and sucralose, to name a few—are FDA-approved, and customers like them, too, when they’re looking for a no-sugar option. Newcomer stevia is becoming more popular; this zero-cal sweetener is derived from a South American shrub. Often, customers have a favorite, so retailers are wise to offer packets of each.

Cream of the crop

Many people like cream, half-and-half or whole milk in their coffee, but that adds fat and calories. Be sure to offer carafes of low-fat and skim milk as well.

According to Technomic’s 2018 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, 44% of consumers say they would be more likely to buy items that are dairy-free. So it’s important to have a few plant-based alternatives, such as almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, flaxseed milk, oat milk, cashew milk or coconut milk—to name just a few.

Non-dairy coffee creamers—both plain and in a range of flavors—are also popular. They are available as shelf-stable powders and liquids. Mini-cup, single-portions are often available in multi-flavor variety packs. Many coffee creamers are made from hydrogenated oils, sugars and artificial color and flavors, but retailers can source healthier, artisanal coffee creamers made from ‘real’ ingredients to appeal to health-conscious customers.

Be sure to promote the calorie count and health and nutritional aspects of the coffee bar both in-store and on social media. A full 40% of consumers say the reason they visit a c-store for a beverage is because they were craving a specific beverage, according to Technomic’s Beverage report. Catering to customers’ wellbeing can earn their business as well as their loyalty.

This post is sponsored by FETCO

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