Competing With Customization

Stats that matter: What consumers are looking for in c-store coffee

CHICAGO -- A few weeks ago, Starbucks rolled out its Flat White—Australia’s answer to a latte—with much excitement and fanfare. Even I, a regular drip-coffee drinker, couldn’t resist changing up my morning routine to visit Starbucks and sample its newest creation. After all, I’m a millennial and trying new products is an irrevocable part of my nature.

convenience-store coffee

Convenience-store operators might see the trendy beverages, increasingly drawn from international inspiration, and feel unable to compete with the barista-style coffee concepts. However, convenience store’s build-your-own beverage stations have their own set of unique benefits that can be communicated to consumers.

Handcrafted beverages are a premium offering that c-stores have difficulty competing with.

For some c-store operators, it may be possible to designate a barista to the coffee station and satisfy the 36% of consumers that say they would visit a convenience store more often if made-to-order beverages were available. However, the majority of operators do not have the labor or space for such an offering, nor would it yield the necessary return on investment.

Without the option of made-to-order hot beverages, operators must focus their messaging on quality, customization and variety.

More than half of consumers surveyed reported that customization is highly important in creating good value. Hot beverage stations that feature a variety of coffee and tea flavors, creamer options and syrup pumps allow endless combinations for consumers that want to personalize their morning cup of coffee.

Consumers understand the importance of selection:

  • 41% of consumers reported that they would be more likely to purchase hot beverages from convenience stores instead of restaurants or other foodservice outlet if the c-store offered a variety of flavored creamers.
  • 37% of consumers would be more likely to purchase hot beverages from convenience stores if there were more syrups and add-ins available.
  • 44% would visit c-stores over other foodservice outlets if there were a variety of milk products offered.

Consumers that visit c-stores for their coffee tend to be habitual customers: 71% of consumers who visit convenience stores for regular coffee visit once a month or more, with 50% visiting once a week or more frequently.

Due to the regularity of their visits, it’s important to offer a diverse array of flavors of coffee, and enough creamers, syrups and add-ins for customers to tailor the offerings to fit their mood and taste preferences.

Even specialty coffee drinkers are very regular consumers; more than half visit once a month or more, with 34% purchasing specialty coffee once a week or more frequently.

For many of us, coffee is a necessary part of the day, whether it’s a familiar way to start the morning or an afternoon pick-me-up.

While indulgent, handcrafted beverages can be fun and occasional treats, and for regular coffee drinkers who are looking for a familiar, cost-effective and quick offering, convenience stores fill the need perfectly.

To capture this business, c-store operators must showcase their varied offerings and advertise the diversity of their beverage program. I enjoyed the flat white, but I’ll be back to my grab-and-go breakfast tomorrow.

Adrienne Nadeau is senior consultant at Technomic Inc. She will share cross-channel coffee-retailing insights during CSP’s Hot Dispensed Beverage Meeting to be held March 17-19 in Chicago.

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