Convenience Shoppers Still Looking for High-Quality, Craveable Foods

People eating takeout food
Photograph: Shutterstock

With many consumers heading back to the office, it’s understandable that c-store retailers are gearing up for a bit of a surge in foodservice sales. However, retailers may not be taking into account that while many people are getting back to their pre-pandemic routines, many other consumers will continue to work from home and as such, are also going to be on the hunt for quick snacks and meals to fit into their busy schedules and make home life easier.

According to Technomic’s April 2021 Foodservice Operator Update, 57% of c-store retailers say that getting self-serve food/drink sales back to pre-COVID-19 levels is a top priority. In conjunction with that, a majority of consumers say they’re likely to purchase self-dispensed food and beverage—including coffee and soft drinks, bakery case items, frozen drinks, roller grill items, self-serve soup and chili and more—once the pandemic completely subsides. For retailers looking to expand their foodservice offerings, tuning into consumers’ needs will be key.

The morning meal

Breakfast sales took a hit at the onset of the pandemic, presumably because many consumers weren’t traveling to their respective offices. Technomic’s May 2021 report, The New State of C-Store Foodservice, found that 57% of c-store retailers had reduced the number of breakfast items for sale as a result, but 75% said they expect to increase item counts this year. To boost breakfast patronage, retailers can try offering higher-quality breakfast items (such as build-your-own breakfast sandwiches); premium protein add-ons such as bacon or Canadian Bacon; or healthier/better-for-you choices. As for what consumers are clamoring for when it comes to breakfast, Technomic’s Q1 2021 C-Store MarketBrief found that top wants include more hot handheld items, more unique flavors and more global flavors. Core-Mark’s Quick Eats Grill, Quick Eats Heat & Eat and Frozen Pantry lines more than meet consumers’ needs, with breakfast options to suit any shopper’s preference.

Grab-and-go convenience

Grab-and-go offerings are expected to be a driver for c-store foodservice recovery this year and into the future. From sandwiches to roller-grill items, foods that help consumers get in and out of the store fast will be big sellers. For retailers hoping to bridge the gap for shoppers looking for a quick breakfast, lunch or snack, be sure to offer an array of different flavors, including both trending options as well as classic flavors—and don’t forget about vegetarian choices, too. Handheld items that can be taken and eaten immediately, as well as heat-and-eat choices are going to be big for busy consumers—as they always were. Core-Mark’s Fresh Selections and Quick Eats, Hot Takes lines feature an array of products that shoppers will love.  And according to Technomic’s recent Retail Foodservice Consumer Trend Report, 30% of consumers said that if grab-and-go options were made fresh that day, they’d be encouraged to buy them. Consider using signage to indicate items’ freshness.

Take-home foods for the family

The pandemic highlighted the need for convenient, quick family meals. Busy parents, tired from their workdays, were no longer driving past the supermarket on the way home from work. Rather, many were looking for a convenient lunch option for themselves and their kids that could easily fit into a busy day of meetings and school, and others were finishing up their days, shutting their laptops and trying to figure out a dinner idea that wouldn’t leave them with a sink full of dishes. Sandwiches and wraps were popular items, of course, but dishes that mimicked a sit-down family meal—fried chicken and sides, for example—also became more popular.

Consumer desire for high-quality, freshly made foods both for immediate consumption as well as eating later on isn’t going anywhere. Thankfully, c-store retailers have an array of options to pursue when considering what their customers want most—and when it comes to take-home food, options from Frozen Pantry and Basilio’s Pizza more than fit the bill.

Core-Mark, a leader in convenience-store foodservice, is proud to offer retailers not just fresh-made foodservice options, but packaged goods for the refrigerator case as well as center store, too. No matter what a store’s market calls for, Core-Mark can help. To learn more about available programs, visit

This post is sponsored by Core-Mark


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