Ethnic-Inspired Foods Drive Breakfast Growth at C-Stores

Portability, convenience and variety are in high demand

Ethnic breakfast is big. So big, in fact, that the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot surveys have listed ethnic-inspired breakfast items as a top trend for the past few years, and named them the No. 1 trend in the breakfast category and the No. 6 food trend overall.

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This comes as consumers—particularly younger ones—become more interested in bolder, ethnic flavors and foods in general. Winsight’s 2017 Foodservice Handbook reports that 50% of consumers ages 18 to 35 are more interested in trying ethnic fare than they were a year ago.

So how does that translate to the convenience sector?

Classic meets modern

The morning daypart seems to be the perfect place to experiment. According to the 2017 Foodservice Handbook, 62% of consumers say they buy breakfast at c-stores at least once a month, and those breakfast foods include breakfast sandwiches, baked goods and pastries and more.

To expand breakfast programs to include more global flavors, c-stores are experimenting by marrying classic morning foods such as eggs, sausage and potatoes with mediums other than the standard bun, biscuit or bagel.

La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip introduced El Monterey breakfast empanadas, which offer an American twist on an Argentine and South American favorite food. The empanadas have real scrambled eggs, sausage, cheese and potatoes.

C-stores have also ventured into offering Asian items, such as egg rolls warmed on roller grills and taquitos stuffed with seasoned meats, eggs and cheeses, and even French toast-esque flavors.

Portability is key

For these globally inspired morning meals, much like traditional breakfast offerings, portability remains key. 

“Portability is No. 1 for our customers, and these items have to have that to be as successful as any breakfast sandwich,” said Paul Servais, food service zone leader for Kwik Trip. “Flavor is important, too, and so is price, but portability has to be there.”

Foods such as empanadas provide the perfect vessel for introducing new (or even known) flavors, with their crispy fried or baked pastry shell and packed-in fillings that can be easily devoured on the go.

Positioning and presentation

To get customers excited about new global foods, Kwik Trip focuses on offering these foods all day long, showcasing egg-stuffed versions from 5 to 10 a.m., followed by an expanded lineup that includes chicken or beef empanadas later in the day.

To draw eyes on the new prize, the empanadas are displayed in traditional warming display cases on their own or prepackaged in bags for easy, grab-and-go access.

Strategic promotions and marketing in the form of traditional signage throughout the stores and outside have helped boost sales of ethnic items such as empanadas. “We recently ran a ‘$1 empanada week’ special and sold about 270,000 empanadas system wide in that one week alone,” Servais said.

Condiment customization

When it comes to c-store food, consumers—again, particularly younger consumers, who are interested in trying more global flavors—still want to be able to customize their meals and snacks, even if they’re grabbing premade or partially premade items.

Customization is most important to Gen Zers and millennials especially. According to Technomic’s 2016 Generational report, 50% of Gen Zers and 43% of millennials say that the ability to customize their meal is important to them when they choose a restaurant to eat in—offering that same customizability at c-stores is important.

To offer more customization of these global items, Kwik Trip has expanded its self-service condiments bar to offer additional hot sauces, lettuce, jalapenos and other sauces for dipping and topping. It’s a way for customers to make these empanadas, egg rolls and taquito-like grab-and-go options their own.

For a great breakfast program, it’s important for retailers to make sure they’re offering the most important thing: portability. Beyond that, it’s key to offer new and trending items and global flavors, as well as customizability, to ensure continual interest and growth in breakfast programs.

This post is sponsored by Ruiz Foodservice


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