Pick Smart

New 7-Eleven fresh foods lineup goes for balance

DALLAS -- 7-Eleven Inc. has rolled out the next generation of its fresh-food program with the national launch of Pick Smart, a selection of sandwiches, grilled items and packaged baked goods with lower fat and calorie content.

Fresh-food items carrying the Pick Smart label must have no more than 10 grams of fat and 420 calories. Packaged fresh foods meeting those criteria will carry the 7-Eleven Pick Smart logo and will be priced the same as similar items, between $1.59 and $3.69.

The first varieties being introduced are:

Chicken [image-nocss] with Ancho Chili Lime SpreadSliced roasted chicken breast, romaine lettuce, ancho lime spread combining a citrus twist with smoked pepper flavor, on homestyle white bread (9 grams of fat, 0 trans fats, 330 calories). Turkey & Ham SandwichRoasted turkey breast, ham and cappicolla ham, romaine lettuce, Dijon mustard and light mayonnaise on tomato basil bread (9 grams of fat, 330 calories), available mid-January. Jerk Chicken GrillerAll white meat chicken seasoned with a blend of Jamaican spices, 6 grams of fat, 114 calories (without bun). Crispy Cereal StarrsA crispy rice cereal treat; Cocoa Cereal Starr also available (6 grams of fat, 330 calories).

Acknowledging the inherent challenges of creating better-for-you meal options without giving up flavor, Kathy Hasty, a 7-Eleven category manager for fresh foods, thinks the convenience retailer has found the recipe for success with its new Pick Smart brand of fresh-made-daily sandwiches. This is the single most frequent request we get, she said. When will you make lower-fat choices available too?' We didn't want to take so much flavor out to lower the fat and calorie count that consumers wouldn't enjoy them. Diet trends come and go, but I think the constant is that people are looking for more balance in all aspects of their lives. They don't want to be confined to any specific diet, but are looking for a more balanced lifestyle and to make better, healthier choices.

To encourage customers to try the new better-for-you sandwiches, 7-Eleven is offering a free bag of Baked! Lays Potato Chips, a low-fat, low-calorie snack option by Frito-Lay containing only 110 calories and 1.5 grams of fat, with the purchase of specially marked Pick Smart sandwiches. The free chips promotion runs through the February 7 or while supplies last.

Likewise, the Jerk Chicken Griller and Cereal Starrs mark 7-Eleven stores' first entry into better-for-you grill and bakery items.

New Pick Smart selections will be added on an ongoing basis. The recipes reduce fat and calories by eliminating cheese and high-fat spreads, and using leaner meats like turkey and chicken. Pick Smart sandwiches, like all 7-Eleven sandwiches, are made fresh daily, and none have more than a two-day shelf life, the company said.

Each item carrying the Pick Smart brand has nutritional information, which is verified by an independent lab and printed on a label affixed to the back of the package. Even though a lot of fast food and sitdown restaurants are carrying healthier menu options, customers still may not be exactly sure what they're getting without going online or asking to see an in-store nutritional chart, Hasty said. Our Pick Smart labels include this information so the customer can make an informed purchasing decision on the spot.

Healthier sides like veggie trays and fresh fruit, somewhat of a novelty in convenience stores, are available as healthy snacks to round out the meal.

Dallas-based 7-Eleven also carries several healthy or reduced calorie beverage options in the vault and on the Big Gulp fountain and Slurpee machines.

Over the past year, most of the top food stories in the news have focused on health-related issuesthe revamped food pyramid, the rise and fall in popularity of low-carbohydrate diets, fast-food restaurants' menu changes reflecting consumers' growing health consciousness and adult and childhood obesity. There are so many radical swings in diet trends, Hasty added. People need food choices they can eat every day for the rest of their lives, rather than extreme diets for short bursts. People understand fat grams and calorie counts. We at 7-Eleven are trying to provide a good balance between something that tastes good and moderates fat and calorie content.

In a 2004 study conducted by Deloitte-Touche, 83% of respondents said they want more healthy dining options away from home, 7-Eleven said. The 2003 Sandwich Study by the International Deli, Dairy & Bakery Association reported that people consciously select foods with three things in mind: health, taste and convenience, although not necessarily in that order. Taste and convenience still count as major influencers for those eating out and consumers aren't inclined to sacrifice either for a healthier version.

7-Eleven will always be about convenience, that's why our customers shop at our stores, Hasty said, but we want to offer healthier choices that are also convenient, fresh, taste good and offer a good value for their dining dollar.

On average, consumers eat more than four sandwiches per week, said the company, mostly for lunch and mostly away from home. Those numbers are climbing. According to Sandelman & Associates, sandwich sales are growing at about twice the rate of other fast food, 7-Eleven said.

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