Reaching Core C-Store Foodservice ‘Eaters’

Tips for attracting and satisfying 'busy balancers' and 'functional eaters'

DALLAS -- At events like CSP's Convenience Retailing University, attendees hear a lot about how to attract certain demographics such as millennials, women and Hispanics. Robert Byrne, manager of market insights at Chicago-based Technomic, however, believes there’s a different way of looking at consumers when it comes to foodservice.

Robert Byrne Technomic CRU 2016

“What we’re really looking at is how to break consumers into groups based on their foodservice patterns, instead of their age, gender or socioeconomic background,” Byrne said during his “Decoding the C-Store Foodservice Consumer” breakout session.

In doing so, Technomic has come up with seven different “eater archetypes”: functional eaters, foodservice hobbyists, busy balancers, affluent socializers, bargain hunters, health enthusiasts and habitual matures.

For convenience stores, it really comes down to two core archetypes: Of all the consumers that purchase food at c-stores one time a week or more, 52% fall into the functional eater or busy balancer categories. As such, Byrne offered some valuable insights into how retailers can best understand and satisfy these two groups.

“Functional eaters definitely prioritize value and speed,” Byrne said. " ‘Stomach full, case closed’—that is the mindset of the functional eater.”

In terms of demographics, functional eaters tend to be younger (18 to 34), single or unmarried, employed and “upwardly mobile,” but making less than $75,000 a year.

This particular archetype is also more likely to be satisfied with the value they get from convenience stores. Fifty-nine percent of functional eaters report being satisfied vs. 37% of consumers overall. The high rating is not surprising given the qualities functional eaters list as essential to their foodservice satisfaction: convenience, location, order accuracy and takeout capabilities.

Byrne had several suggestions on menu items that would best entice functional eaters: mini/snack-size burgers (“better for on the go"), desserts as a meal replacement (“functional eaters frequently eat dessert for breakfast”), salty flavors (“they don’t like no-salt/low-salt offerings”), quickly prepared/preprepared meal options, and “craveable” or indulgence items.

The second core convenience-store eater archetype—busy balancers—are somewhat similar to functional eaters, in that it’s also an “on-the-go” group, albeit they put a little more value on the experience of eating.

“Busy balancers are people who appear to have it all, do it all and do it in stride,” Byrne said. “They are creatures of habit to a large degree. Knowing where to go to get their favorite salad allows them to do it all in stride.”

This archetype is slightly older than functional eaters (25 to 34) and tends to skew more female and wealthy (making $75,000-$100,000 per year). “One of the most important distinctions of this group,” Byrne said, is the fact that they’re also starting families. Meaning they care more about social responsibility initiatives and service with a smile.

Enticing menu items for the busy balancer include combo meals (especially family meal options), desserts as meal replacements, fruity flavors and flavor pairings (“this group gets more excited about fruity flavors than any other eater archetype”), beverages (“busy balancers make lots of beverage-only trips”) and healthy options balanced with craveable items.

As such, keys to convenience-store food satisfaction for this group include order accuracy, friendly services and beverages (both in terms of variety and quality).

Follow CRU 2016 at #ConvenienceRetailing.

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