Start the School Year off Right with Portable, Packable Meal Options

Image courtesy of E.A. Sween

With the new school year underway, parents are on the hunt for convenient, healthy lunches for their children. Packing lunches at home can make a hectic morning routine even more challenging.

The morning rush to school represents a unique shopper need state that convenience stores may not always think about. It happens during the breakfast daypart, but the purchase decision is about what to eat four hours later. Selections must be made fast, and the chosen items must be portable, packable, tasty and healthy.

This is where the c-store can fill a need by displaying grab and go sandwiches and wraps in varieties that kids like and parents can feel good about.

Convenience is key—but quality and taste matter, too

According to data from Technomic’s Consumer Brand Metrics, consumers’ need for convenient foodservice options came in as the most important need state, with 35.4% of consumers reporting that the need for speed and ease were the top reasons for visiting a c-store.

That’s why solutions that simplify the hectic morning routine may be especially welcomed. If mom or dad are already stopping in a c-store for their morning coffee, it can be a natural choice to grab a couple of sandwiches for the kids’ lunches.

Convenience isn’t everything, however, especially for parents. Quality and taste matter too.

The desire for better-for-you foodservice items was the third most important need-state category for c-store foodservice consumers—ahead of comfort and experience, according to Consumer Brand Metrics data. Just over 15% of c-store foodservice shoppers said the need for either healthy foods or real and wholesome ingredients drove their c-store visit.  

These considerations may be amplified when parents buy meals for their children. Quality, safe ingredients from a reputable brand are essential. Varieties and flavors that children like are important too—after all, convenience doesn’t matter if the kids won’t eat it.

Fresh-made sandwiches fit the bill for both better-for-you options as well as tasty, convenient ones. What’s more, consumers love them—according to a 2015 EAS Segmentation Study, 65% say they feel better about eating a sandwich than most other types of on-the-go foods, and 75% say it’s worth it to pay a bit more for a freshly made lunch.

According to Technomic’s 2018Foodservice Handbook, retailers foresee growth in the lunch daypart more than any other segment. For c-stores, it can be useful to recognize how the time of purchase may be hours before the time of consumption – especially for students.

After-school snacks

There’s another unique daypart common to school kids that c-store operators may not focus on enough. After-school snacks—consumed between dismissal and extracurricular activities—are a prime opportunity to offer grab-and-go meals and snacks. For hungry teens, especially, a hearty sandwich may provide the fuel they need to power through their extra-curricular activities and homework.

It’s still early in the school year, and c-stores have an opportunity to cultivate new mealtime habits for school parents. To make the most of this merchandising opportunity, it can be helpful to consider the two dayparts that are specific to students—buying lunch during the breakfast rush and buying hearty snacks after school.

For students, lunchtime meal decisions begin at dawn and don’t end until well into the afternoon. Having appealing grab-and-go sandwich options available all day positions c-stores to satisfy their customers’ needs for convenience, quality and taste.

For over 60 years, EA Sween has been making great tasting foods for those on-the-go, using high-quality ingredients to make craveable sandwiches and more.

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This post is sponsored by E.A. Sween