CHICAGO -- Only 10% of consumers say they visit convenience stores to order healthy food and beverages—dead last compared to restaurants and grocery stores, according to the 2018 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report, conducted by CSP’s sister research firm, Technomic.
It appears c-store operators are left with two choices: bolster their healthy offerings or fall further behind the competition. Not only are consumers aware of what they’re eating now more than ever, but their definitions of “healthy” are also evolving—40% said their definitions of the term have changed since 2016, according to the report.
Here are four ways to boost healthy snack sales in c-stores …
1. Veggie forward
More than two-thirds of consumers (67%) consider plant-based foods or beverages to be healthy, the report said. Veggie-forward snacks such as Hippie Snacks’ Cauliflower and Avocado Crisps and Van Holten’s Pickle Cutz exemplify vegetable snacks’ transition from traditional veggie trays to portable and craveable crunchy snacks.
2. Focus on kids
Parents increasingly want more healthy options for their children, the report said. Capitalizing on this demand is essential, because older millennials—those in their mid- to late-30s and increasingly becoming parents—make up a large segment of the c-store marketplace.
Snacks such as Chobani Gimmies, a new line of Greek yogurt snacks that are targeted to children and parents, help meet this demand. Gimmies have more than double the amount of protein and a quarter less the amount of sugar than traditional yogurt products, according to Chobani. They are also non-GMO and free of artificial sweeteners.
3. Bulk up on protein
Forty-one percent of consumers seek out protein, which ranks higher than all other nutrients, the report found. Moreover, nearly as many consumers would pay more for high-protein items as they would for ones made with vegetables and fruits. High-protein claims can convey to the consumer that the items are filling and, therefore, perceived as more valuable.
Besides traditional beef jerky and protein bars—both mainstays among high-protein snacks in c-stores—products such as Foster Farms Bold Bites are redefining the healthy snack category. These on-the-go, fully cooked pieces of chicken contain 15 grams of protein per pouch and further blur snacking and dinner dayparts.
4. Highlight 'natural' callouts
Customers are far more likely to purchase items that have natural ingredients (57%) compared to a specific calorie count (35%), according to the report. This includes ingredients that are “natural,” “real” or “unprocessed,” often seen in products such as meat snacks, which increasingly use sustainably sourced beef to reel in health-conscious consumers. For instance, Perky Jerky uses grass-fed beef in its 100% Grass-Fed Beef Sticks, which are also free of nitrates, gluten, preservatives and added MSG.
Even if operators can’t offer fully natural products, stocking ones with even a few natural ingredients may help meet consumer demands, the report said.