MINNEAPOLIS -- As snack habits evolve, convenience stores need to stay on top of the latest trends to ensure they are meeting consumers’ expectations and to maximize their own success. The Consumer Insights team from General Mills Convenience & Foodservice analyzed the latest snacking data and convenience consumer behavior to uncover the top seven trends and opportunities for convenience stores in 2016 and beyond.
“This is such a dynamic time in c-stores right now as snacking and all-day eating become more prevalent and consumers seek out more from their snacks—from unique and unexpected flavors to customization to healthful benefits,” said Kelly Kees, consumer insights researcher at General Mills Convenience & Foodservice. “This new era of snacking presents a major growth opportunity for c-store retailers that offer the right snack options to meet the changing needs of today’s consumers.”
A Checklist for Snacking Success
Following is a checklist of seven actionable steps to help retailers leverage the new era of snacking.
- Modern mashups. Snack foods and flavor profiles are mashing together. Convenience-store shoppers, especially millennials, are open to multi-cultural influence and are looking to mix and match flavors and cuisines, while still being grounded in familiar favorites. Some brands are venturing into different nuances of flavor, like smokiness and tanginess. Bring excitement to snack categories though unique flavor and form combinations, such as chili dark chocolate or snacks that turn up the heat on spice with flavors such as spicy sriracha or hot chili and lime. Expand foodservice with multicultural offerings, like samosas, egg rolls and quesadillas, or take a twist on current foodservice items by adding flavors such as wasabi or sriracha.
- Back-to-basics. Health-conscious shoppers are turning to healthier foods, many of which are high in naturally occurring fats, e.g., nuts, avocados and coconuts. High natural fat and protein are linked with satiety. Ensure assortment includes products with inherent protein that are high in natural fats, like nuts, seeds and jerky.
- Make it mine. Customizable specialty beverages and made-to-order foodservice allow shoppers to add their personal touch to food. Millennials especially like to put their stamp on their own creation, which they are willing to pay for. Give shoppers room to make their own food creations, for example, condiment or topping bars in foodservice areas like roller grills and specialty hot beverages. Customization cues freshness because food and drinks are made real-time and “just for me.”
- Fresh = real food. Temperature-controlled food, shorter date codes, and words like “raw” and “simple” help cue freshness to shoppers, which appeals to consumers looking for less processed food. Expand refrigerated/fresh options and locate them near store entrances to alert shoppers to freshness. Offer more grab-and-go snack options, like cheese, eggs and fruit.
- Transparency. Shoppers today are more concerned about what is in the food they eat. See-through packaging and clear ingredient decks with words they can pronounce give shoppers the label transparency they are looking for. Offer a variety of products that include simple ingredients as well as clear packaging, which lowers risk for shoppers and showcase the wholesome ingredients.
- Shrinkage. Small, portion-controlled snacks allow shoppers to indulge guilt-free. Mini treats satisfy cravings, are portable, snackable and do not bust health goals, such as mini bakery items. Tasty treats are not going away, so offer smaller portions or re-sealable packaging, which can encourage even the most health-conscious shoppers to indulge. Smaller treats also allow for easier sharing and snacking on the go.
- Mealtime blur. Specific meal times are a thing of the past. Snacks can be meals and meals can be snacks. Hectic, on-the-go lifestyles result in more freedom when it comes to what and when we eat. Shoppers are more accepting of smaller, more casual meals, with half of adults replacing meals with snack foods three to four times a week. Be mindful of shoppers who may eat cereal at supper or hot dogs as a snack; offer products or solutions that are flexible as a meal or snack option, hummus paired with pretzels and yogurt parfaits, for example; and merchandise similar snacks together to encourage bundling snacks to make a meal solution.
The General Mills Convenience & Foodservice division serves the convenience, foodservice and bakery industries by providing quality products from its brands along with culinary, nutrition education and marketing resources. Its brand portfolio includes Big G Cereals, Yoplait, Nature Valley, Gold Medal, Pillsbury, Annie’s, Chex Mix, Bugles, and Gardetto’s. Based in Minneapolis, the division had fiscal 2015 net sales of $2 billion.
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