ALEXANDRIA, VA, 2015-10-9 — /EPR Retail News/ — Convenience stores are poised to capitalize on the growing trend of consumers seeking healthy, more convenient products, according to a new Hudson Institute report.
“Consumers’ desire for convenience is a growing trend and a notable convenience store opportunity,” according to “Health & Wellness Trends and Strategies for the Convenience Store Sector” a report commissioned by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
To grow sales, the 152,794 convenience store operators in the United States should look beyond simply meeting the needs of their traditional customers and embrace the growing customer segment that is demanding more and more better-for-you items that can be conveniently purchased, according to the report, authored by Hank Cardello, senior Fellow and director of the Hudson Institute’s Obesity Solutions Initiative, and Steve French, managing partner and co-owner of the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI).
Overall sales at convenience stores, including motor fuels, were $698 billion in 2014, roughly equal to sales at restaurants ($709 billion), and more than those at supermarkets ($638 billion).
Convenience store shoppers are consuming more healthy food items, such as vegetables, fruits and healthy snacks compared to a year ago, and 75% of convenience store customers say they are eating healthier than they used to, according to the Hudson Institute report.
In addition, the number of convenience store shoppers interested in healthy foods that can be eaten “on-the-go” has increased from 59% to 66% in the past seven years, and healthier snacking has become the norm.
Convenience retailers should place a focus on two primary consumer segments to grow sales: continuing to serve their traditional core consumer segment of “Eat, Drink & Be Merrys” and the growing segment characterized as “Fence Sitters,” who represent 38% of convenience store shoppers and typically spend more, yet are often unsure where they can find convenient, better-for-you options. Overall, 34% of Fence Sitters say that there is “no convenient locations nearby” to purchase healthy foods and 41% say “it is not convenient or easy to find” better-for-you products.
In particular, easy-to-access prepared foods present an opportunity for convenience stores with foodservice operations to capitalize on this customer’s desire to eat healthier more often. Foodservice sales are 19% of the industry’s $213.5 billion in in-store sales.
“Convenience stores have an opportunity to bridge this gap and own convenient foodservice—especially breakfast—when nutrition is considered most important and Fence Sitters are currently eating healthier options during this meal occasion in particular,” according to the report.
There also is considerable opportunity to grow sales through education—both by communicating the availability of better-for-you products and by highlighting how better-for-you “tastes great and is quick to prepare or can be eaten on the go.”
“By focusing on products and messaging that meet the need for healthier products—on-the-go, breakfast and kid-targeted convenience—convenience stores can drive significant, new growth in this emerging category,” the report concluded.
The insights in the report were based on the proprietary Health & Wellness Trends Database managed by the NMI, which has analyzed and compiled more than 80,000 consumer surveys since 2001.
The 10-page report is available for download.
Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS (nacsonline.com) is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 152,700 stores across the country, posted $696.1 billion in total sales in 2014, of which $482.6 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.