C-store Pilot Tests Examine Messaging Around Beverage Attributes
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Messages that focus on the attributes of a beverage can increase sales, but it isn't a guarantee, according to results of two new pilot tests released by NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing.
Developed in conjunction with the Convergence Project on Nutrition and Wellness and the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, the tests examined how messaging and assortment within cooler doors could encourage sales of healthy beverages in convenience stores.
Healthy Cooler Planogram Test
NACS first implemented a two-phase pilot test to assess beverage case layout changes and functional messaging to sell lower calorie beverages. Two U.S. Marine Mart c-stores were chosen as test sites on military bases in Pendleton, Calif., and Quantico, Va. Two control sites were also selected.
During the first phase, the beverage case planogram was changed to move zero- and low-calorie beverages to eye level and/or to the top of the case, while higher calorie beverages were placed at the bottom of the case. In the second phase, with the new planogram still in place, cling displays with functional messages were added to the beverage cooler doors. The displays provided positive messaging or informational facts about a product, such as "Hydrate Like You Mean It" for bottled water. The goal was to quickly provide a cue to time-starved customers and potentially change their purchase behavior by providing additional benefits related to the beverage, according to NACS.
During the control weeks, water, enhanced waters, functional beverages and diet soda sales increased by 21.3 percent. The sales increase did not come at the expense of other items inside the cooler. Total purchase of goods increased 11.7 percent in retail sales during this time.
"Healthy Cooler Planogram Test" is available for download here.
Juice Messaging Pilot Test
NACS also examined messaging specific to juice in two pilot tests at 21 Ricker's locations in Indiana to determine if a targeted messaging campaign would increase awareness and sales of bottled 100 percent juice in c-stores.
For the pilot, Anderson, Ind.-based Ricker's developed creative designs with three health-centered messages based on messaging developed by the Juice Products Association. Graphics featured tomato juice, orange juice and apple juices with taglines such as "Drink Your Veggies," "Get Juiced Early" and "Ultimate Energy Drink!"
Juice sales declined 2.4 percent in each test, demonstrating that a simple awareness campaign by itself does not always prompt an increase in sales.
"Juice Messaging Pilot Test" is available for download here.
NACS noted that c-stores sell immediate consumption, with 83 percent of items purchased consumed within an hour and 66 percent consumed immediately upon purchase. Shoppers come to c-stores to solve a problem, such as hunger or thirst, but don't necessarily arrive with a preconceieved desire for a product that will address this problem. At the same time, they want a fast experience in a c-store. A previous NACS speed metrics study found that the average time spent at a c-store is just three minutes and 33 seconds.
"Consumers quickly seek out solutions to their immediate needs at convenience stores. Communicating the functional benefits of specific foods and beverages choices can help grow sales of healthier options but there are other considerations as well in incenting these purchases," said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "Since consumer behavior and choice-making are influenced by a variety of factors, such as taste and cost, awareness campaigns may need to be coupled with promotional pricing or other strategies to effectively increase merchandise sales."
"Healthy Cooler Planogram Test" and "Juice Messaging Pilot Test" are from a set of six case studies conducted by NACS that look at strategies to grow sales related to "better-for-you" snacks, meals and beverages.