Convenience Stores Spice It Up


As consumers become more adventurous with their meal choices, their preference for spicy foods continues to rise. In Technomic Inc.?s 2013 U.S. Flavor Consumer Trend Report, 54 percent of patrons said they prefer spicy foods, compared to 46 percent in the 2009 report.

From Burger King?s new Spicy Chicken Sandwich to McDonald?s habanero-ranch dipping sauce, we?ve seen many of the top limited-service chains spice up their menus in the last few months, and many convenience stores are now making moves to do the same.

In December, QuickChek Corp. rolled out Buffalo Style Jack n? Blue Cheese Sticks ? breaded cheesesticks with buffalo sauce and melted blue cheese ? and Royal Farms debuted a spicy chicken sandwich with pepper jack cheese. More recently, Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes introduced a Chipotle Chicken Crunch Wrap, featuring a chipotle ranch dressing and Fritos corn chips. Corner Store, meanwhile, added Sriracha sauce to its condiment stations and also announced tequila-lime sausages with Sriracha sauce as an upcoming new product.

C-store operators should add spicy foods to their menus not just to keep in line with trends in the limited-service sector, but also to appeal to one of its largest customer bases. According to Technomic?s Convenience-Store MarketBrief Surveys, 79 percent of Hispanic consumers surveyed indicated they visit c-stores specifically for foodservice once a week. That figure has led several chains to offer Hispanic-inspired foods, including Rutter?s Farm Stores, which debuted its Ultimate Burgers range last fall. The line features an Ultimate Burger Melt topped with jalapeño bites.

Such zesty offerings can position c-stores to compete effectively with quick-service and other foodservice operators. Adding new menu items, such as a spicy sandwich or burrito, or offering spicy condiments, like Sriracha sauce and chipotle mayonnaise, at foodservice stations can tap into this trend. However, operators should think beyond the limited-time offer.

With Hispanics making up a large portion of c-stores? regular customers and spicy flavor profiles proving popular across the spectrum of food and beverage items, spicy foods are more than a trend. Some can earn space as permanent additions to the menu.

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