Exploring Foodservice Opportunities in C-stores


JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Foodservice offers considerable opportunities for convenience store operators, but the category is more complex to manage than any other, and success requires research, planning and an understanding of when and why customers make food purchases.

Convenience Store News explored how retailers can adequately prepare themselves to work with foodservice during the Nov. 10 webcast, "Exploring New Foodservice Opportunities for C-Stores," which presented innovative insights from the CSNews Convenience Foodservice Exchange held earlier this year.

Randi Etzkin, director of research & strategy for Carbonview Research, a sister company of CSNews, compared the product, technology and service offerings most preferred by consumers with retailers’ assessment of the viability of those same offering.

C-store growth is coming from in-store purchases, and last year foodservice sales saw the biggest percentage increase since 2012, Etzkin said.

This shift led Carbonview to prepare a study exploring four main questions:

  • What are attitudes and perceptions of shopping for prepared foods at convenience stores?
  • What factors impact purchase experience?
  • What innovative product and service concepts are interesting to both consumers and retailers?
  • How much impact will these concepts provide? How much effort is required to implement these concepts?

The study found that the most highly satisfied c-store foodservice customers are likely to return to make more purchases and recommend their c-store to others. The specific attributes that satisfy them are variety, cleanliness, value,convenience and quality.

Sixty percent of consumers also reported that there is nothing new of interest at c-stores aside from the same food, snacks and drinks. However, 79 percent said they would consider visiting c-stores more often and buy more food, beverages and snacks if they offered new products and services that were of interest, making foodservice a key area of strategic opportunity.

With these findings in mind, Carbonview developed unique, innovative foodservice concepts that could draw in customers. Those that resonated with consumers and interested c-store retailers at the Exchange included an H2O Flavored Water Station, which would offer customization while being easy to execute. A "Create Your Own Burrito Bar" and loyalty programs were also found to be highly impactful and worth the effort, though also more difficult to execute.

When it comes to food trends, Jennifer Campuzano, director of the Nielsen Perishables Group, noted that U.S. consumers today are more focused on health and wellness due to a convergence of multiple factors, and how fresh products are growing 2.5 times faster than non-fresh.

"This growth in fresh isn't just isolated to the grocery channel," Campuzano said.

Nineteen percent of dollar growth in convenience is from fresh, and the fresh convenience shopper is valuable. They spend 12 percent more on total store per year than the average shopper, and 5 percent more on fresh.

At grocery stores, the fresh convenience shopper purchases more pastries, produce nuts/seeds, deli items and other products than the average shopper. This provides an indication of what fresh products c-stores could offer to attract their dollars.

Campuzano advised retailers to check their data, remembering that one size does not fit all; reach new shoppers by aligning their assortment and grow sales with existing shoppers by having the products they need; and monitor the market, keeping an eye out for changing consumer preferences adapting accordingly.

A replay of the webcast is available here.

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