NATIONAL REPORT — Convenience store operators are bullish on the packaged beverage category's prospects for 2018, citing a variety of factors contributing to a growth atmosphere, according to the 2018 Convenience Store News Forecast Study.
One such factor is the expanding variety of products available in the cold vault — new items and category innovation are driving sales. Increased foot traffic inside the store is also lifting overall packaged beverage volume.
The majority of retailers expect their packaged beverage business per store to go up this year, with 53.7 percent predicting an increase in volume and 57.5 percent predicting an increase in dollar sales. Overall, retailers project net growth of 2.1 percent in both metrics.
Consumer demand for healthy or functional beverages is on the rise, retailers report. This includes beverages that are sugar-free or lower calorie, as well as enhanced water, energy drinks and coffee drinks for those in search of an extra boost.
Certain category trends, though, are expected to offset gains, to a degree. While carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) are still king of the cold vault in terms of volume, stagnant to declining CSD sales are a challenge and some retailers don't expect interest in new items to offset that decline.
Also, aspects of the category that bring positive effects — like variety — may likewise serve as stumbling blocks for stores that can't accommodate the tastes of every customer.
"A variety of beverages reach out to unique tastes. This is creating more variety and it's harder to have everything consumers want," acknowledged one retailer.
The 16th annual CSNews Forecast Study includes a Retailer Forecast and Supplier Forecast, both based on the results of a survey fielded in November 2017. Participants were asked to predict 2018 sales per store for a variety of product categories, as well as to share their opinions on overall business, economic and consumer trends. The Forecast Study also provides dollar and unit volume projections in key c-store product categories based on data from various sources, including Nielsen for category sales history; TDLinx for store counts; and government sources for motor fuel volume and pricing data.
Come back tomorrow to CSNews.com for the 2018 Candy forecast.