How C-stores Can Answer Consumers’ Call for More Transparency


NATIONAL REPORT — With the importance of healthy eating and better-for-you products continuing to grow among Americans, consumers are looking for more transparency from both retailers and manufacturers. They want to know what is in their food, where it came from, how ingredients are sourced, and more. And this applies to packaged food, as well as made-to-order items.

“Label transparency is not going away. For retailers, it’s about transparency on the shelf, as well as label transparency,” Jeff Williams, senior vice president of retail and U.S. industry relations for Nielsen, told Convenience Store News. “You see this in QSRs [quick-service restaurants] today where they offer the calorie content or other stated claims, and 81 percent of QSR visitors are c-store shoppers.”

Product packaging — especially when it’s see-through so consumers can see what they are buying — is helpful when it comes to transparency. And labeling on the package such as Non-GMO Project or USDA Organic are things today’s consumers recognize as better-for-you, according to Shelley Balanko, Ph.D, senior vice president of The Hartman Group.

“Consumers are using transparency to determine product quality. If a product is nutrient dense and if it has sustainable attributes, it’s better overall consumption,” Balanko explained. “Store placement also says a lot about quality.”

In regards to merchandising, rather than separating healthy items into their own sections, today’s consumers are looking for more integration and signage on the shelf, she noted.

“As more and more consumers are embracing these new offerings, they are looking for more comparability with other options, rather than having them corded off in a section,” she said.

Retailers can help consumers determine what is healthy or not on the shelf, whether it’s via signage or a ranking score based on product claims, Williams suggested.

At The Goods Mart, a 400-square-foot convenience store in the SoHo area of New York City, only healthier options of traditional c-store items are stocked. The Goods Mart aims to provide its customers with maximum information on each product it sells.

“We have a full ingredient list on our banana bread, for example, but also have things spelled out more for our items as well because we want to do the heavy lifting for people,” said founder and CEO Rachel Krupa. “We also do regular demos in the store, so when a new product comes in, we ask the brand to come in for two hours. We hold them on Tuesdays and Thursdays with different brands.”

The Goods Mart opened in October 2018, and Krupa visited a number of c-stores to get a feel for the types of products sold; she then set out to find healthier alternatives that are still affordable. Nothing in the store is more than $25, including its selection of natural beauty products.

“We taste-test everything before it goes into the store to make sure it tastes incredible,” she said, “and only carry items without artificial flavors, preservatives and non-GMO, as well as packaging without hormone disruptors."