Selectivity Is a Must for Managing Today's Exploding Snack Innovation

Danielle Romano
Managing Editor
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NATIONAL REPORT — Innovation in the snacks categories is exploding. Shifting consumer demographics, increased fluidity around what is eaten and when, and shopper demand for high-quality items that also taste great are driving the introduction of scores of new products touting clean label, plant based, high protein, low sugar, functional ingredients and fresh takes on old classics. 

For convenience store operators to be successful, it’s important they highlight innovation, while remaining selective in order to protect the integrity and productivity of their in-store sets.

Molly Sjostrom, senior category development manager for General Mills Convenience, suggests operators work closely with their distributor and manufacturer partners for guidance. Discussions should focus on what products are expected to be the biggest/most incremental launches and how to merchandise these items with a consumer-first mindset.

“Will this product fulfill a consumer need better than something on the shelf today?” Sjostrom posed, adding the following five pointers for c-store retailers to follow:

  1. For innovations they have determined deserve shelf space, on-shelf messages, danglers and clings can call out the new item.
  2. For innovations retailers believe will generate news, excitement and incremental purposes, but they are not convinced it’ll outperform what is currently on-shelf, shippers can be a great way to test out whether there’s strong interest.
  3. Allocate space on endcaps to highlight what’s new across a variety of snacking segments as a way to test out innovative items to determine what warrants shelf space.
  4. Operators can get creative in merchandising with baskets and hangers near highly shopped areas (i.e., “Fresh Food”) to showcase new items and drive impulse purchases.
  5. While queue or checkout lane displays are critical real estate and should be used to drive purchases of the strongest core brands, reserving space for a few innovative products can be effective in driving awareness and communicating you’re a destination for what’s new.

Two key emerging demographics shopping the snacks category in convenience stores are influencing change and shifting the purchase mix: millennials and women, noted Michael Caporusso, director of category management at Core-Mark Holding Co., a convenience channel distributor.

Millennials and women are looking for snacks with authentic global-oriented flavors that are conveniently available for their busy lifestyles, but they also want products that have clean ingredients and are locally sourced. Additionally, they are looking for products that emphasize specific health callouts, like high protein or gluten free.

While c-stores should embrace snack innovation, they must also continue to address the needs of “traditionalist” consumers: those simply not interested in seeking out new options. As Core-Mark’s Caporusso puts it: “Core is still king.”  

“Retailers must ensure they are carrying top items and in multiple pack sizes. Different shopper profiles are looking for the same top items in different types of packs,” Caporusso said. “Single-serve appeals to on-the-go, busy shoppers making impulse purchases; multi-serve appeals to shoppers looking for a portable snack at a value; while value consumers are seeking to trade up pack size, building bigger baskets at perceived better value.”

Click below to download our full report, “Innovation Abounds.”

About the Author

Danielle Romano is Managing Editor of Convenience Store News. Read More
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