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The Uninformed Consumer


New research finds many people never even consider buying foodservice from a c-store

Do customers know you have fresh, quality food to offer them?

You may think the answer is a resounding "yes," but a new study from Mintel suggests otherwise. While industry insiders are well aware of the leaps and bounds convenience stores have made in improving their foodservice offerings in recent years, alarmingly, many consumers are not.

In a new study by the market research company, 28 percent of respondents said they never purchase foodservice from a convenience store, and when asked why, a whopping 64 percent of these respondents said they never or rarely even consider purchasing foodservice from a c-store.

"The biggest reason why people don't buy foodservice from a c-store is because they don't even consider it. So, there's an awareness issue that c-store [retailers] need to address," said Eric Giandelone, director of foodservice research at Mintel. "C-stores need to make people aware that they can get a meal there, comparable to what they can get at a fast-food restaurant."

Respondents also said they don't purchase foodservice from a c-store because: there are better food options nearby (35 percent); they believe the food is of a low quality (33 percent); the food was not appealing to them (33 percent); and high prices (26 percent).

Giandelone said c-stores are having trouble shaking the low-quality stigma because for decades, c-store foodservice options were defined by hot dogs and taquitos. "For so long, they've been entrenched in roller foods," he noted. "That just can't be changed overnight. It takes years, and it almost has to come about with a new generation of consumers."

The good news is that these individuals who never purchase foodservice from a convenience store are in no way, lost causes, according to Giandelone. To become a top-of-mind destination, he said c-stores must work on gaining awareness and improving the quality — as well as the perception of quality — of their foodservice offerings. C-stores also need to remember they're competing against fast-food restaurants and therefore elevate their cuisine above fast food.

"Convenience stores are always going to face competition from restaurants, especially fast-food establishments. You can get cheaper food at the fast-food restaurants. There's also the added convenience of the drivethru," he noted. "C-stores need to better understand what's going on in fast food. And to win, they must offer something a little better at the same price point."

Other insights for c-store operators to take away from the Mintel report are:

■ The breakfast and afternoon snack dayparts are when consumers said they most go into convenience stores, so those would be good places for retailers to focus their efforts.

■ There's a lot of opportunity for c-stores to use their popularity as a dispensed beverage destination to get consumers to try their food. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they purchase fountain beverages at c-stores, 52 percent purchase coffee drinks and 44 percent purchase "slushies" or other frozen beverages, according to the research findings.

For comments, please contact Linda Lisanti, Executive Editor, at [email protected].

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