ATLANTA — This yr kicked off with 150,174 comfort shops working in the US, a 1.5% enhance from a yr earlier and reversing a four-year decline, based on the 2023 NACS/NielsenIQ Comfort Business Retailer Depend report. In-store (non-fuel) gross sales had been $302.8 billion, a rise of 9%. Packaged drinks, different tobacco merchandise, salty snacks, sweet and packaged candy snacks all had double-digit gross sales development, with the common basket — what prospects spent per go to — up 4.9% to $7.52. These numbers clarify why many meals and beverage entrepreneurs are focusing innovation on grab-and-go and impulse objects for the c-store channel.
Realizing what c-store consumers are shopping for, and when and the place they’re shopping for the merchandise, are key components for creating a technique to focus on the market, mentioned Kathy Risch, senior vice chairman of thought management and shopper insights for Acosta Group, Jacksonville, Fla. She spoke on the subject of “The State of Snacking in Comfort” on the NACS Present 2023 held Oct. 3-6 in Atlanta.
“C-store snack consumers are distinctive within the significance they place on comfort and enjoyable,” she mentioned.
Chris Rapanick, managing director, NACS, Alexandria, Va., mentioned, “The worth of comfort continues to develop, and that’s a driving issue why each retailer, no matter channel, seeks to offer it. It’s clear that the comfort supplied at c-stores resonates with customers.”
Knowledge from Acosta Group’s Comfort Retailer Shopper Research (July 2023) and Snacking Research (April 2023) exhibits the commonest snack or meal journeys to c-stores are within the afternoon. Greater than half of respondents buy snacks between lunch and meal time.
It’s frequent to make a particular journey for a snack, particularly for millennials, with greater than half (53%) reporting that they go to a c-store when they’re feeling “snacky,” mentioned Ms. Risch. Most c-store consumers eat their snacks on the go.
On the subject of what snacks they’re buying, preferences are cut up between style profiles. When compelled to decide on, most desire salty over candy.
C-stores even have change into a vacation spot for warm meals, corresponding to pizza slices, scorching canine and tacos. Practically half of survey respondents purchase scorching meals at a c-store at the least as soon as every week, and half agree the standard is pretty much as good as a fast-food/quick-serve restaurant.
Foodservice gross sales signify one-fourth of common month-to-month in-store gross sales, and greater than a 3rd of in-store gross margin. Ready meals accounted for 67.3% of all foodservice gross sales in 2022, whereas commissary contributed 9.5%, adopted by scorching disbursed drinks at 9.2%, chilly disbursed at 8% and frozen disbursed at 6%.
“Whereas it’s often ‘win the morning, win the day,’ with folks late-day snacking, it’s actually extra ‘win the afternoon, win the day,’” mentioned Lisa Ham, director of merchandising and area planning, Yesway, a c-store chain headquartered in Fort Value, Texas.
Ms. Ham mentioned c-stores want to supply selection, however not an excessive amount of. And always remember that the enjoyable issue fuels impulse gross sales.
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