3 Foodservice Trends Taking C-Stores to the Next Level

Convenience stores haven’t always been known for their food. But over the years—as consumers’ daily lives have gotten busier and operators have stepped up their game—c-stores are becoming destinations for on-the-go foods that are savory, fresh and even healthy. And it’s translating into more purchases.

Thirty-one percent of consumers were purchasing food from c-stores more often than usual in fall 2018 vs. 24% in fall 2017, according to the Fall 2018 Convenience-Store Consumer MarketBrief from Chicago-based Technomic. Males are driving this increase, with 44% reporting more foodservice purchases vs. 18% of females.

To keep the momentum going, it’s important c-store operators know what’s top of mind for consumers. Convenience Store Products has identified three food trends driven by their wants and needs: premium foods; products free from antibiotics, additives and more—also known as “clean”; and snackable eats. What follows are some offerings that address these trends.

Photograph by Jason Little

Premium

The premiumization of c-store foodservice is appearing in both new products and concepts. Consumers can sip rare coffee blends from retailers such as Wawa, 7-Eleven, Rutter’s and Jacksons Food Stores. Douglass Distributing Retail is even offering personalized latte art with 3D-printed foam images at its TexaKona Coffee Lodge concept. New retailers boasting a more upscale experience are also cropping up: Restaurateurs such as David Chang and Matthew Kenney are unveiling chef-driven c-store concepts.

Premium: Broccoli Cheddar and Seasoned Cauliflower Pizza Crusts

Rich’s Foodservice takes pizza to the next level with its 10-inch Broccoli Cheddar and Seasoned Cauliflower Pizza Crusts, which are more than 20% broccoli and cauliflower, respectively. These clean-label, plant-based options can also serve as a foundation for chips, sandwiches and more. The freezer-to-oven crusts have a shelf life of 270 days.

Premium: Ultimate Sausages

Items in Johnsonville’s Ultimate Sausage line are made with the freshest cuts of premium pork and have a flame-grilled flavor and appearance. The Ultimate Brat and Mild Italian Sausage varieties in the lineup are also gluten-free with no MSG. They can be prepared using convection ovens, gas grills, flattop griddles, steamers, microwaves or roller grills.

Premium: The Waffle

New to Land Mark Products’ Day’n Night Bites brand is The Waffle, a premium breakfast option that sandwiches a sausage patty and egg between two golden brown waffles. The Waffle can be sold cold or in the hot case, and it has a four-hour warmer hold time. Day’n Night Bites’ other products include The Donut, Omelet Wraps and Breakfast Calzones. 

Premium: Skhug Sauce

Grecian Delight’s Skhug sauce has been reformulated to have more of a house-made texture and appearance. It is made with a combination of green bell, roasted red, serrano and white peppers, as well as cilantro and a touch of garlic and lemon. Skhug pairs well with falafel and shawarma, but operators can also use the condiment to lend a Middle Eastern flair to sandwiches, pizzas, dips and more.

Clean

Products free of antibiotics, hormones and additives are finding new homes in convenience stores nationwide, including Green Zebra and Global Partners’ Alltown Fresh. As clean labels flood the mainstream market, about 40% of consumers say their definitions of health have changed in the past two years, according to Technomic’s 2018 Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report.

Clean: Epic Performance Bars

General Mills’ Epic Performance Bars are made with clean ingredients such as dates, cage-free egg whites, almonds and peanuts. The bars are also non-GMO, kosher and free of soy, gluten and grain. Four varieties are available: Peanut Butter Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Almond Butter Chocolate and Lemon. The Almond Butter Chocolate and Lemon flavors are Whole30- and paleo-friendly.

Clean: Oscar Mayer Natural Meat and Cheese Snack Sticks

Kraft Heinz has released Oscar Mayer Natural Meat and Cheese Snack Sticks as it grows its product offerings that have no artificial ingredients and no added nitrates or nitrites. This on-the-go snack combines meat and cheese in one package and comes in two flavors: Cracked Black Pepper Uncured Hard Salami With White Cheddar Cheese and Uncured Hard Salami With Monterey Jack Cheese.

Clean: Tyson Red Label

As part of its commitment to wellness and poultry sustainability, Tyson has introduced Tyson Red Label, a tiered lineup of top-selling flavors in popular poultry forms. All chicken in the lineup was raised with no antibiotics; 100% all-natural varieties are also available. Products include tenderloins, tenders and strips; fillets and patties; and boneless and bone-in wings.

Clean: Bear Naked Chunky Almond Butter Bars

The Bear Naked brand is known for its clean-label foods, and its Chunky Almond Butter Bars are no exception. The bars, which come in Chocolate Chip Banana and Dark Chocolate Mocha flavors, are Non-GMO Project verified, gluten-free and made with simple ingredients, including nut butters as their first ingredient and fair-trade chocolate. Bear Naked Chunky Almond Butter Bars have 9 to 10 grams of protein and 11 or fewer grams of sugar per bar.

Snackable

For some, snacking is not a trend—it’s a lifestyle. More than one in every five consumers (22%) say their definition of snacking has changed to include a broader array of foods, and 10% say snacking now includes beverages, according to Technomic’s Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report. Because some consumers are skipping larger meals in favor of munchies, snacks high in protein—such as chicken wings, seafood and protein shakes—are especially popular, according to the data firm. Following grocery stores (55%), c-stores are the top destination for snackers (39%).

Snackable: Roller Grill Egg Rolls

Van’s Kitchen’s Roller Grill Egg Rolls bring an Asian flair to the traditional roller grill. Available in Chicken, Pork and Southwest Chicken flavors, the egg rolls are an ideal snack for on-the-go customers. They are made with whole ingredients, such as white meat chicken, premium pork and freshly shredded cabbage, carrots and onion.

Snackable: Oatmeal Bites

Oatmeal Bites deliver the authentic, wholesome experience of a warm bowl of oatmeal in a snackable format, McCain Foods says. Available in Maple Brown Sugar and Apple Cinnamon flavors, Oatmeal Bites are moist on the inside and lightly crispy on the outside. They are ideal for breakfast or as an all-day snack, the company says.

Snackable: Egg, Bacon, Cheese & Potatoes Empanadas

A snack that also meets all-day breakfast needs, Ruiz Foods’ Egg, Bacon, Cheese & Potatoes Empanadas from its El Monterey brand are made with real scrambled eggs, crispy bacon, cheddar cheese and diced potatoes, all folded in a light and flaky crust. They can be baked in an oven and held in a hot case for up to four hours. Serving sleeves are also available.

Snackable: Sea Salt Air-Popped Popcorn and White Cheddar Puffs

Angie’s Boomchickapop from Conagra Brands, which is known for its better-for-you snacks made with simple ingredients, has added Sea Salt Air-Popped Popcorn and White Cheddar Puffs to its portfolio. Sea Salt Air-Popped Popcorn, with just 35 calories per cup, is made with three ingredients: tender white popcorn, 100% avocado oil and French sea salt. And White Cheddar Puffs are a crunchy corn snack baked with real cheddar cheese. Both varieties are gluten-free and Non-GMO Project verified.