C-stores offer opportunity for snacks

by Dan Malovany
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C-store salty snacks
When it comes to convenience stores, snack sales are performing well, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (N.A.C.S.).

When it comes to convenience stores, snack sales are performing well, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (N.A.C.S.). In fact, per-store sales of traditional salty snacks — chips, nuts, puffed cheese, crackers, pretzels and popcorn — rose at a monthly average of 8.9% in 2015 over 2014, according to data collected by the association.

Alternative snacks — meat snacks, bars and other “better for you” items — did even better, rising 12.9% year over year. Even sweet snacks grew a healthy 7.8%.

Driving sales are a number of factors, said Bob Swanson, N.A.C.S. director of research and statistics, speaking at SNAC International’s Executive Leadership Forum, held recently in Carefree, Ariz. Lower employment means more people are driving to work, resulting in more pit stops and shopping occasions at gas stations that double as c-stores.

“It looks like it’s going to be a record year for gasoline consumption,” Mr. Swanson said.

While lower gas prices depressed overall dollar sales for c-stores, consumers now have around $700 more in annual disposable income because they’re paying less for fuel. Although many people often claim they plan to save or pay down bills with such newfound savings, that’s not the case for households that shop at c-stores. In fact, nearly three-quarters plan to spend this increase in disposable income.

Mr. Swanson noted 36% of households that shop at c-stores have under $30,000 in annual income and are predominately male and under 30 years old. A potential opportunity, he said, involves providing c-stores with a greater variety of snacks to increase in-store sales and more premium offerings that serve as a food service/meal accompaniment to boost margins and draw new consumers into this channel.

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