Convenience stores have long offered a full line of packaged snack cakes and other sweet goods, but restaurant-style dessert offerings were few and far between — or only found in the freezer case.

At the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) show, Hillshire Brands re-introduced “improved” individually wrapped pie slices under the Sara Lee brand. The pecan pie variety now has 10-day refrigerated and 5-day ambient shelf life while the apple pie lasts 10 days in the cooler and 3 days at room temperature. Its lemon meringue pie now has 5-day refrigerated shelf life. The company also offered an extended line of pre-portioned upscale bars and desserts that can supply a c-store deli food service operation.

“They can easily take out what they need from the freezer to keep their displays full during the day,” noted Vicki Flaskamp, senior customer marketing manager at Sara Lee Foodservice, a division of Hillshire Brands, Chicago.

Courtney Wagner, training manager, added that many c-stores want to upgrade their food service menus, but labor remains a big issue at many chains. Suppliers to this channel need to find ways to offer options that are convenient not only for consumers but also for operators.

At the NACS show, hot and spicy emerged as the big trend. Hillshire Brands rolled out several sandwich options under the Jimmy Dean Blazen’ Hot brand as well as a sausage links for the roller grill. And move over corn dogs. The company also introduced two varieties of Pancake and Sausage on a Stick sold under the Jimmy Dean name.