C-stores aren’t exactly known for their fresh food options, but Mintel suggested that this could be an opportunity rather than a hindrance. As reported in its executive summary “Convenience Store Foodservice U.S., March 2018,” the firm found that while 74% of c-store food service consumers say the food has gotten better, only 36% are satisfied with the healthy options. By providing healthier or premium food options through its food service business, a c-store chain can stand out among the competition.

“We are seeing operators continue to focus on roller grill programs for the value purchasers but adding premium and healthier options to attract customers who would not normally make the roller grill purchase,” said Dave Gonnella, vice-president, sales, Gonnella Baking Co., Schaumburg, Ill. “While all-day snacking is trending on the food service side of c-store, we believe made-to-order (M.T.O.) programs are the next evolution where much of the future innovation will take place.”

M.T.O. programs give bakers a big opportunity to experiment and offer c-stores something new. Gonnella Baking has seen growth for its mini burger buns, for example, as chicken sandwich and burger programs are reoriented toward all-day snacking. These programs need fresh baked foods and healthier bread/bun carries, Mr. Gonnella said. The company also is seeing a lot of innovation opportunity in the breakfast daypart.

“We’re rolling out a French Toast hot dog bun for the roller grill with cinnamon, maple and butter flavors,” he said. “The French Toast bun pairs well with a savory breakfast sausage and can be bundled with a coffee program to help increase the overall check size.”

relatedMr. Gonnella also sees c-store operators becoming more willing to bake onsite, which paves the way for frozen dough and par-baked products. Baking onsite, though it requires more floorspace, equipment and skilled labor, can differentiate a c-store from its competitors.

“Baking at the store level provides a halo effect over the whole store and will help operators build brand loyalty by developing a premium experience,” Mr. Gonnella said.

Gonnella Baking offers c-store operators a line of fruit bread frozen dough that can be portioned into bites, topped with sugar or icing, and baked on-site.

“We find a lot of operators are using both freshly baked and packaged products,” said Daniele Bianchini, senior brand and customer marketing manager for Otis Spunkmeyer, Aryzta. “They have the freshly baked for the aroma to capture consumers, but then they also offer the packaged cookies that consumers can enjoy later.”

Otis Spunkmeyer, a brand of Zurich-based Aryzta, developed its No Funky Stuff line of cookies specifically to meet that consumer demand for BFY foods and offers both in packaged products and food service offerings. The line is made without artificial flavors and colors, high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils.

While both product lines are seeing growth, Ms. Bianchini said that the packaged growth is largely driven by the labor costs it enables c-store operators to save.