ALEXANDRIA, VA. — Sales at convenience stores grew for the 17th consecutive year in 2019, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores (N.A.C.S.). Three in four c-store retailers saw increased in-store sales, while just 7% reported a decrease.
Better-for-you foods, including fruit, vegetables, nuts, health bars and yogurt were a strong contributor to growth, the trade association said. Approximately 70% of retailers saw a boost in better-for-you product sales.
“The convenience retailing industry is committed to providing better-for-you choices in stores, and the numbers show that consumers are supporting this effort,” said Jeff Lenard, vice-president of strategic industry initiatives at the N.A.C.S. “Today, it’s almost expected that stores offer fresh and packaged better-for-you choices for customers.”
The largest jump in in-store sales was from food service. The segment accounted for nearly a quarter of in-store sales, up 3% from 2015. Fifty-six per cent of consumers said they purchase meals at gas stations at least once per month, and 75% said they seek healthier options than they used to.
C-stores added more diverse food options and emphasized quality in 2019. Rich’s Foodservice, Buffalo, N.Y., rolled out clean label, plant-based pizzas made with cauliflower crust. Sheetz, Altoona, Pa., became the first U.S. c-store to offer the Beyond Burger.
Elevated beverage options spurred growth, with retailers such as Wawa, Rutter’s and Jackson’s Food Stores introducing new rare coffee varieties. TexKana Coffee Lodge, Van Alstyne, Texas, rolled out personalized latte art, while 7-Eleven, Dallas, added several new varieties of sustainably sourced “farm-to-cup” coffees.
Functional coffee was a key driver of R.-T.-D. beverage sales. Examples include a protein enhanced cappuccino from High Brew Coffee, Austin, Texas, and a new nitrogen-infused Starbucks cold brew from PepsiCo, Purchase, N.Y. Oat milk lattes, nutrient-packed energy drinks and water fortified with minerals also catered to health -conscious consumers.
Two thirds of c-store shoppers said they seek out healthy snacks that can be eaten on the go. Retailers met this growing demand by offering a wider range of healthy, natural options such as mung bean snacks from Crunchsters, Boulder, Colo., or peas and lentil snacks from Peatos, Los Angeles.
“Convenience store food and beverages aren’t typically for the pantry,” Mr. Lenard said. “They are for immediate consumption. Increasingly, these immediately consumed items are healthy choices.”