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The key to attracting health-conscious shoppers

snackbuyer-teaserForward-thinking convenience store operators are jumping onto the healthier bandwagon.

In early May, c-store industry giant 7-Eleven Inc. announced that it was introducing nearly 100 new better-for-you items from 31 up-and-coming companies into select stores as part of a test. The selection, placed in 125 Los Angeles-area stores, was curated from 7-Eleven’s first “Next Up” emerging brands showcase, which was held at its Store Support Center in Irving, Texas, last fall.

The better-for-you product assortment includes options for power-snackers, restricted diet-followers and anyone looking for ways to incorporate more functional, better-for-you sips and snacks to keep them fueled while on the go, according to 7-Eleven. The items span keto, paleo, vegan, organic, high-protein, low-glycemic, gluten-free, nutrient-dense, plant-based and cold-pressed.

“When our emerging brands team created this unique product assortment in collaboration with our category managers, the goal was to give customers drinks and snacks that they might not expect to find at a 7-Eleven store,” said 7-Eleven vice-president of new business development Chris Harkness. “Customers are demanding healthier options, and we know LA customers are leading the country in health and wellness trends, always willing to try the newest and most innovative products and services.”

Young consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 are particularly interested in the functional aspect of foods, according to research conducted by youth marketing and millennial research firm Y-Pulse.

These consumers want products that not only satisfy their hunger, but also pack a nutritional punch. They say they enjoy eating superfoods such as dried fruits, nuts and seeds that serve specific functional purposes.

Along with wanting their healthier foods to taste good, younger consumers also want healthy eating to be easy, convenient and work around their on-the-go lifestyles. Specifically, the findings of a recent Y-Pulse study showed that:

  • 81% say they shouldn’t have to try too hard to eat healthy;
  • 76% say they are likely to buy raw fruits and vegetables to eat on the go; and
  • 66% say they don’t mind paying extra for a snack if it’s a healthy option.

WHAT IS HEALTHY, REALLY?

Today, “healthy eating” isn’t a set of hard and fast rules, but rather a state of mind — “a continuous, aspirational approach to food with balance, flexibility and practicality,” according to Ellen Rudman, vice president of strategic planning and research for marketing agency Blue Chip Marketing Worldwide.

Fresh, whole and minimally processed are the current cornerstones of better-for-you. However, the definition of what is “healthy” is in constant evolution.

“Having conducted quite a number of focus groups recently on this topic, what we consistently find across geographic markets and demographic groups is that better choices are typically identified with food that is either known to be fresh-made or made-to-order,” said veteran convenience store industry consultant/designer Joe Bona of Bona Design Lab. Consumers equate freshness with quality and being healthier, he added.

While the definition of healthy continues to evolve, the need for convenience and “on the go” is steadfast and, in fact, stronger than ever. “Consumers demand convenience and evaluate every option through a whole new set of food values,” Rudman said.

She wants c-store retailers to consider: Some consumers think it’s inconvenient to be healthy, so how can your convenience stores change that perception?

 


7-Eleven begins test of nearly 100 better-for-you foods & beverages

BFY-snacks-7-Eleven7-Eleven Inc. is launching a new wave of food and beverages in 125 Los Angeles-area stores from an exclusive list of breakout brands.

Nearly 100 new better-for-you items were hand-selected by the global convenience store retailer from 31 up-and-coming companies for the test.

The special product assortment includes options for power-snackers, restricted diet-followers and anyone looking for ways to incorporate more functional, better-for-you sips and snacks to keep them fueled while on-the-go, according to 7-Eleven. Available options span keto, paleo, vegan, organic, high-protein, low-glycemic, gluten-free, nutrient-dense, plant-based and cold-pressed.

“When our emerging brands team created this unique product assortment in collaboration with our category managers, the goal was to give customers drinks and snacks that they might not expect to find at a 7-Eleven store,” said 7-Eleven vice president of new business development Chris Harkness. “Customers are demanding healthier options, and we know LA customers are leading the country in health and wellness trends, always willing to try the newest and most innovative products and services. In the past, 7-Eleven’s LA stores have shown great success with food and beverages on the leading edge of these trends.”

The selection of prospective breakout brands was curated from hundreds hoping to get a foot in the door with the world’s largest convenience retailer. Last fall, 7-Eleven invited companies to showcase their products at its first “Next Up” emerging brands showcase held at its Store Support Center in Irving.

More than 300 up-and-coming brands applied to participate in the retailer’s inaugural “Next Up” event last fall, with 70 companies invited to participate. The “show-and-taste” event provided the selected businesses an opportunity to present products in an expo-like setting and participate in merchandising, logistics and operations workshops with 7-Eleven leaders.

More than 1,000 7-Eleven employees and franchisees sampled their way through the event and voted on their favorites. The merchandising and emerging brands teams then decided to launch the LA test in 2019 based on the success of Next Up.

“We don’t want small and emerging vendors to be intimidated by 7-Eleven’s size,” Harkness said. “7-Eleven is always on the lookout for innovative companies who have a fresh take on a product, a healthier alternative or a unique flavor that might become the next big food trend. We are eager to see how these brands perform on our shelves and look forward to hearing directly from customers about these new items in the assortment.”

Click here for a list of some of the options that can be found on end-aisle displays and inside the open-air cold case.

Based in Irving, 7-Eleven operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 68,000 stores in 17 countries, including 11,800 in North America.

Originally published at Convenience Store News. 


Cracking the code on healthy snacking at c-stores

Gone are the days of a one-sided definition of “healthy.” Today, healthy can mean many different things to different consumers, like high protein, gluten free, keto, paleo, vegan, organic, local, fresh, all-natural, free from artificial ingredients, preservative free and non-GMO.

healthy-snacks-teaserAs health and wellness takes on a larger role in consumers’ day-to-day lives, their snack choices are evolving to match their lifestyle needs. In fact, 41 percent of consumers want snacks to provide an energy boost, while 80 percent are willing to pay more for snacks with health attributes, according to The Hartman Group’s The Future of Snacking study.

“We’ve seen changes in the industry as certain fads have come and gone, [but] we are also seeing a trend that consumers are willing to spend more money on great-tasting, high-quality, healthy snacks, and manufacturers are filling that demand,” said Paige Brown, director of marketing at Stryve Biltong Snacks, a maker of meat snacks.

Just as today’s definition of healthy continues to evolve, so does the demographics of the healthy snack consumer. Healthy eating is becoming the new norm for men and women, both young and old, as they grow more mindful of nutrition and the role it plays in their everyday lives.

However, if there is one thing that rings true across healthy snack consumers, it is that they’ll flex different food values at different occasions.

“In terms of pre-packaged snacks, you see a lot of different need states represented in different ways than in the past,” said Betsy Frost, director of platform marketing innovation at General Mills Convenience. “‘Healthy’ snacking was for a time about low-calorie options, where you often traded taste or texture of the ‘real thing’ for a lower calorie option or portion-controlled 100-calorie pack. Now, we see healthy snacking mirror the core values of the consumers.”

As shoppers seek out brands that align with how they see themselves, more and more healthy snack brands are emerging in the packaged snacks categories. Three macro trends that are driving this:

  1. The changing of food values. Consumers are looking for more real food experiences.
  2. Consumers’ changing eating habits. “People snack more throughout the day and are looking for snacks to do more jobs for them than they have in the past, such as a meal replacement or mini-meal, a before- or after-workout supplement, or a mental or energy boost,” Frost explained.
  3. The boom of the food entrepreneur. “With more snacks being in more non-traditional outlets, food entrepreneurs have found it easier to turn a home hack that served their personal needs into thriving, purpose-driven organizations,” she added.

Kirk Bailey, product director of grocery and snacks at convenience distributor McLane Co. Inc., identifies an additional trend he finds to be relevant to the topic: an increase in the amount of awareness of how someone’s diet can directly correlate with their health.

“As these health-conscious consumers become more educated on how to live a healthy lifestyle, they will continue to seek items that have simple ingredients and attributes that have a positive effect on their health vs. just grabbing anything to hold them over until their next meal,” said Bailey.

Amid this continuing shift, convenience store retailers shouldn’t miss out on the opportunity to serve healthy snack consumers — across all of their varied need states.

So, what’s the best way for c-store retailers to offer healthier snacks to their customers?

almond-healthy-eating-food-food-drink-463109-1024McLane’s Bailey suggests they incorporate a small section within their salty snack set that includes six to nine items that are in a highly visible area of the set, such as the top right corner.

Then, if retailers find these items do well for their stores, they should consider expanding to a three-foot “Better-for-You” endcap, preferably in a prime location within the store that lets customers know these healthier items are available.

Click below to download our full report, “Capitalizing on the Modern-Day ‘Healthy Halo.'” 


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