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2023 C-Store IQ: Healthy Eating Report

Consumers are craving better-for-you options
Michelle Warren smiles
Woman choosing between healthy and unhealthy food. Character thinking over organic or junk snacks choice. Vector illustration for good vs bad diet, lifestyle, eating concepts

When one thinks of healthy snacking, convenience stores aren’t traditionally top of mind, but that’s changing as categories evolve, companies invest in healthier options, and, most importantly, c-store customers' tastes and expectations evolve. Whether road tripping, popping in for an afternoon pick-me-up or a meal on the go, convenience shoppers are looking for better-for-you (BFY) options from their convenience stores.

Six-in-ten (61%) shoppers consider themselves ‘health-conscious’ according to the 2023 C-store IQ National Shopper Study. Working with the research team at EnsembleIQ, Convenience Store News Canada surveyed more than 2,000 convenience shoppers across the country to examine their wants and needs at convenience.

The good news is, most shoppers are content with the assortment of healthy items at convenience, with a significant increase in the share that are ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ satisfied. Of note, generation Z, millennials and generation X are more likely to be satisfied than boomers.

It’s in your best interest to keep this segment happy, as more than half of those seeking healthier options say they are willing to pay more for BFY offerings. Digging deeper, females are generally willing to pay more than males. In addition, 61% of gen Z and millennials are willing to pay more vs. 41% of gen X and boomers.

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Granola bar. Healthy sweet dessert snack. Cereal granola bar with nuts, fruit and berries on a white stone table. Top view.

The future has a healthy glow

Indeed, the healthy snacks market is expected to be worth $152.08 billion by 2029, according to a report by Meticulous Research, with North America accounting for the largest share due “to its well-established food industry, the growing health awareness among consumers, the increasing prevalence of celiac disease, the growing demand for gluten-free healthy snacks, the rising demand for clean-label healthy snacks, and the easy availability of healthy snacks at grocery stores.”

Among Canadian c-store shoppers, freshness leads the list of concerns for health-conscious shoppers. At least one-third are also interested in all-natural and non-processed products (a growing concern). While concerns about sugar and calories have waned somewhat since last year’s report, it’s worth noting that gen Z have calories top of mind, while boomers are focused on sodium, fat and sugar.

Meal planning

Convenience customers aren’t just looking for healthier snacks and here lies an opportunity for convenience operators. When it comes to prepared foods, 18% of shoppers say they do not purchase from c-stores because there are “no healthy choices.” Healthier food/meal options are particularly important to gen Z and millennials. Of note, Ontario shoppers are more likely to seek out healthier options, while Alberta shoppers are more intrigued by portion size.

Where is the healthier option trend going? On a macro-level the post-pandemic world has promoted an intense focus on physical health and people are generally more informed and selective about the products they consume. Providing healthier options alongside traditional favourites is a balancing act that will meet the needs of the evolving convenience shopper.

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