Consumer surveys often report that today’s two
most important concerns are convenience and health, and both of those
things were abundant at last month’s National Association of
Convenience Stores (NACS) show in Las Vegas. As an indication of just how
important the c-store segment has become, NACS reported record attendance
at this year’s show, 10 percent higher than last year, as well as 328
first-time exhibitors. And while there were the usual share of indulgent
treats to be sampled, this year’s show also seemed to have a record
number of exhibitors showcasing healthier products.
Convenience faire has never been considered
good-for-you, or in many cases, even good tasting. But the c-store industry
has worked hard during the past several years to attract new consumers,
especially women, with cleaner, brighter stores and more fresh foods and
diet products. The number of companies touting fresher, “better for
you” products in Las Vegas last month seemed to confirm that trend.
Convenience stores have always been one of the best
launching pads for new products, especially beverages. In fact, beverages
are some of the biggest sellers in c-stores. At $15 billion, non-alcoholic
packaged beverages represented the third-largest category in convenience
stores last year, growing 13 percent vs. 2002. Beer is the fourth-largest
category, despite the fact that 5 percent fewer stores are allowed to sell
beer these days. Total beer sales grew 5.8 percent last year. Foodservice
sales of hot dispensed beverages (coffee and specialty coffee) grew 11
percent last year, and frozen dispensed beverages grew almost 14 percent.
Fluid milk sales also ranked in the Top 10 convenience store product
categories, at No. 9.
Several dairy companies, including Dean Foods, HP Hood
and Stonyfield Farm all debuted single-serve dairy products, including
lower-calorie milk and yogurt drinks, at the show. Welch’s showed off
its new Low Cal juice products, made with Splenda and containing only 15
calories per serving. Campbell Soup Co. rolled out new convenience-minded
PET packages for its traditional V8 vegetable juices and Campbell’s
Tomato Juice, replacing all of its single-serve glass with plastic. Honest
Tea also showed its new PET bottles for its organic teas.
Even traditional c-store standbys such as Coke and
Pepsi shared a new message. The Coca-Cola Co. debuted its Treat Yourself
Light merchandising stations that allow retailers to group the
company’s diet brands, including carbonated soft drinks and Minute
Maid products. The company says it is part of an effort to target specific
stores with tailored sales solutions — in this case, placing display
units in stores in suburban locations or other areas with higher-income,
PepsiCo featured merchandising solutions by dayparts,
grouping its Tropicana, Dole, Starbucks and Quaker products for morning,
and soft drinks and other products on separate merchandising displays for
later in the day.
These products and marketing efforts are interesting
not necessarily because they are new — in many cases, they are only
new to this retail segment — but because convenience stores seem to
be such good indicators of overall beverage trends. With so many potential
new options, it will be interesting to see the choices consumers make from
now on as they grab and go. BI
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The January 2016 issue of Beverage Industry includes a cover story on our Bottler of the Year, as well as articles about juice smoothies, RTD cold-brew coffee, and supermarket growth. Check it out today!