Hot dog and sausage sales in the U.S. are expected to grow an annualized 1.9% to $18.1 billion by 2019, according to a report by IBISWorld, a market research company.
While the traditional varieties will continue to be favorites, the researchers projected that manufacturers will create items made with leaner poultry meat, organic meat, and with decreased sodium content to appeal to consumers who are looking for healthier options.
ROLLER GRILL RAVE
With gas prices still below average, there’s an increased focus on boosting the sales of other edible products besides hot dogs and brats—though those items remain hot in places such as Montana.
Roller grill remains the focus of the foodservice offering at Noon’s Food Store’s three locations in Missoula, Mont. It’s especially popular in stores bordered by new construction and building contractor supply houses, said Earl Allen, Noon’s marketing manager.
“Workers stop and grab both roller grill and hot case items on a regular basis for lunch, while they’re on a break or while they’re getting supplies,” Allen said.
Usually, the stores have three items on the grills: a 5:1 Ball Park-brand hot dog, Hillshire Cheddarwurst and Hillshire pepper jack smoked sausage or Polish sausage. These are available on the self-serve grills at the Missoula-based c-store from midday through evening.
“We’ve tried some different ‘in-and-out’ styles of sausages from Hillshire like a hot Italian sausage or a Miller beer brat that we saw at trade shows or Ball Park’s all-Angus hot dogs to differentiate us from others in the market, but we have found that the standard roller grill fare sells best in our stores,” Allen said.
While many food-forward convenience store retailers have come to rely less on their roller grills (if they have them at all) and more on their made-to-order offerings, roller grills are still the bread and butter for traditional c-stores, said Bonnie Riggs, research analyst for the NPD Group. But today’s roller grill has appeal beyond the traditional hot dog or sausage.
Manufacturers are making it easy to explore the versatility of the roller grill by coming up with a proliferation of new products meant to be cooked and merchandised on this equipment.
“Retailers can do all kinds of foods on the roller grill now,” Riggs said. “At one of the convenience show conferences I attended I even saw kebabs and vegetables featured on the roller grill.”
Riggs pointed out that roller grill items are also easy to promote with two-for pricing and bundling. They also fit into the snack category, which is a big slice of today’s c-store profits, since the definition of ‘snack’ has gone well beyond salty snacks or sweet treats such as ice cream.
A growing number of consumers are even choosing snacks at mealtime, opening up even more opportunities for roller grill sales throughout the day, and for c-stores to boost in-store sales.
Some chains such as Quik Trip Corp., which operates 720 locations across 11 states, have spawned significant snack sales through roller grill offerings. In many of its locations, the Oklahoma-based retailer expanded from four to as many as 10 grills, which accommodate not only hot dogs, but breadsticks, corn dogs, egg roll variations and taquitos.
“Today, a snack is anything that is affordable and can be eaten in the car or on the run,” Riggs said.
Stay tuned to Convenience Store Decisions‘ March issue, where we delve into 38 in-store categories to identify emerging trends and garner retailer analysis to forecast what operators can expect for 2016 and beyond.