To succeed at better-for-you food sales, retailers should consider some requirements consumers hold true.
By Tim Powell
There are few topics that garner as much attention, disagreement and misunderstanding in the c-store foodservice channel than the idea of “healthy” food. The common belief in foodservice as a whole is that consumers request one thing and do something else.
For example, a few years ago a major quick-service restaurant (QSR) chain offered carrot sticks as an alternative to French fries based on consumer input. Sales were so poor in its first few weeks however, the company was forced to discontinue the offering. A launch a few years later caught on, but it is a good example of understanding how and when to offer healthy food in a segment built on meat sticks and a gallon drum of cola.
As shown in the following chart, convenience store consumers are increasingly demanding healthy prepared food options. Increased obesity, stricter government rules on nutritional transparency, legislation and diet-related illnesses (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure) are realities in American society and convenience stores have been cited as culprits in “food desert” debates.
Offering healthy options should become a part of a convenience store’s menu strategy—just like variety, innovation, limited time offers (LTOs) and line extensions. Therefore, Q1 Productions, a business intelligence firm focusing on consulting solutions, offers a few pointers for operators for increasing the success rate and “staying power” of healthier options in a segment with consumers historically indifferent to them. But the following are tips to pay heed:
It must taste good. This may seem obvious but should nonetheless be emphasized. C-store consumers want food that tastes good, period. Q1 research has learned that one of the top reasons consumers do not order healthy items is they fear they will not taste good.
Make if portable. As most c-store consumers eat food on the go, any healthy item must meet this ‘on-the-go’ measure. Cut fruit or oatmeal, for example, must be easy to eat with one hand.
Shoppers eat with their eyes. A clear plastic clamshell with green salad looks a lot more appealing than a salad in a Styrofoam cup covered with plastic wrap. Take a cue from the fast casual segment and see how attractively packaged foods fly off the self-service case.
Keep prices affordable. Keep in mind the soccer mom that comes in with four hungry boys charging the roller grill. Mom would like a salad and perhaps a diet drink or juice—something that is healthy yet is not unreasonable in price. Also, a fresh fruit cup shouldn’t be four times the price of a salty snack.
Promote thyself. Finally, let the channel know you are offering healthier fare that tastes good, is reasonably priced and is portable so that you are more likely to satisfy, not only the mini vans full of baseball teams, but the drivers as well. There are several cost-effective, high-reach media vehicles available today to consider, whether it be social media, mobile ordering, referral programs and interactive fuel dispensers outside of the store.
Tim Powell is the vice president of consulting for Q1 Productions. Q1 experts help food and beverage clients make sense of this cyclical industry by interpreting the data they possess, deriving meaningful insights, and developing product and marketing strategies that create stakeholder value. Contact Tim Powell at [email protected] or (312) 602-9899.