Carbonated drinks are still the most popular industry products, though customers are seeking lower-calorie options and flavor variety.
It has not been an easy road lately for carbonated soft drinks (CSDs) in the convenience channel as consumers seek healthier beverage options.
CSDs are still the most popular and profitable segments in the industry. Now, there is a push to introduce healthier carbonated beverages given this shift in demand.
Evidence of this is the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the Partnership for a Healthier America facilitating collaboration between the American Beverage Association (ABA) and the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) to reduce sugar consumed from beverages by providing heathier beverage choices.
Working with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the ABA along with America’s leading CSD companies — Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper and Pepsi — in May 2015 set a goal to reduce beverage calories consumed per person nationally by 20% by 2025.
Beverage manufacturers and retailers will be working together to drive awareness and increase availability and purchases of zero- and reduced-sugar beverage choices in convenience stores across the country.
Nearly half of convenience store customers state their primary reason to go into a convenience store is to purchase a beverage, according to a recent NACS survey.
“Customers seek out beverages when they come to convenience stores,” said Jeff Lenard, vice president, strategic industry initiatives, for NACS. “More than half (53%) say that a beverage purchase was the primary reason they went inside the store to make a purchase, compared to 20%, who said they went inside to purchase food.”
Aside from the introduction of lower-calorie or zero-calorie sodas such as Coke Zero, CSDs are being augmented by international, fruit soft-drink brands, which place a greater emphasis on the use of unrefined sugar. Brands such as San Pellegrino, Jarritos and Izze are beginning to grab more cold vault space in convenience stores.
There’s a continued desire for drinks that offer a good value for the money in the CSD category, said Jeff Keune, senior vice president of foodservice and innovation at Des Moines, Iowa-based Yesway, which has at least 150 stores in nine states.
“There is a consumer desire for quality, flavor variety, convenience (speed, easy access, no wait) all for a low price,” Keune said. “The category is absolutely a traffic driver and brand enhancer for the convenience store industry, and consumers will continue to consider those brands that execute well as a destination.”
He predicts the trend toward diet/low-calorie carbonated beverages will continue as well as healthier options, but consumers will not compromise on taste.