Globally inspired food trends continue to excite consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z.
Traditional Hispanic foods like tacos and burritos are commonplace for American consumers, even within the convenience store segment.
For example, Texas-based c-store chain Stripes and its popular Laredo Taco Co. brand were acquired by Texas-based 7-Eleven in 2018, which is continuing to grow the Laredo Taco program, including in its new 7-Eleven Lab store in Dallas.
Laredo Taco Co. features handmade tortillas, authentic protein options and salsa made in-house daily. They also feature a salsa bar for consumers to easily customize and spice up their dishes on the go.
Breakfast tacos, a Texas staple, are also a fixture of Laredo Taco Co.’s menu. While breakfast tacos may be ubiquitous in Texas, the rest of the country enjoys breakfast burritos on a more regular basis. Foodservice IP’s convenience store study reports that 18% of consumers visiting a c-store during breakfast purchased a breakfast burrito.
While Hispanic foods may be seen as familiar to most consumers, a recent Foodservice IP study reports the majority of consumers will try a new food or beverage once (79%) and seek out new or unique dining experiences (62%); this is especially true of millennial and Gen Z consumers.
Finding the Balance
Looking at Amazon Go, for example, a quick walk through the store showcases the wide variety and demand for global cuisines. While it features traditional grab-and-go items like salads and cold sandwiches, the majority of Amazon Go’s selection incorporates flavors from around the world. Butter Chicken with Turmeric Rice, Grilled Chicken Teriyaki with Bok Choy and Chicken Banh Mi Sandwich are just a few of the offerings in the new frictionless stores.
As consumers continue to look for new flavors, c-stores have to be creative and innovative in new menu offerings. However, many operators have to find the balance between the exciting and familiar when ideating and naming dishes. For example, gochujang (red chili paste) is a common ingredient in Korean food, but the name is unfamiliar to many consumers. When using this ingredient, an operator may relate the dish to Korean barbecue to give consumers a point of reference and encourage trial.
Another way to appeal to consumer hunger for global flavors is through fusion cuisine. Fusion foods allow consumers to try global flavors in familiar formats. Going back to the Korean example, a way to make gochujang more familiar is through the serving vehicle. Consumers are comfortable with tacos and taquitos, so an operator could make Korean food more familiar by serving it in those formats.
Appealing to Gen Z
Millennials and Gen Z are excited about global cuisines and crave culinary flavors from around the world. American classics might satisfy older consumers, but the younger generations are just as likely to grab a snack inspired by Latin, Indian or Middle Eastern fare.
As Gen Z strays from destination retail in favor of local c-stores and drug stores, as well as the increased importance of convenient options for all consumers, there is significant opportunity for convenience stores to take foodservice share from traditional segments.
C-stores that develop these globally inspired offerings to highlight those flavors will likely appeal to the impulse decision-making typical of the segment and win over the growing spending power of younger consumers.
Julie Heseman is a principal of Foodservice IP. Julie has extensive experience in the foodservice industry managing projects, developing new business, handling P&Ls, market sizing, supply chain research and overseeing the growth of client portfolios. Her experience spans foodservice manufacturers, broadline distributors and chain restaurant operators. She can be reached at (312) 955-0252 or [email protected]