From snack cakes to food bars and granola bars, sweet snacks fill an irreplaceable niche in c-stores. The category continues to appeal to consumers who often alternate between desires for health-consciousness and indulgence.
Ray Johnson, operations manager for Henderson, Nev.-based Speedee Mart Inc., with 23 locations in Las Vegas, expects that dichotomy in consumers’ buying habits to continue. “Expect this category to continue to grow, as it is ‘better for you.’”
Innovation & Value
Sales of pastries have stayed strong, noted Johnson, while “the energy bars have all the innovations.”
“The best flavors are always chocolate and peanut butter,” he added. “New flavors (include) birthday cake and doughnut.”
Blue-collar men seeking a quick-and-easy breakfast item or treat continue to represent the primary sweet snacks consumer, Johnson said, adding that “some customers opt for the presumed healthier options of the nutritional bar set.”
Limited-time offers (LTOs) have been a hit with customers, as are items co-branded with other manufacturers, such as snack cakes with the Hershey’s or Reese’s name attached.
“Customers are purchasing the LTOs heavily when they come out,” agreed Mike Jackson, category manager for Baltimore-based High’s, which operates 49 locations. “Limited-time colors and flavors sell very well when released. We are also seeing a spike in purchases of Latino staples.”
Customers are also seeking value when it comes to snack cakes. To maximize impulse sales, Jackson recommended c-stores keep the snack cakes and breakfast and nutrition bars as close to the coffee bar as possible. “Have separate sets for the breakfast bars and nutrition bars. This helps you to have a larger variety of products.”
Jackson predicted top brands will remain on top in 2020, while newer nutritional bar launches climb the rankings.
At the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, which operates 334 Express c-stores, shoppers want cleaner ingredients, particularly natural and organic products high in protein and low in added sugars, said spokesperson Marisa Wolfe Conner.
Plant-based snacking and bars are driving the segment in military stores. Flavors such as salted caramel dark chocolate, peanut butter and almond butter are among the best sellers.
“The Exchange expects to see more plant-based vendors entering the marketplace in 2020,” Conner predicted, advising others to “add new natural/organic items to existing planograms and create a dual location in-store solely dedicated to natural/organic items by daypart.”