Like all aspects of foodservice and the convenience retail business, the pandemic affected c-stores’ roller grill offers.
Amid shutdowns and heightened concerns over food safety, along with regional regulations, some retailers paused roller grill sales altogether. Meanwhile, others were able to bring the segment behind the counter as a way to meet COVID-19 safety requirements while continuing to serve customers.
Interestingly, overall sales of hot dogs in 2020 rose about 20% and total pounds 7% over 2019, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council. In March, at the start of the pandemic’s spread in the. U.S., sales soared 127% in grocery stores specifically before they began to even out.
Dinner sausage sales experienced a similar increase. Overall in 2020, they were up 24% in sales and 15% in total pounds.
Ultimately, pandemic or not, American love their hot dogs. Roller grills remain an integral part of many c-stores’ foodservice programs, and the category is expected to continue to grow as consumers return to relatively normal routines.
That said, while tried-and-true hot dogs are among customers’ favorites, they’re also interested in trying new ingredients and flavor profiles. Fortunately, these days, retailers have a wide variety of items from which to choose as the selections continue to expand.
Sauces are another great way for consumers to customize their order. And spiciness is especially popular among younger generations.
In fact, according to Datassential, sweet-and-spicy flavors are trending, including hot honey, as well as mango habanero, the Mexican spice Tajín and Nashville hot — which Datassential Trendologist Mike Kostyo said was the fastest-growing sauce, flavor or spice overall in the past four years, growing a massive 727% on menus.
Ultimately, today’s consumers love options — in the roller grill and beyond. Keeping pace with the trends will help c-stores’ bottom line.