The convenience channel has captured substantial growth since the beginning of the pandemic, and dollar sales remained elevated in 2021, up 6.9% given the renewed demand for convenient, quick in-and-out shopping trips amongst on-the-go consumers, according to NielsenIQ’s latest convenience store insights.
The top growth departments within the channel looked drastically different from what would traditionally be expected, with fresh, healthier departments capturing the highest growth rates in 2021.
Looking across convenience stores, growth is expanding beyond traditional categories like alcohol, processed meat, and household care to less-processed food items from the bakery, produce, and deli departments — which all saw sales growth surpassing 22% last year. This can be attributed to a shift toward proactive health management in the past two years. Consumers have taken their health into their own hands, adding and avoiding ingredients and items based on their personalized needs, and driving 10% dollar growth in “food as medicine” categories since 2019.
This trend isn’t going anywhere either, as 61% of Americans plan to increase their efforts towards maintaining or improving their health over the next 12 months according to NielsenIQ’s Consumer Outlook Report, and nutritional products that provide health and wellness benefits can be expected to largely fuel sales across channels.
To capitalize on this demand, NielsenIQ believes retailers need to expand their snack and beverage offerings to include convenient products with better-for-you on-package claims (keto-friendly, low-fat, low-sodium) for the growing segment of proactive health consumers. For on-the-go shoppers, prepared and ready-to-eat/drink products that provide added convenience (i.e., resealable, single serve), in addition to nutritional benefits will become especially attractive.
Quick NielsenIQ Insights
- Total convenience store sales reached $84 billion in 2019, and grew to nearly $97 billion in 2021.
- There was a 1.5% decrease in the number of operating convenience stores by December 2021.
- Texas has the most convenience stores in the U.S., equating to more than one in 10 stores nationwide.
- Top convenience store growth departments in 2021:
- Bakery: +24.7%
- Produce: +24.6%
- Deli: +22.2%
- Grocery: +10.5%
- Dairy: +7%