December 3, 2014
Many small food entrepreneurs, when thinking about where they might one day like to see their products, envision the top specialty and health food stores across the country. The last place most ever think of trying to place their products is convenience stores. I mean, when we talk convenience stores most of us think gas station and who would ever buy specialty food from there? Turns out, more people than you think…
Believe it or not, convenience stores are one of the fastest growing areas of food sales for specialty food products. Obviously, the type of product you sell has a huge impact on whether or not this is the right retail space for you but this is a channel that is seriously undermined by food entrepreneurs and it can be a profitable one for the right products. Here are some things to think about when it comes to convenience stores:
1. In-store sales, of which food is a portion, are up nationally 6.2% thus far in 2014 based on the latest reports. Part of this is due to increased focus by convenience stores on their in-store offerings. Tobacco, alcohol, and gas – the trifecta by which convenience stores used to hang their hat and make most of their money, are now so tightly regulated that many times the stores are just making pennies off of those (if anything at all). They hope – no, they need! – to draw you inside to buy something because they have better margins on the products inside their stores and that’s how they stay profitable.
2. You’ve heard me say it time and time again but people are more time-crunched than ever and, as a by-product, are spending more time in their cars than ever before. C-stores (as convenience store are often called in the industry) are hoping to capitalize on that. If you have to stop for gas to begin with, they want to save you that trip to the grocery store to pick up the carton of milk. Yes, their milk might be a little more expensive than what you can get at you local store but for many people the convenience and time savings is worth the extra price.
3. Everyone stops at convenience stores from time to time. Even Tesla owners stop into convenience stores – I’ve seen it (if you don’t know, Tesla’s are all-electronic cars which need no gas at all). So you have higher net worth individuals, those who are typically associated with buying specialty food products, stopping in and they are just as time-crunched and hungry as the next person. Sahale Snacks has capitalized on this knowledge and built a very strong niche for themselves in convenience stores despite being an upscale brand.
4. C-Stores thrive on grab-and-go. Anything that’s easy to eat on the run while drivers have one hand on the wheel is where they shine. Do you have a snack size product or packaging? You might fit in well with this clientele who are looking for something easy to munch on when they hit the road.
5. Prepared food is a growing side of c-store businesses because of those combinations of time-crunched, hungry consumers coming in the door. And these stores realize that the 4-day old tuna salad sandwich won’t cut it anymore. Today you can find c-stores making their own award-winning fried chicken on site and certain c-stores have developed their own, highly successful, food brands such as Laredo Taco Company which is technically part of Stripes Convenience Stores in Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. With this newfound focus on making quality food onsite, this means that these stores need quality ingredients. This foodservice channel could prove to be a profitable avenue for your company.