Friday, October 6, 2023

“C-store snack shoppers are unique in the importance they place on convenience and fun,” 

according to Kathy Risch, senior vice president of thought leadership and shopper insights for Acosta Group. She spoke on the topic of “The State of Snacking in Convenience” at the NACS Show 2023 this past week in Atlanta. 

Knowing what c-store shoppers are buying, and when and where they are buying these products, are key factors for creating a strategy to target the market, said Risch.  

Data from Acosta Group’s Convenience Store Shopper Study (July 2023) and Snacking Study (April 2023) show:

  • The most common snack or meal trips to c-stores are in the afternoon, particularly between meals with 56% of these snacks between lunch and dinner.

  • It’s common to make a special trip for a snack, especially for Millennials, with more than half (53%) reporting that they visit a c-store when they are feeling “snacky.” 
  • Most c-store shoppers (78%) consume their snacks on the go.
  • Snacking preferences are split between healthy and junk food, and most prefer salty (59%) over sweet (41%) when forced to choose.
  • Nearly half of survey respondents buy hot foods at a c-store at least once a week, and half agree the quality is as good as a fast-food/quick-serve restaurant.
  • While most shoppers are satisfied with the c-store experience, healthy meals and snacks are an opportunity.

Dairy foods can be all of this. Think frozen novelties, cheese snack packs and single-serve beverages. 

Remember when fluid milk processors finally had that aha moment regarding how square cartons did not fit in a car’s cup holder? Snack cheese marketer Volpi figured this out, too. The company debuted Volpi Snack Cups at the NACS Show. They are designed for the health-conscious consumer and fit perfectly into a car’s cupholder. The 2-ounce cups come in two charcuterie blends: Cheddar Cheese with Uncured Pepperoni and Fontina Cheese with Genoa Salame. Each cup provides 13 grams of protein. The suggested retail price is $3.99. 

Two of the products featured this past week as a Daily Dose of Dairy were introduced at the NACS Show. In case you missed them, here you go. 
Sargento’s new Fun! Balanced Breaks are 2-ounce trio-compartment snack packs. They come in two varieties. Mini Chips Ahoy! includes the namesake cookies, mild cheddar cheese pieces and cocoa yogurt-covered raisins. Teddy Grahams includes cocoa-flavored bear crackers, Monterey Jack cheese pieces and mixed fruit-flavored gummies. The company also has two new flavors of individually wrapped low-moisture part-skim mozzarella string cheese: Fiesta Pepper (jalapeno and habanero peppers) and Smokehouse. They come in 24-pack merchandising units. 

Rich’s now offers Specialty Treat Shop Tres Leches Style Cake Cups where the first ingredient is skim milk. The desserts are made in Mexico and distributed frozen. Retailers simply thaw for refrigerated merchandising. Each 6.6-ounce cups features soaked sponge cake, whipped icing and cake crumbs. Varieties are Chocolate, Strawberry and Traditional. These, too, fit in car cupholders. 

Danone is adding a Reese’s variety to its line of International Delight Iced Coffee drinks that come in 15-ounce cans, joining Oreo, Caramel Macchiato, Mocha and Vanilla. “Made with real milk and cream” is stated front and center on the cans. One shelf-stable can contains 220 calories.

First introduced in early 2021, good2grow made a big push for its shelf-stable flavored organic milk at the NACS Show. The milk comes in a single-serve 8-ounce plastic bottle along with one of more than 100 character-shaped squeezable, spill-free, re-closable tops. Varieties are Chocolate, Strawberry and Vanilla. The suggested retail price is $3.99. While good2grow has long been at the forefront of the better-for-you kids beverage space, this product marks the brand’s first foray into the dairy space and the first ready-to-go milk designed specifically for kids ages two to five.

All types of freeze-dried snacks were on display at the expo. Freeze-dried technology is not new, but other than using it to make instant coffee and food for astronauts, it’s been mostly ignored. Until now. Companies such as Sow Good freeze dry all types of candies, as well as ice cream. Removing moisture makes freeze dried foods extremely light, shelf stable and have a long shelf life.

Freeze-dried ice cream is fun, but so is the frozen product, especially in the form of novelties. Gelatys developed gelato pops. The company calls them “an instant source of delight that creates a lasting impression, starting with your taste buds.” The gelato has a creamy consistency with delayed melting. The hand-crafted pops come in all types of unique shapes, some with fillings others with topical goodies. The company manually spreads, covers, fills and decorates each pop. It’s a “labor of love,” according to Adolfo Heller Cohen, owner and CEO. For the c-store shopper, it’s fun!

Need ice cream making education? 
The Frozen Dessert Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is hosting its annual conference on October 23-24, 2023. The program focuses on the latest science-based details pertinent to the frozen dessert industry. This year’s meeting includes a special flavor innovation session--Flavor Inspiration from Around the World—presented by me. Hope to see you there. Link HERE for more information. 

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