Driving Healthy Shoppers to Convenience

    Everyone who drives needs to stop at a gas station. Therefore, gas stations and convenience stores should cater to everyone who drives. Everyone at some point needs a store that is open late, and convenience stores are often the only choice. Traditionally they may not have been the healthiest choice, but at the 2019 National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) held in Atlanta, it was apparent that they were trying to improve their selection. 

    Earle Davis, VP of Sales, Revolution Tea, said, “If you upgrade the offerings at C-Stores, you will upgrade your customers.” Brands like Revolution Tea are attracting a more sophisticated shopper in this channel.

    The premium offerings go beyond quality tea and coffee at NACS and include natural health solutions as well as snacks.  

    Jeff Lenard, VP, Strategic Industry Initiatives for NACS, explains the upswing: “Convenience store food and beverages aren’t typically for the pantry; they are for immediate consumption. And increasingly these immediately consumed items are healthy choices.”   

    According to NACS 2018 Convenience Tracking Program data, 83% of all items purchased in a convenience store are consumed within the hour—and 65% are consumed immediately. Foodservice sales (prepared foods and hot, cold and frozen dispensed beverages) are increasingly becoming convenience stores’ most profitable category. Foodservice accounts for 22.6% of in-store sales and 36.4% of in-store profits. 

    Recent Nielsen data shows healthy options are experiencing strong sales growth; convenience store produce (fruits and vegetables) sales are now $242 million, roughly comparable to the sales of snack categories like pretzels or popcorn. Cut fruit accounts for 53% of that total. 

    “NACS continues to elevate its resources and community-focused initiatives to help NACS members raise customer awareness that healthier options are available in the more than 153,000 convenience stores across the United States,” said Lenard. This includes a 2019 partnership with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and Sesame Workshop to promote produce sales in convenience stores through the “eat brighter!™” campaign (www.convenience.org/eatbrighter).

    Here is a sampling of what I saw that can impact change: 


    Good-for-you snacks 

    The trend of grab-and-go protein snacks is here to stay, and Crunchsters offers a different kind of snack that never skimps on flavor or nutrition. These snacks are made of sprouted mung beans (which taste as good – if not better – than potato chips!) and come in a variety of yummy flavors including Vegan Bacon, which tastes so close to the real thing I could barely tell the difference.  

    Peatos, made out of pulses (peas and lentils), is a natural and protein-packed alternative cheese stick snack to their chief competitor (here’s a hint: their name rhymes with Peatos!).  

    Regular jerky snacks are becoming a thing of the past now that plant-based jerky snacks have been introduced to the market. Giorgio’s Savory Wild is portabella jerky made from hand-picked, marinated, gently-dried portabella mushrooms. It comes in three intense flavors and even has a meaty texture so snackers can enjoy both a plant-based diet and an “authentic” jerky experience. 

    Three Farmers is another brand that has emerged as a result of the growing plant-based protein snack trend. They specialize in chickpea and lentil snacks, both of which are not only a source of high protein but also of fiber. Plus, Three Farmers’ roasted lentils make the perfect addition to any salad for an extra boost of nutrition.  

    Every serious vegan/vegetarian knows that a meat-free diet doesn’t mean missing out on flavor or necessary nutrition. Alpha Foods is a great brand for those who are newcomers to a meat-free lifestyle and are looking for a selection of plant-based options that are sure to satisfy. Alpha is primarily known for vegan chicken nuggets, but their newest product – vegan hotdogs – are just as tasty and even look like the real thing! 


    Better-for-you beverages

    Flow water provides a super-natural super-water alternative to everyday water that just doesn’t do enough for your body. It’s naturally alkaline, comes in 6 refreshing flavors, and (best of all) comes in a bottle that contains zero plastic.  

    Anyone who is serious about a health and lifestyle knows that protein shakes are a must-have. biPro – the same company that brought us lactose and gluten free whey protein – is now making protein water, to help consumers meet nutrition goals without the hassle of prepping a protein shake.  

    It’s long been said that the only cure for a hangover is sleep and vigorous rehydration. However, Magic Bullet can help prevent the hangover entirely and cut recovery time in half, the company says, and is the perfect solution for a fun night out when you’ve got no time to sleep it off. The trick is to drink Magic Bullet before you go out and allow it to work its magic and replenish antioxidants lost from drinking. It will salvage your next day if you drink it for recovery but if you drink one Magic Bullet for every four cocktails you might escape the hangover entirely.  

    Health and wellness enthusiasts haven’t stopped talking about the anti-inflammatory benefits of turmeric, so Navitas Organics introduced its own Turmeric Latte drink that is sure to deliver a mugful of superfood heaven. 


    Convenient solutions to inconvenient ailments

    Inspired by eastern medicine, Boom Boom’s natural aromatherapy sticks provide an instant burst of mood-brightening, energy-boosting scents and vapors that can enhance breathing and even improve focus. Think of these little portable inhalers and essential oil roll-ons as modern day smelling salts.   

    If you are prone to cold sores and fever blisters you are likely to get them on the road.  To date, there hasn’t been an effective natural solution, so we were pleased to see there is one conveniently available at C-Stores, now that NeriumRX has a fast-acting natural therapy made with Nerium Aloe Extract, (NAE-8), a patented science-backed ingredient. 


    Expect a CBD stop near you 

    The show featured an isolated section dedicated entirely to cannabidiol (CBD).    

    We were most impressed with Verlane, a local Massachusetts farm and its Heritage Hemp brand of everyday CBD products for the C-store channel. They are affordably and accessibly designed to help people relax, reduce pain and relieve anxiety, with only the best quality ingredients.  The same company is also introducing North Run for the active channel and Van Aarde for the high-end luxury market.  

    We also discovered Smart Straw, a convenient way to store and use CBD in a convenient, biodegradable straw which is also used to consume collagen, probiotics, and other supplements more easily.  

    We expect to see more CBD innovations, as well as healthy convenience alternatives at the 2020 NACS show that will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center October 12-14.