A Healthier 7-Eleven

New York Times features chain’s move toward better-for-you food

Published in CSP Daily News

DALLAS -- The convenience store industry’s move toward offering healthier foodservice fare gained high-profile attention this month when the grand dame of newspapers—The New York Times—featured recent changes in the product offering in 7-Eleven stores.

“The chain that is home of the Slurpee, Big Gulp and self-serve nachos with chili and cheese is betting that consumers will stop in for yogurt parfaits, crudite and lean turkey on whole wheat bread,” the newspaper reported. Here is a digested version of the story:

7-Eleven, the convenience store chain, is restocking its shelves with an eye toward health. Over the last year, the retailer has introduced a line of fresh foods for the calorie-conscious and trimmed down its more indulgent fare by creating portion-size items.

The change is as much about consumers' expanding waistlines as the company's bottom line. By 2015, the retailer aims to have 20% of sales come from fresh foods in its U.S. and Canadian stores, up from about 10% currently, according to a company spokesman.

"We're aspiring to be more of a food and beverage company, and that aligns with what the consumer now wants, which is more tasty, healthy, fresh-food choices," said Joseph DePinto, the chief executive of 7-Eleven, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Seven & i Holdings.

"If you can figure out how to deliver consistent quality and the products consumers want, fresh food is attractive because margins are higher, and it addresses some of the competitive issues you're facing," said Richard Meyer, a longtime consultant for the convenience store industry. "But it's not easy to do."

As 7-Eleven refocuses its lineup, the retail chain has assembled a team of culinary and food science experts to study industry trends and develop new products. Such groups have been around for a while at fast-food restaurants like McDonald's and packaged-goods manufacturers like Kraft. But it's a relatively new concept for players like 7-Eleven, which have typically relied on their suppliers to provide product innovation.

"We're working to create a portfolio of fresh foods," said Anne Readhimer, senior director of fresh food innovation, who joined the company in May from Yum! Brands, where she had worked on the KFC and Pizza Hut brands. "Some will be for snacking, some for a quick meal, but we hope everything we offer our guests is convenient and tasty."

Click here for the complete New York Times story.