The Pacesetters

Trends Behind the Fastest-Moving New C-store Products

By
Abbie Westra, Editor-in-Chief, Convenience Store Products

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Where the Gains Are
When looking for innovative products, look at not just the products, but also the categories and trends they reflect. What’s notable is how quickly manufacturers are going to market with products that meet current consumer demands.

Nearly half of 2012 food Pacesetter dollars for the total industry came from products that IRI categorizes as either breakfast solutions (which includes burgeoning yogurt and bar categories) or light meals/appetizers.

“Innovation in these areas is contributing disproportionately to overall pacesetter dollars,” says Viamari. Coffee, tea, juices, waters and milk all saw very strong share of sales as well.

The big “a-ha” for Viamari when looking at this year’s New Product Pacesetters is the “drive toward satiation”: Eating occasions are blurred, foodservice and packaged goods are interchangeable during both meal and snack occasions, and breakfast items are eaten throughout the day.

“Whether it’s healthy or indulgent, consumers are looking to fill up without having to slow down, and the CPG companies are so very interested in understanding what that looks like to different consumer segments,” says Viamari.

One segment she believes is ripe for the taking is the shopper seeking better-for-you foods. IRI looked at the nutritional profile for key areas in c-stores and compared it to the total industry, revealing—no surprise—c-stores are lagging behind with respect to health and wellness.

“They tend to have more calories and fat, more things we don’t want if we’re following healthier eating habits,” she says. “But consumers are going to c-stores for healthier products because … even though we see a lot of indulgences, this year TruMoo and Lipton 100% Natural were top launches.”

At Rutter’s, coffee and tea, breakfast items and snacks are all big players. As an example of Viamari’s sentiments, the stores have witnessed niche products such as Greek yogurt and breakfast bars “go mainstream and put more fire in the whole segment,” says Gaskins.

The layout of its foodservice menu has helped Rutter’s find success with the snacking day-parts. Shoppers can customize their meals using an in-store touch-screen ordering system, and many will turn items traditionally seen as appetizers—mozzarella sticks, fried mac and cheese bites—into snacks.

“We’re seeing astronomical results, and the consumer is giving us credit for it,” says Gaskins.

OTP, energy products and packaged snacks, as well as walking tacos (all the components of a taco added to a bag of chips) and cherry pomegranate iced tea, are also hot for Rutter’s. Gaskins points to regional specialties in the snack aisle, such as Utz and Herr’s brands, as hot sellers.

“Local is almost the new ethnic,” he says. “What did central Pennsylvanians grow up on? Those kinds of products do exceptionally well.”

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