Convenience Store News

DEC 2016

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38 Convenience Store News | DECEMBER 2016 | WWW.CSNEWS.COM A Healthy 2017 Consumers will be looking for better-for-you food, beverage and snack options T he popularity of healthier or better-for- you products in the food, beverage and snack categories has been on the rise for a while now, and it's affecting all industries that sell these segments — this includes convenience stores. For the past 10 years, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) has done its annual Food and Health Survey among consumers representing the United States population, and each year healthfulness of products landed in third place behind taste and price as the main factors that drive purchase behav- ior. However, between 2015 and 2016, healthfulness has been on an upward trend, Liz Sanders, associate director of nutrition and food safety at IFIC, told Convenience Store News. This year also saw NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, publish a new online toolkit for retailers, created by the associa- tion and Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab, focused entirely on the better-for-you and healthy segment. Titled "Ideas That Work to Grow Better- for-You Sales," it includes specific c-store examples of evidence-based practices and can be accessed at NACSOnline.com/refresh. "We have been paying attention to the healthier products trend longer than we have been doing some- thing about it," noted Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives for NACS. "In the last three years, NACS put an emphasis on giving retailers the tools to grow better-for-you sales and to determine if this is a category that will work for them because there are some stores, whether it's the company offer or location, where it doesn't work." But what does "healthy" or "better-for-you" actu- ally mean to consumers? As part of its survey this year, IFIC asked partici- pants this question and found that one-third of the population is more concerned about what is not in their food, rather than what is. The next largest group is looking for beneficial ingredients in their food. "We asked the open-ended question and the top theme that came back had to do with what the food doesn't contain, such as low in sugar, low in fat, low in salt, or low in calories," said Sanders. "The second biggest theme was that it contained beneficial food components like protein, whole grains, antioxidants and Omega-3s." This same split also showed up in a recent survey done by General Mills Convenience & Foodservice, which specifically examined convenience store shop - pers. Not only did the research reveal that women are more likely to express strong interest in better-for-you items in c-stores (31 percent compared to 23 percent of men), but also the top definitions of better-for- you included what was or was not in the product. For example, the top descriptor was "is fresh," followed by "is heart healthy," "is reduced/low/ no fat," "baked not fried," "made with whole grains," "less processing," "reduced/low/no calorie" and "reduced/low/no sugar." High in fiber and high in protein also made the list, according to Rachel Pruitt, global consumer insights manager at General Mills. "Consumers' demand for healthier snacks is not a new trend; however, consumers' defi- nition or perception of what healthier means has changed," Pruitt shared. "In the past, healthier often meant low calorie or low in carbs. Today, healthier is more likely to be defined as fresh or less processed. What consumers are looking for By Tammy Mastroberte

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