Are Convenience Stores Going Upscale?

Reinvented c-store concept serves a narrow customer base that is willing to pay a premium for wellness-friendly products.

October 23, 2018

NEW YORK – New c-stores aren’t offering cheap coffee and donuts anymore, but there’s a new wave of stores dedicated to upscale, socially conscious products. Some c-stores are focusing on selling organic snacks, craft kombucha, locally made products and wellness services, reports Eater.

The media is calling them “bougie bodegas,” but these fancy mini-markets are selling items for and catering to a very specific portion of the population. They’re typically opening in places where rent prices are rising and wellness is a priority, catering to millennials and Gen Zers who are prepared to pay premium prices for healthy food.

One example is Clover Grocery in Manhattan’s West Village. It’s been coined a “wellness bodega” and “an uber-chic twist on the urban deli.” It’s a place where a typical purchase might include sweet-potato hummus, “vegan-friendly” condoms or osetra caviar. The New York Post coined it the city’s “most obnoxious food market,” pointing out the $6 single-serving bags of chips and vegan condoms for $18.

In Los Angeles, The Goods Mart calls itself a “socially conscious alternative to the modern convenience store,” and its pricing is more in line with the typical c-store. According to Eater, everything at the Goods Mart is non-GMO, and there’s a focus on reducing use of plastics: All single-serve beverages come in Tetra-pak, aluminum, glass or paper cups. Owner Rachel Krupa said that in the next five years she wants to open 50 locations, in cities including Detroit, Oklahoma City and Nashville.

While most of these stores are popping up in New York City and Los Angeles, the trend has spread to Washington, D.C., as well. Eater reports that salad chain Sweetgreen is opening its first grocery boutique, which will carry locally made food and beverage items such as pickles and fresh produce, as well as products used in Sweetgreen restaurants such as cheese and tahini. Customers also can pick up online salad orders.