Talk Taste, Benefits to Sell Healthier Options

Kwik Trip, Business Accelerator Team share tips for marketing wholesome foods and drinks.

November 25, 2020

By Sarah Hamaker

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Convenience store customers are looking for healthier options, but finding the right mix of fresh and nutritious items can be tricky. “There are opportunities for retailers to fulfill their needs,” said Kay Segal, president and managing executive of the Business Accelerator Team, during the “Bananas and Donuts: Good vs. Healthy vs. Fresh” education session at the NACS Crack the Code experience.

In order to let consumers know about these offers, retailers need to make sure they’re speaking the right language. “Instead of saying healthy, talk about beneficial or nourishing or energizing or wholesome—those go farther than simply saying fresh,” Segal said.

Segal recommended using more vibrant words to describe healthy foods, such as crisp, juicy, moist and refreshing. “The opposite of fresh isn’t frozen—it’s limp, stale and rotten,” she said. “It’s more important to use taste-focused labels” to direct consumer attention to the fresh foods.

One company ahead of the fresh curve was Kwik Trip, which started selling bananas 30-plus years ago. “It’s what we’ve become known for,” said Erica Haight, nutrition label specialist for food research and development for the La Crosse, Wisc.-based chain. “We noticed a potential opportunity especially in the morning daypart with guests coming in and buying coffee and pastries—offering produce to go along with it seemed like a good idea.”

Kwik Trip soon became very successful with its banana program, developing its own banana ripening room. Once the chain mastered bananas, Kwik Trip branched out into other healthy categories. “Consumers are looking for more options that are healthy and fresh,” Haight said. “So we’ve gone into the market of selling more things our guests perceived as healthy.”

The company often trialed different fruits and vegetables for a limited time before fully committing to selling the items. “We also put produce on end caps and kept it well stocked and full,” Haight said. Kwik Trip paired fresh produce with meat in the same case, which “creates wonderful opportunities to cross promote a meat with lettuce and mushrooms, for example, so families can put together a full meal without having to walk through the entire store.”

Having an end cap of waters, including flavored and private-label options, “is a wonderful nudge to get consumers to make that healthy choice,” Haight said. In addition, the stores give consumers choices by merchandising different healthy options, such as canned vegetables and fruit, frozen steamer bags of veggies, and fresh produce. “This give customers lots of opportunities to buy produce throughout the store,” she said.

There’s still time to register for the NACS Crack the Code Experience to gain on-demand access to this and dozens more education sessions and collaborative experiences. Crack the Code runs through December 4 and features 24/7 access to forward-looking ideas and insights, plus innovative new-to-channel products and strategic connections.

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and NACS Daily and NACS Magazine contributor based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at