Foodservice Differentiates the C-Store Industry

It’s what we do best, and now, the question is “What’s next?”

December 21, 2022

By Chrissy Blasinsky

Anyone selling anything in a convenience store has seen health fads come and go. Some make the cut and become a trend with staying power—I’m looking at you alternative snacks like beef jerky, energy bars and nuts and seeds. The alternative snacks category jumped into the top 10 categories for merchandise sales in 2015 and hasn’t left since, according to NACS State of the Industry data. Should we change the name of the category, since alternative is the norm?

Actually, that just shows how an alternative can become mainstream.

I’ve penned my fair share of NACS Magazine and NACS Daily articles about food trends. What’s next, what’s hot, new flavor profiles, unique ingredients, comfort foods, etc.

Sometimes I got it wrong, even though I really wanted the concept of “brinner” to take off. Pancakes and French toast for dinner will always be a winner in my book.

The one trend that will never go out of favor in our channel is offering choice. I would go as far as saying that providing choice is our industry’s superpower, and I challenge anyone reading this to prove me wrong. Our stores are no larger than a typical QSR format and offer more than combo meals—you can customize hundreds or thousands of different meal combinations in c-stores.

And then there’s variety. We have seen some amazing foodservice options, especially within the prepared food space. One of my personal favorites was when York., Pa.-based Rutter’s launched a customizable wok offer in 2008—a convenience store serving made-to-order stir-fry.

The sky’s the limit for what’s possible in c-store food. Programs are often market and customer driven and cater to thousands of customers who frequent a local c-store each day. One-size-fits-all is not a good descriptor for our industry—never has been and probably never will. One customer wants to down a chicken sandwich now, while another wants to grab a salad for lunch or a take-home meal for the family.

Beyond what type of food you can find in a convenience store, the growth itself is impressive—and so much so that other channels are watching.

Find out just how much the growth is and what’s next for the industry when it comes to foodservice in this week’s Convenience Corner blog post “What Convenience Stores Do Best.”

Chrissy Blasinsky is the content communications strategist at NACS.