10 Solutions to Better Serve SNAP Customers

Convenience retailers provide essential access to nutrition for consumers who rely on this assistance.

November 18, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Sixteen percent of American households receive support from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), according to IRI, and convenience stores provide essential access to nutrition for consumers who rely on this assistance.

According to IRI, SNAP participants received a 27% increase in benefits from a year ago through the updated Thrifty Food Plan; however, they are still receiving about 30% less overall than they were when their benefits were bolstered by emergency pandemic checks.

Convenience stores are often the only establishments easily accessible by walking or public transportation, or the only food retail locations open for business with extended or 24-hour service. Here are 10 ways retailers can better serve their SNAP customers.

Timing is everything: IRI says that SNAP and WIC customers buy more food and beverage items around the first and 15th of the month when they receive their benefits, so retailers should focus on strategies that reach these customers around those times.

As food prices increase due to inflation, non-SNAP customers are spending more, but SNAP shoppers are spending less, so it’s important to provide value on essentials for these customers. IRI suggests staying competitively priced on staples, such as bread and cheese.

Dinner foods are losing SNAP buyers, according to IRI, so retailers should watch the pricing on these food categories carefully and offer more precise promotion timing.

Advertise products that are growing dollars but losing buyers and trips, which include beverages and breakfast and lunch foods. “Offering more convenient options and smaller packaging options on these products can also help boost trips,” writes IRI.

Nearly one-third of SNAP customers are cooking meals at home, so baking products are growing in buyers and dollars despite trip declines, according to IRI, so retailers should include more product education, recipes and ideas for meals at home.

Twenty-two percent of SNAP participants have switched some of their shopping to lower-cost retailers, and 25% are ordering online more often to save on gas, and dollar share shifts are favoring mass, online and specialty retailers. IRI suggests that retailer develop a SNAP channel strategy and to include delivery and curbside pickup options.

Private label is taking off for retailers, as consumers look to save money where they can. Although SNAP shoppers are more name-brand loyal, they are starting to trade down to private label to save money. According to IRI, SNAP shoppers currently spend 50% or more of their dollars on private label on baking, dinner, dessert, breakfast and prepared foods occasions.

Don’t forget about non-SNAP eligible items. SNAP shoppers aren’t able to use their benefits on non-SNAP eligible items, such as hot prepared foods. These customers do still buy these products using other forms of payments and it’s important to pay attention to the category demand.

Go big (and small). Almost half (45%) SNAP customers are buying their groceries in bulk to save money, and 10% are also splitting their bulk grocery hauls with other households. They’re also buying smaller amounts of fresh food so that nothing goes to waste. 

SNAP customers want products that offer quality of life on a budget, says IRI. They want meal solutions that replace the costs of eating out, including restaurant quality products for home and convenient food options for home entertaining. It’s important for retailers to offer solutions for these food-buying trends, as well as others that emerge, according to IRI.