SNAP Shoppers Up 17% at C-Stores

Consumers using the SNAP program are shifting to smaller-format retailers overall.

May 30, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—SNAP shoppers are shifting to smaller-format retailers, according to Numerator’s new SNAP Trip Tracker. Convenience stores captured 17% more SNAP trips in the three months ended April 30 compared to the same time last year, while dollar stores captured 1% more year over year. Other in-store retail channels are capturing a lower percentage of SNAP grocery trips year over year.

Overall, the tracker found that while grocery trips where SNAP benefits are used tend to be larger than non-SNAP trips, the overall volume of SNAP trips, basket sizes and units per basket have all seen declines following the end of the Emergency Allotment program. The tracker is used to understand longitudinal trends in SNAP/WIC usage and how SNAP shopping trips have changed in terms of frequency, composition and location.

Other findings from the tracker include:

  • SNAP spend is down across the board. As the Emergency Allotment program phased out in in early 2023, the average spend for a SNAP grocery trip declined by nearly $4 (from $36.62 in January 2023 to $32.92 in April 2023). Comparatively, spend for all grocery trips (non-SNAP) declined by just over $1 in the same time period.
  • SNAP recipients are buying fewer, cheaper items. From January to April 2023, the average number of items purchased on a SNAP grocery trip declined from 10 to 9.2, and spend per item dropped from $3.66 to $3.57.
  • Shoppers are pulling back on proteins and prepared foods. SNAP recipients are disproportionately dropping categories like refrigerated foods (19% less likely to buy in April 2023 vs. April 2022), seafood and fish (18% less likely to buy), canned foods (13% less likely), breakfast foods (12% less likely) and meat (11% less likely). In April 2022, meat appeared in over a quarter (25.8%) of SNAP shoppers’ grocery baskets but declined to 22.9% by April 2023.
  • Beverages, pasta, dairy and produce are the least impacted categories. The single least impacted category was beverages (non-alcoholic), which appeared in 63.5% of SNAP shoppers' baskets in April 2023 (vs. 64% in April 2022).
  • Club and grocery stores saw the biggest declines in SNAP trips compared to a year ago. Club stores captured 4.2% of SNAP grocery trips in April 2023, down from 4.6% a year ago. While grocery stores still account for the largest percentage of SNAP trips, that number continues to decline (39.2% of SNAP trips in April 2023 vs. 41.2% in April 2022).

Last week, federal legislators announced the introduction of a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would allow Americans participating in SNAP to purchase hot, prepared foods, which are currently barred from purchase in the program.

NACS is asking its members to reach out to their members of Congress and ask that they co-sponsor the SNAP Hot Foods Act and support removing the hot foods restriction. You can contact your legislators by visiting the NACS Grassroots portal.