Beverage Messaging Can Grow Healthy Drink Sales—Sometimes


ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Messages focusing on the attributes of a beverage can increase sales—but not always, according to two new pilot tests released today by NACS. NACS examined how messaging and assortment within cooler doors could encourage sales of healthy beverages in convenience stores. The pilot tests were developed in conjunction the Project on Nutrition and Wellness (PNW) and the Cornell Food and Brand Lab (CFBL).

Healthy Cooler Planogram
NACS implemented a two-phase pilot test to assess beverage case layout changes and functional messaging to sell lower calorie beverages at two convenience stores. U.S. Marine Mart locations on bases in Pendleton, California, and in Quantico, Virginia, were chosen as the two test sites, with two additional stores selected as control sites.

The first phase involved changing the beverage case planogram to move zero- and low-calorie beverages at eye level and/or to the top of the case, while higher calorie beverages were shifted to the bottom of the case. With the new planogram still in place, the second phase involved adding cling displays on the beverage cooler doors with functional messages. These messages provided positive messaging or informational facts about a product (i.e., “Hydrate Like You Mean It” for bottled water). The goal was to quickly provide a cue to time-starved customers and potentially change their purchase behavior by providing additional benefits related to the beverage.

Water, enhanced waters, functional beverages and diet soda sales increased by 21.3% over the control weeks—and the sales increase did not come at the expense of other cooler items. Total purchase of goods increased by 11.7% in retail sales over the control weeks. “Healthy Cooler Planogram Test” is available for download.

Juice Messaging Pilot Test
NACS examined messaging specific to juice in two pilot tests at 21 Ricker’s locations in Indiana to determine if a targeted messaging campaign would increase awareness and sales of bottled 100% juice at convenience stores.

Ricker’s developed creative designs for the pilot, which employed three health-centered messages, based on messaging developed by the Juice Products Association. The graphics featured tomato juice, orange juice and apple juice, with taglines reading: “Drink Your Veggies,” “Get Juiced Early” and “Ultimate Energy Drink!”

In both tests, juice sales declined slightly (2.4% in each test). These results demonstrated that a simple awareness campaign alone does not always lead to an increase in sales. “Juice Messaging Pilot Test” is available for download.

Lessons Learned
Convenience stores sell immediate consumption: 83% of items purchased at stores are consumed within an hour, and 66% of items are consumed immediately upon purchase.  Shoppers come to a store to solve a problem (hunger, thirst, etc.), but don’t necessarily come into the store with a preconceived desire for a product that will address that need.

At the same time, consumers want a fast experience in convenience stores. A NACS speed metrics study found that the average time spent at a store in 3 minutes and 33 seconds.

“Consumers quickly seek out solutions to their immediate needs at convenience stores. Communicating the functional benefits of specific foods and beverages choices can help grow sales of healthier options but there are other considerations as well in incenting these purchases. Since consumer behavior and choice-making are influenced by a variety of factors, such as taste and cost, awareness campaigns may need to be coupled with promotional pricing or other strategies to effectively increase merchandise sales,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives.

The new case studies are part of six case studies that look at strategies to grow sales related to “better-for-you” snacks, meals and beverages. NACS released pilot tests related to healthy checkout and better-for-you snack planograms on January 18 and meal kits (Healthy Dinner Meal Kit Pilot Test” and “Healthy Meal Kit Pilot Test”) on January 24.