Convenience stores continue salting away profits by catering to Americans’ never-ending cravings for potato, corn and tortilla chips, peanuts, pretzels, popcorn, cheese snacks, crackers and many other types of indulgent snack foods.
Slowly, but surely, indulgent snacks options are being pushed by healthier items. Threading the salty-but-healthy snack combination is a major key in appealing to consumers over the next few years, according market research publisher Packaged Facts in the February 2016 report “Salty Snacks in the U.S., 4th Edition.”
The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for salty snack sales across all U.S. channels between 2010 and 2015 was 3.7%. Potato chips were the top salty snack seller in the U.S., with the category taking in $7.5 billion in 2015. Next were tortilla and tostada chips, which garnered $5.2 billion in sales.
That’s good news for c-store sales, where salty snack sales are particularly pronounced among Millennials, said Jeff Lenard, vice president of strategic industry initiatives with the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).
“The big opportunity for retailers is to communicate what the product does, as opposed to saying what the product is,” Lenard said. “What kind of story can you tell about the product? It could be as simple as offering salty snacks as part of a combo meal, or even announcing that it is new to the store. Or you may want to find a way to define how the product satisfies a need, such as the perfect between-meals snack.”
Among the newer chips that have won customer acceptance at c-stores are vegetable and even kale chips, Lenard said. One product line that is garnering increased attention is 7-Select—a private brand created by 7 Eleven. Chip lovers have their choice of 7-Select Potato Chips, 7-Select Tortilla Chips and 7-Select Kettle Chips in upscale offerings such as Spicy Guacamole Thin Tortilla Chips, Go! Smart Sriracha Sprouted Tortilla Chips and Kettle Style Cheddar Ale Potato Chips.
C-stores will also grow sales by unveiling new packaging, like chip containers designed for vehicle cup holders. St. Louis-based U-Gas and its Gigi’s Café Express in 2016 unveiled single-serve-house made chips in clear cups for $1.89.
At the PRIDE Stores, a 12-store chain based in Warrenville, Ill., chips and salty snacks are just as popular as ever, said Company Vice President Guy Morgano and Loyalty and Food Service Manager Nicolette Jaeger.
The stores’ shelves are brimming with chip brands like Doritos, Baked Lays and the traditional Chicago favorite Jays. Patrons can also grab salty snacks like SkinnyPop Popcorn, Planters Peanuts, Wonderful Pistachios and an array of Lance-brand snacks.
“We have an entire aisle devoted to potato chips, directly adjacent to the coolers, sometimes on the side, sometimes on the back,” Morgano said. “They’re just as popular as they ever were, but we’ve seen growth in mixing salty and sweet.”
Items growing in favor at The PRIDE Stores include “better-for-you” options like the Snyder’s-Lance Inc. line of Late July Organic Sweet Potato Chips and Sea Salt Tortilla Chips, as well as increasingly crowd-pleasing Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps and Pretzel Crisps with Dark Chocolate Crunch.