Merchandizing gaps in convenience stores need to be plugged and snack makers must collaborate to drive progress forward, says the category development head at General Mills Convenience as it launches Nature Valley c-store tailored products.
General Mills Convenience has developed new Nature Valley products for c-stores - a salted caramel nut protein bar and a breakfast biscuits line, all set to roll out this month across the US. The new breakfast biscuits come in two varieties - blueberry and honey.
Kelly Fulford, senior category development manager for Convenience & Food Service at General Mills, said the company took c-store very seriously and was committed to driving growth in that area.
“People are consuming less traditional meals and they’re eating smaller meals throughout the day. I think c-store is a perfect channel to capitalize on that,” she told BakeryandSnacks.com at Sweets & Snacks Expo, held in Chicago last month.
General Mills always worked to develop products specifically for this distribution channel, she said. Both launched in January, its Pillsbury soft-baked mini cookies and Nature Valley nut clusters were good examples, she said.
Bigger opportunities than retail
She said for snacks, there were far bigger prospects in c-stores compared to regular retail stores because of purchasing behavior.
“The key difference with c-store is it’s all about snacks; it’s all about portability; it’s immediate consumption, whereas obviously within a retail environment, consumers are stocking up.”
Snacks bought from a c-stores were typically consumed within 30 minutes of purchase, she said.
Many purchases were based on impulse, she said, and nearly always tied to a beverage buy. “Around 64% of consumers that are coming into c-stores are walking out with a beverage.”
This beverage tie was something snack makers could look to exploit, she said, particularly for the breakfast occasion around coffee purchases.
Merchandizing: ‘There’s still a lot of progress to be made’
However, research and data indicated plenty of room for improvement in c-store merchandizing and assortment strategies, Fulford said.
The typical conversion rate in c-stores (purchases made) was around 60%. “That’s alarming. That means a consumer is coming into a c-store, they’re looking for something and they’re leaving empty handed – they’re not finding what they’re looking for.”
“My job is to partner with both retailers and distributors to ensure they have the right products in the right places… We’re really moving in the right direction – we are making a lot of progress, but there’s still a lot of progress to be made.”
Snack collaboration to secure the future
Fulford said it would be collaboration between snack makers that would drive future progress.
“I would say that as an industry, we are much more collaborative than we’ve ever been before. So, it’s very common for us to partner with other manufacturers in helping a retailer make the best decisions for that category,” she said. For example, snack manufacturers sat in on common meetings with retailers to bring data and research on consumer purchase patterns and product demands to the table.
“It’s really unique to see manufacturers coming together and working together, but I think that snack manufacturers realize that that is what it’s going to take to win. And we all understand there are some big gaps in terms of retailers missing core products.”
She said the focus for the future had to be on filling those gaps and navigating the delicate balance between keeping core strong but allowing space for innovation.
“You’re much more successful when you’re working together, rather than against each other, right? We’re all in the same business.”