The demand for healthier food from millennial consumers is driving even convenience stores to offer healthier options.
According to a 2018 report by consumer product research firm EuroMonitor, the new wave of customer preferences includes diets such as vegan, gluten-free, paleo, and organic.
“Portability and grab-and-go convenience remain critical, millennial dietary habits stand to revolutionize a channel that has been anything but health-conscious in the past,” says the report. 24-hour American convenience store chain 7-Eleven is well-known for its syrupy Slushies and a variety of grab-and-go foods laden with animal ingredients. But even it is beginning to change its way. Customers can find Lenny & Larry’s vegan high-protein cookies, That’s It Fruit Bars, grab-and-go hummus, and more plant-based options.
In a bid to appeal to those looking to lead a healthier lifestyle, a new type of convenience store has also emerged, offering foods with labels that consumers seek as well as perks that appeal to eco-conscious shoppers like compostable single-use straws and cups. According to Jeff Lenard, vice president with Advancing Convenience & Fuel Retailing, the change is small – around 200 stores in the U.S. reflect “healthier” and vegan trends -, but the category is expected to grow.
At Green Zebra Grocery, a Portland, Oregon-based convenience store that is about to open its fourth location, customers can choose from healthier takes on 7-Eleven classics like kombucha slushies and a full-service coffee bar, as well as fresh produce from local farms, bulk bin foods, vegan snacks, and offerings from local brands. “We think of our stores as a human recharging station as opposed to the traditional convenience store, which tears down your health,” said Lisa Sedlar, founder of Green Zebra Grocery.
Food Fight! a vegan convenience store/grocery with two locations in Portland, offers its customers a mix of healthy and “junk” food, all made from plant-based ingredients. It also offers a limited selection of fresh produce and bulk bin options – another feature that customers are increasingly seeking out.
R&D Foods, a small convenience shop in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood offers its customers a variety of groceries from small and independent brands as well as coffee as well as vegetable-centric and vegan prepared foods.
“I don’t believe it’s a passing fad,” said David Portalatin, food industry adviser for trend group NPD. “People bring the same demand for convenience but with a whole new set of food values to go along with it.”
Portalatin is not the only industry expert to predict that emerging trends like plant-based food are here to stay. At the beginning of 2018, Industry Leaders Magazine identified veganism as a “major disruptor” to the food industry. Grocery stores – along with some of the major players in the American food industry – are responding by increasing vegan options.
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