Healthier meals and new payment methods are on tap at convenience stores in the year ahead, according to a new report from the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS).

More than two-thirds of convenience retailers surveyed by NACS reported an increase in food service sales in 2017, helped by higher sales of products such as fruits and vegetables, yogurt, nuts and protein bars, while only 7% of retailers posted a decline in food service sales, and 3% said sales of better-for-you items decreased.

“Customers are demanding higher quality foods and snacks,” said Mickey Jamal at Chestnut Petroleum, New Paltz, N.Y.


Kombucha on convenience store shelves
Retailers predict growth in kombucha sales at c-stores.


Emerging trends predicted by convenience retailers in 2018 include growth of kombucha beverages, new payment methods and new programs for home delivery. Sixty-seven per cent of retailers identified lunchtime traffic as a top opportunity, while others noted the potential to grow sales of mid-day snacks.

“People love food inside a convenience store,” said Parvez Himani at Priya Impex Inc., Alpharetta, Ga. “It’s a one-stop shop for them.”

Continued competition for the convenience store customer was cited as a top concern of retailers. Others noted labor challenges and regulation that may affect operations, particularly in California.


Getting a drink at a convenience store
More than two-thirds of convenience retailers reported an increase in food service sales in 2017.


Still, optimism across the industry is strong. More than three-fourths of retailers are confident about business prospects for the first quarter of the year.

“There seems to be a direct correlation between our customers’ view of the economy and their use of disposable income in our marketplace,” said Dennis McCartney of Landhope Farms, Kennett Square, Pa.