Opportunity for seafood in c-store market

Foodservice sales in convenience stores continue to rise, and some of those dollars are going to seafood meals.

Convenience store foodservice is an USD 11 billion industry and the second largest retail host foodservice category behind supermarkets, according to a recent report from foodservice consulting firm Technomic.

“Convenience stores have shifted their focus to provide a wider variety of fresh, high-quality food offerings to help gain a greater share of stomach and compete with restaurants,” said Tim Powell, director of research and consulting services for Technomic. C-stores are carrying 8.8 percent more lunch and dinner entrees in 2012, totaling 457 different lunch and dinner entrees offered by the major chains.

Seafood is becoming a more common ingredient in those entrees. For example, many of the top c-store chains are carrying tuna salad sandwiches, egg rolls and sushi. In addition, Village Pantry stores feature Shrimp Cups and Shrimp Skewers. Some chains offer seafood as part of Asian stir-fry dishes.

While more seafood items are showing up in c-stores, the category is still very “under-penetrated”, according to Powell. “Seafood is probably less than two percent of total foodservice sales in c-stores,” Powell said. “For the mainstream stores outside of the ‘foodies’ like Wawa and Sheetz, seafood has yet to really show up on menus and gain consumer traction.”

To boost foodservice sales, c-stores must improve the healthfulness of their offerings, according to Technomic.  Only 28 percent of consumers surveyed by Technomic said that the “healthfulness” of c-store food is satisfactory.

In addition, c-stores need to better promote their foodservice items by offering food along with a beverage as part of a “combo meal” deal, according to Powell.

C-store foodservice will grow nominally by 2.5 percent over each of the next two years, Technomic predicts.

“There seems to be significant room for convenience store operators to generate increased foodservice sales by translating existing traffic into purchases,” Powell said.


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