Should c-stores go healthy for the sake of kids?
Convenience stores are go-to spots for snacks in many neighborhoods, but a recent study shows that offering unhealthier fare is having a negative impact on the health of the communities they serve — in particular on kids.
Childhood obesity increases in low-income areas with large minority populations when c- stores offer a great deal of unhealthy foods, according to a new university study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Conversely, when small grocery stores sell healthier options in the proximity of where children live, it appears to improve health. The study was based on two cohorts of three- to 15-year-old kids in four low-income New Jersey neighborhoods whose habits were followed between two, two- to five-year long periods from 2009 through 2017.
In recent years, customers have become more particular about the social responsibility positions of retailers they patronize. This could make c-stores contributing to childhood obesity in low-income neighborhoods a cause for concern among shoppers who visit not just mom-and-pops, but chains like 7-Eleven.
Skewing healthier would do more than just appease socially conscious customers, however. C-stores have been profiting with healthier assortments; in 2019 the industry saw such products gaining significant popularity with customers. At the time, Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives, said that offering fresh and better-for-you packaged goods had become almost an expectation in the industry.
Some prominent grocers outside of the c-store space have even re-architected stores to subtly directing customers towards healthier snacking options. As far back as 2015, Target announced an initiative to replace the assortment of sodas, candy bars and the like positioned near the checkout with granola bars and other snacks from both national brands and Target’s private label.
Customers’ snacking habits, at least before the novel coronavirus pandemic, were trending toward fare that was, if not healthier, at least positioned as such. The “better-for-you” category of snacks grew significantly in the later part of the 2010s, leading major CPGs Hershey and Campbell to make major acquisitions of brands specializing in such products.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, while snacks sales have increased across the board, unhealthy “comfort” snacks have seen the biggest gains.
- Kids gain weight when new convenience stores open nearby – Eureka Alert
- Is Target crazy to swap granola bars for candy at its checkouts? – RetailWire
- Hershey and Campbell splurge big on better-for-you acquisitions – RetailWire
- Will Americans keep snacking at higher levels post-lockdown? – RetailWire
- Better-for-you foods produce healthier results for convenience stores – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is making money on the sale of healthier foods a bigger challenge for convenience stores than grocers? How can small stores balance the public health implications of the food options they sell with the demand for unhealthier items?