RTD beverages and snacks are often staple categories within the c-store channel; both harbingers of convenience designed to engage consumers with familiar favorites, new flavors and captivating packaging.
In the first half of 2023, RTD beverage c-store sales grew 13.2% over the first half of 2022, per store per month, according to figures from NACS CSX Benchmarking Database. Salty snacks and candy saw saw significant growth in the same period with 15.4% and 17.1% growth, respectively, in sales per store per month.
According to data from Acosta Group’s 2023 Convenience Store Shopper Study, consumers are making their snack and meal trips to c-stores in the afternoon, with more than half purchasing snacks between lunch and dinner.
Given that most c-store shoppers are consuming their snacks on the go, brands are challenged with highlighting within seconds their best sellers through promotions and bundles, while introducing new flavors and packaging that grab consumers’ attention and align with their usage occasions. NACS’ Cool New Products section featured a variety of snack formats with flavor, packaging, format and branding in mind.
Sweet and salty, the bundled pair
Known for its c-store popularity, meat snacks offer consumers a quick, satiating and flavorful snack. Old Wisconsin’s latest flavors venture into heat featuring a blend of serrano, jalapeño and red peppers, with its Twisted Snack Sticks in Hot & Spicy, Some Stack snack pack with Pepper Jack cheese sticks.
Pear’s Snacks specializes in flavored nuts—almonds, peanuts and cashews—with resealable pouches printed to show texture and color in an enlarged format. The brand showcased its new savory and sweet flavors for each type of nut, including Salted Caramel Churro almonds, Peanut Butter Cup peanuts, Everything Bagel cashews, Sugar Cookie Confetti cashews and Memphis-style BBq cashews.
Sargento and Mondelez team up for bundled refrigerated snacks with the launch of Sargento’s Fun! Balanced Breaks. Each pack features Sargento’s cheeses with mini Chips Ahoy and cocoa Teddy Grahams. The sweet and savory two-packs include Sargento’s mild cheddar cheese slices paired with the Mini Chips Ahoy cookies with natural cocoa yogurt-flavored covered raisins; and the Monterey jack cheese is paired with naturally flavored mixed fruit snacks and cocoa Teddy Grahams.
Van Holten’s veers into the sour flavor category with licensing Impact Confections’ Warheads flavor for its sugar-free Extreme Sour Dill Pickle pickle-in-a-pouch in regular and jumbo sizes.
Functional energy drinks differentiate through ingredients, branding and flavors
With an estimated value of $22.7bn in 2023, the energy drink market continues to evolve, merging function with increased energy for nearly every usage occasion. In a saturated and competitive category, particularly within c-store, brands rely on packaging, branding and unique ingredients and flavors to catch consumers’ attention and remain memorable.
Combining caffeine and nootropics for potentially longer energy, mental clarity and physical endurance, Bucked Up featured its latest energy drink flavors including LFG Burn in Cherry Blast, Apple Orchard and Watermelon which contains 160 mg of caffeine and zero sugar per can. While its eponymous Bucked Up flavors include Cherry Candy, Breezy Blast and White Gummy Deer and contain zero sugar and 300mg of caffeine. The brand also showcased its Buck Shot energy shot for energy-on-the-go in Blue Raz and Cherry.
Blending adaptogens with caffeine from green tea, Gym Weed brands itself as a zero sugar, adaptogenic energy drink. The brand features its Tangerine, Watermelon and Pear Pineapple during the show in bright colored slim cans. Each zero sugar beverage is also formulated with KSM-66 ashwagandha, lion’s mane and l-theanine.
With Hispanic-inspired packaging and flavors, Hispanic-founded Patria’s energy drinks are formulated with function in mind with ingredients like biotin, folate, hydrochloride, vitamin B3 and B12 and caffeine. The brand showcased its newest citrus and fruity flavors Lima-Limón, Frambupiña, Manzana Verde, Sabor Original, Sabor Naranja and Sabor Piña.
Blurring meal and snack time with refrigerated snacks
As the line between snack and mealtime continues to blur, brands have an opportunity to tap into the category blurring in the refrigerated section by introducing familiar favorites or new formats that blend convenience with flavor and value with quality.
Kraft Heinz expands its Lunchables line with the launch of Crispy Grilled Cheesies with Kraft Singles. The microwavable grilled cheese sandwiches are part of Kraft Heinz’s platform 360CRISP designed to create stove-top worthy crispy and toasted bread with melted cheese in the microwave for kids.
The company also showcased its Delimex taquitos, which pays homage to the RTE c-store taquitos with its frozen packaged taquitos in bold colored packaging with more meat added. Flavors include Chicken & Cheese flour taquitos, Beef and Cheese flour taquitos, and Beef Corn taquitos, Chicken Corn taquitos.
Dible Dough’s cookie dough bars are offered in an 8-pack of to-go bars and can be refrigerated or frozen. With classic cookie flavors, Dible Dough’s flavors include Peanut Butter with Chocolate Chips, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Snickerdoodle Churro and Sugar Cookie with Sprinkles. Each bar is 220 calories and made without eggs, artificial colors and flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. Its ingredient roster includes heat-treated flour, sugar, butter and natural flavors, among others.