3 Ways to Boost Late-Night Snack Sales

May 04, 2016

Brought to you by CSP and Prairie City Bakery

It’s no secret that consumers are snacking more. According to Technomic, 49% of consumers are now snacking at least twice a day, and they’re more likely to purchase those snacks vs. bring them from home. Further, according to Nielsen data, U.S. consumers spent $124 billion on snacks between 2013 and 2014 (a 2% increase year-over-year).

Although snacking has increased across demographic lines, millennials are decidedly leading the snacking craze, making them prime targets for c-store operators. Younger millennials (aged 18-24) are snacking the most, with 64% enjoying three or more snacks per day. Many older millennials (ages 25-34) also have three or more snacks per day (54%), and they’re spending more when they do—an average of $14.81 per day compared to $12.98 for younger millennials, according to IRI.

The focus on snacking has spread to convenience stores, with many operators focused on offering snacking options around the clock. And it’s not just salty snacks or sandwiches: Many unexpected snacking categories have seen a substantial spike in sales.

Sushi, for example, has skyrocketed above other snacks at a 13.1% increase in year-over-year sales between 2014 and 2015, followed closely by dried meat snacks at 12.6% and bakery snacks at 11.6%. Hand-held nonbreakfast entrees came next at 10.3%, followed by yogurt-coated snacks (9.7%); dips (8.8%); natural cheese (7.7%); pastries and doughnuts (5.6%); and nutritional snack/trail mixes (4.8%).

A Focus on Indulgence

As you can see, although consumers are saying they want to eat and snack healthier, indulgent categories such as bakery snacks, pastries and doughnuts have still seen significant growth in sales.

“We have learned that sweet is the name of the game for the snacking trend,” said Samantha Couch, brand manager, fresh foods at Louisville-based Thorntons Inc., a chain of 170 convenience stores throughout six states. “C-store consumers look to satisfy both physical and emotional needs with snacking: taste, affordability and satisfaction, which fall within the physical component, or a habit, distraction, indulgence or reward, which is the emotional component.”

Data from IRI shows the latter is definitely on the rise. Indulgence in snacking has increased by 3.1% vs. 2.5% for healthier snacks, according to its latest report. And more than half (59%) of consumers say they indulge when snacking.

Late-Night Craving for Sweets

Late night is the perfect time for convenience retailers to offer sweet snacks. According to Couch, the desire to snack can stem from both physical and emotional factors. A recent study* found that often, those physical and emotional desires drive us to eat more at night. For some consumers, the body’s internal clock, the circadian system, increases hunger and cravings for sweet, starchy and salty foods in the evenings.

In fact, NPD reported that sweet snacking tends to increase throughout the day, peaking at around 8 p.m., during what is considered the late-night daypart. It’s no surprise, then, that 81% of consumers eat bakery snacks not just in the morning, but throughout the day and evening, according to IRI.

And since many late-night sweet snacks and bakery goods are being purchased at convenience stores, operators are able to maximize their product offerings during late-night hours, yielding a significant revenue boost. A recent VideoMining study found that basket sizes tend to run larger late at night compared to the breakfast daypart (customers spent $7.79 vs. $6.47).

Building Your Late-Night Snack Sales

Although the consumption of sweet snacks such as baked goods rises throughout the day for many consumers, for millennials in particular, late night is the sweet spot for bakery items. In fact, younger millennials consume the most baked goods during the late-night hours compared to any other time of day, according to IRI.

For c-stores, this spells opportunity, if you know how to take advantage of it. Here are a few ideas for maximizing bakery snacks during late-night hours:

*Focus on safety.
Making sure your location is well-lit and clean can help make your store a safe bet for millennials looking for a late-night bite. Recent research from The Integer Group and M/A/R/C Research showed that 30% of respondents named concern for their safety as a reason they’d avoid a specific c-store. Take care of fundamentals and provide a safe environment to drive late-night sales.

*Offer value. As with other dayparts, bundles and other promotions such as 2-for-1 specials appeal to value-conscious millennials late at night. For maximum effect, try bundling baked goods with a coffee or other beverage—nearly 38% of late-night c-store snack visits include both snacks and beverages, so this can be a good way to appeal to younger consumers.

*Take stock.
Customers can’t purchase baked goods during late-night hours if they’re not available. Keep your bakery case, as well as display racks of prepackaged baked goods, well-stocked and clean well into the evening.

By focusing on baked goods and other sweet snacks, and by effectively promoting these types of items, c-stores can drive millennial visits during evening hours and maximize the late-night opportunity.

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