National trends always seem to take center stage, year after year, when new data is accumulated and released by a number of reputable sources – government, NGO, industry, and otherwise. While these national trends are important drivers of revenue growth, equally important are the regional trends impacting each c-store’s local market.
Regional C-Store Food Trends
There is huge variability between product offerings at c-stores in different regions, states, or even just a few miles down the road from each other. Regional trends and data are to thank for these targeted differences.
Of course, it’s harder to pin these trends down – it takes a bit more research and an ear-to-the-ground mentality. Brands are utilizing digital technologies to better track their inventories, and distributors are using this more easily accessible data to deliver the right products, to the right places, at the right times. Overall, C-store food service is on the rise across the United States, but certain trends are driving revenue growth in specific parts of the nation.
Regional trends can also be difficult to pin down, because some span large swaths of the nation, and others are hyper-localized. Just as one example, MR Williams is headquartered in North Carolina – even in our mid-sized state, two distinct regional barbeque styles are represented in c-stores. In Eastern North Carolina, whole hog BBQ, smoked over hickory and mopped with a spicy vinegar-and-red-pepper based sauce is on the menu. For Western North Carolina, you’ll find “Lexington Style” BBQ – smoked pork shoulder, and a vinegar-and-tomato based sauce, with a bit of brown sugar for a whole different dimension. And folks are particular about their “local” foods!
Keeping it Local
When it comes to the consumer, 96% agree that in order for a food product to be considered local, it must be sourced and produced no more than 100 miles from where it is sold. This is a good benchmark, as there is no formal definition or regulation for what can be marketed as local!
One of the biggest takeaways when it comes to regional food trends: people want to feel a connection to the foods they eat. The localvore movement is alive and well, and impacting c-store sales more than ever before. Locally sourced products, with information on product origin, and locally-inspired flavor profiles are poised to rule the day.
Regional Products and Flavor Profiles
While it’s true that the localvore movement is represented nationwide, with 75% of Americans actively trying to incorporate more local foods into their diets, this looks different from region to region. Some products with known regional variations, like pizza, are enjoying an explosion in popularity, with c-stores striving to deliver authentic, local options from one market to the next.
With examples like pizza, not only are there different toppings to offer – there are countless styles that differ in taste, preparation, ingredients, and experience – from Chicago deep dish, to classic New York style, to Detroit square pizza, Rhode Island bar pizza, and more. These hyper-localized varieties are proving to be a revenue generator for c-stores! With 67% of consumers reporting that they are willing to pay a premium for local food products, this is a trend that presents a tremendous opportunity.
What regional trends are impacting our territories?
The northeast region is a hotbed for locally sourced foods. Demand for local, fresh produce, meat, and dairy products is particularly high in this region.
Fresh foods, salads, and ready-to-eat meals are all trending up in this region. Like elsewhere in the country, emerging flavor profiles from around the world are also being highlighted alongside these local options.
The mid-Atlantic region is seeing more of an influx in local snack foods, jerkies, and some comfort food staples traditionally associated with more southern regions. The spicy food trend growing across the nation can also be seen prominently in the mid-Atlantic.
Brewed teas, bean-to-cup coffees, and fresh sparkling water options are slaking thirst more and more in the mid-Atlantic, as well. This region is also seeing an above-average increase in drive-throughs at c-stores, which is impacting the amounts and types of food products being sold.
The southeast region is seeing two trends simultaneously – an increase in traditional southern style comfort foods is prevalent, but the ethnic food segment is currently the fastest growing of all. Mexican, South American, and Asian flavors are currently trending up in the southeast, alongside new variations on old favorites like chicken and biscuits.
Regional Trends Summary
People like to feel a connection with the foods they eat and the products they purchase. One of the most direct ways to form that connection is by buying locally grown or produced foods. Leaning into traditional local foods and flavor profiles is another way. Some staple food products have variations in nearly every major market, while other food products are hyper-local entirely. These trends present a great opportunity for c-stores, as the majority of consumers report being willing to spend more for foods that are “local” – which consumers generally think of as being produced less than 100 miles away.
2023-2024 Food Trends Guide: Now Available!
See our complete 2023-2024 Convenience Store Food Trends guide for more insights that can help you grow sales in your stores.