C-Store Food Trends: Transparency, Trust, Traceability
April 5, 2023

Today’s highly-educated consumer is demanding higher quality food products, and expects the processing, packaging, and production to be perfect (or close to it) as well. Building trust with the modern consumer depends on transparency and traceability – of ingredients, products, and practices. From sourcing and supply chains, to labor and production standards, to the very packaging of the product – American consumers are holding the brands they patronize to their same high, value-driven standards.

Trust and Traceability

Consumers are becoming more aware, and critical, of the ingredients and processes that go into their favorite food products. Brands are responding by leaning into fair trade and conflict-free practices, delivering “simple” easy-to-trace products with fewer complex ingredients, and touting their virtues on their packaging and marketing materials.

Brands that make transparency and traceability priorities stand to build trusting relationships with customers, which leads to long term sales. Consumers are demanding to see exactly where their food comes from, and are expecting a consistent, authentic message across touchpoints with a brand.

Tracing and documenting the ingredients and processes that go into creating a food product, and making that information available to the public, are the cornerstones of this initiative. Brands are beginning to better utilize advancing digital technologies to allow individual products to be traced back to their origin, taking this idea one step further. For many brands, some or most of this infrastructure is in place on the food safety side, it’s now a matter of leveraging the information effectively to connect with the customer. We’ve even seen some brands including information about the individual employees who were involved with a particular batch of product, so that consumers can feel a personal connection to their food. While some of these novel approaches may not catch on, consumers are beginning to expect this level of specificity to be available.

Label-Friendly Ingredients
Along with the push toward easily traceable and identifiable ingredients, comes the “label-friendly” ingredient movement. Label-friendly is a descriptor for any ingredient that is easily read and recognized by the average consumer, especially as compared with some of the more complex components commonly found in packaged foods (but not in the average home kitchen).

In some cases, brands are redeveloping products or seeking out ingredient substitutions to make their labels more appealing to potential customers. Others are touting their natural ingredients front and center, more than ever.

Certain plant-based food products and naturally occurring ingredients lend themselves well to the label-friendly trend. Brands are moving towards more plant-based and naturally-occurring sweeteners, stabilizers, colors, flavors, and textural components, all in an effort to move away from overly “chemical-sounding” ingredients, which tend to put off customers. Providing options that eschew heavily-refined sugars, modified starches, and refined fats is a good place to start, as these are often perceived to be “unnatural” or overprocessed, and are less appealing to modern consumers.

Minimalist Packaging
In a stylistic effort to match the values of these consumers, brands are seeing success with pared down, minimalistic packaging. Simple, straightforward, and minimalistic messaging – especially messaging that speaks to their concerns about ingredients, traceability, and food production practices – is resonating with today’s consumers.

The modern shopper is overloaded with information and stimuli. Connecting with fatigued customers today requires transparency, honesty, and simplicity, at the point of sale. It also requires the information to back that up, should the consumer decide to do some online research.

Consumers are drawn toward packaging that clearly highlight health benefits, natural ingredients, fair trade practices, and other virtues of the given product. Speaking of transparency – consumers tend to favor packaging that is at least partially transparent physically, as well!

Transparency to Trust in C-store Food Service
The standards of c-store consumers are rising across the board. Modern consumers expect to see high quality food products, with ingredients, processing, packaging, and business practices that match their value-driven standards. Building trust with the modern consumer depends on being able to trace product origins, and on being transparent with that information. Brands that lean into utilizing their existing infrastructure not only as a way to assure food safety, but as a way to engage with consumers, will see increased trust, and long term sales.

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.


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