As sales of gas, cigarettes and soda plummet, stores to offer “better-for-you” products.
Like thousands of U.S. convenience stores, many 7-Eleven stores cram rows of snacks between a wall of chilled sodas and a bank of churning Slurpee machines.
But starting this month, 7-Eleven will also begin selling cold-pressed juice. It’s organic, vegan, fair trade, non-GMO, gluten-free — and designed to appeal to an entirely new type of convenience-store consumer.
Analysts say the launch is a tiny part of a major trend sweeping truck stops, corner stores and mini-marts from coast to coast. As sales of gas, cigarettes and soda plummet, many stores are vying for consumers with fresh produce and other “better-for-you” products that would have once looked out of place in the land of Big Gulps.
That could make a difference in the diets of millions, experts say, especially those who rely on convenience stores as a primary source of food.
“There is a convenience store in every community in America,” said Amaris Bradley, the director of partnerships at the nonprofit Partnership for a Healthier America, which has worked with stores to offer more nutritious items. “If you can transform that industry, you can make healthy options more accessible for a lot of people.”
Already, convenience stores have begun to change how they do business, said Jeff Lenard, who heads strategic industry initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores. Nearly half of all convenience stores expanded their fruit and vegetable offerings in 2017, according to a NACS survey, and thousands more introduced yogurt, health bars, string cheese, packaged salads and hard-boiled eggs.
At 7-Eleven, the world’s largest convenience store chain, with 10,500 U.S. locations, the company has aggressively developed “better-for-you” products under the Go!Smart banner, pushing low-sugar herbal teas, fruit-and-nut bars and rice crackers.