C-stores, which are upgrading to healthier and more varied breakfast options (such as an egg-white breakfast sandwich), are continually presenting consumers with an attractive option to stave off the pangs of hunger while keeping folks on the go. Recent tallies of breakfast-related purchases at c-stores are worth a look for industry insiders—breakfast on-the-go is not expected to abate anytime soon.
First Things First: The Caffeine Factor
In one sense, breakfast trends today are exactly the same as ever— in the morning, customers want a jolt of caffeine to start their day. Coffee is hotter than ever with one c-store reporting 60% of morning beverage drinkers choosing coffee as their drink of choice. Customers are filling in with a variety of fountain drinks and energy drinks.
While the ubiquitous breakfast sandwich—some version of the classic meat, egg, cheese and bread combination—still reigns supreme as the c-store breakfast champ, other significant trends are beginning to appear. Breakfast “handhelds,” once limited to grab-and-go sandwiches, have expanded to include morning burritos and empanadas that utilize similar ingredients but provide the flair of traditional Latin American cuisine. In fact, these kinds of items are one of the hottest segments in the grab-and-go food industry—fifty-five percent of consumers say they want c-stores to offer more ethnic foods and flavors for breakfast. Stripes, a popular regional c-store chain in Texas, actually contains an interior restaurant—the Laredo Taco Company—offering breakfast items such as a chorizo-and-egg taco.
Some c-stores are wisely tailoring their offerings to the regional preferences of customers. With kolaches in Texas, gluten-free breads in New York, fresh fruit blends in Southern California, and pandebono, a Colombian cheese bread typically served for breakfast, in Florida, c-store visitors are seeing a shift away from the traditional one-size-fits-all food selection and toward more nutritional, customer-driven choices.
Speaking of bread for breakfast, two items continue to rule the c-store breakfast hot list: warm breads (including muffins, scones and biscuits), which particularly appeal to customers looking for a comforting way start to their day; and breakfast pizza, which enjoyed a 7.7% jump in sales last year. Breakfast pizza allows for some creativity with ingredients—c-store chain 7-Eleven recently introduced a biscuit-crust pie topped with peppered-cream gravy, bacon, breakfast sausage, ham, scrambled eggs, and cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, which quickly became their second-best-selling pizza choice.
When it comes to on-the-go breakfast, it’s clear that demand remains high, and c-stores are responding by providing exciting new options for customers.