By: Zhane Isom | May 7, 2024

As Hispanic food continues to flourish in c-stores, consumers are expanding their taste buds and asking for more authentic, fresh, customizable and flavorful Hispanic offerings.

The sweet, salty and meat snack categories continue to perform well at convenience stores despite inflation’s tight hold on these segments.

Salty snacks, for instance, have been a hit in the snack aisle, ringing in at $45.1 billion in dollar sales, a 4.5% increase for the 52 weeks ending March 16, according to NielsenIQ (NIQ).

Worcester, Mass.-based Nouria, with 175 locations throughout New England, expects its salty snack category to increase by 4%, as stated by Meghann Eaton, category manager at Nouria.

“Salty snack growth is coming from better-for-you options, added protein and cleaner ingredients,” she said.

Sweet snacks have also seen slight growth in dollar sales at $9.23 billion, a 1.8% increase, even as it decreased 6% in unit sales for the 52 weeks ending March 16, per NIQ.

Eaton has forecasted a 6% increase in sales for the sweet snack category, especially considering Nouria’s fresh My Nouria line of pastries, cakes, cookies, muffins and brownies.

However, meat snacks have been feeling the effects of inflation the most when it comes to unit sales but continue to do well in c-stores.

Hispanic food has been the star of the show at c-stores that offer it due to its convenience and customizable options. Consumers hunger for grab-and-go items like tacos and burritos that they can customize to meet their specific cravings.

At Kwik Stop Convenience Stores, which operates 27 locations in Nebraska and Colorado, the most popular tacos in its Mexi Fresh program are the soft shell and Krispy tacos, according to M. David May, food service director at Kwik Stop.

“Our soft shell tacos were sold the most, with our Krispy tacos following behind with 66% of sales,” he said. “As far as our burritos go, our most popular one is our bean burrito, followed by our Grande burrito. Our Sunrise and All American breakfast burritos also perform well in the morning.”

Another c-store chain seeing its Hispanic food offerings do well is 7-Eleven with its Laredo Taco program. 7-Eleven has over 13,000 stores throughout the U.S. and Canada, with Laredo Taco offered at more than 550 of its c-stores.

“Breakfast tacos are our most popular item on our menu, with our average store selling more than 200 each day,” said Christopher Switzer, senior product director at 7-Eleven.

Rutter’s, too, has seen significant growth with its Hispanic food offerings.

“We’ve observed that many Hispanic items on our menu are conveniently suited for on-the-go consumption, which aligns perfectly with the needs of our constantly moving customer base,” said Philip Santini, senior director of advertising and food service at Rutter’s, which operates 85 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. “Coupled with the increasing demand for more flavor and variety, we see ample opportunity to further develop this category within our locations.”

However, consumers’ taste buds have expanded, and now they are looking for more authentic Hispanic food offerings made with fresh ingredients and that are full of flavor.

Rutter’s offers a variety of Hispanic options such as tacos, walking tacos, burritos and empanadas, and the c-store chain plans to introduce even more options to its customers in the future.

“It’s clear that our customers have a strong affinity for the Hispanic flavor profile, and we’re dedicated to satisfying their preferences by continually enhancing this section of our menu,” said Santini.

Amplifying the Hispanic Food Menu

To keep up with consumer demands, retailers are looking at how they can further evolve their Hispanic offerings, whether by adding new items to the menu, adding new seasonings to their flavor profile or ensuring ingredients are prepared fresh daily.

For instance, May is looking for new items to add to the Mexi Fresh menu.

“I recently went to a food show where a company presented me with Spanish rice because we don’t have rice in our program, and I think that would be a great addition,” he said.

To improve the quality of items on the menu, May also changed the queso that was on offer.

“I went through a company called Marcos that has a good queso, and we started offering that. Now, our queso is ranked at No. 13 as far as sales go,” said May.

Quality food is important to customers, whether it comes from a traditional full-service restaurant, a convenience store or other foodservice options.

Rutter’s, on the other hand, is looking into introducing new flavor combinations, spicing up the menu, and maintaining its focus on high-quality items that are convenient for on-the-go consumption, noted Santini.
Elsewhere, 7-Eleven’s Laredo Taco program is raising the bar when it comes to offering consumers authentic Hispanic food.

“Laredo Taco is all about using authentic flavors from deep Texas culture,” said Switzer. “It starts with fresh flour tortillas hot off the grill, loaded with sizzling fillings and topped with fresh salsas.”

Customization Is Still in Demand

Even though authenticity, new flavors and fresh ingredients are at the top of the demand list for Hispanic food, consumers still want to have the option of customizing their orders.

Rutter’s has homed in on customization with its “Made for You” menu, allowing customers to tailor their orders to fit their needs.

“The ‘Made for You’ option is highly favored by our customers. We prioritize customization and catering to individual preferences, a strategy that deeply resonates with our patrons,” said Santini. “Our objective is to offer the highest-quality items and a wide variety to our customer base, ensuring they can create exactly what they want when they want it.”

He noted that customization enhances the customer’s overall dining experience.

As consumers’ demands change for Hispanic food, retailers must be willing to alter and improve their offerings to keep up with and continue to see growth in this area.

“With each store launch we’re seeing great responses from customers looking for fresh, authentic food, and we plan to continue to grow the brand as appropriate,” said Switzer.

Kwik Stop is currently offering a $6 Mexi Bag that comes with a beef burrito, a small peso and a side of queso.

“I encourage any convenience store out there looking to get into authentic Hispanic food to offer some type of promotion to grab customers’ attention,” said May.

Source: CStore Decisions