Expanded and Higher Quality Foodservice Options Driving Increased Trips for Convenience Stores, According to New Acosta Group Study

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Acosta Group has released the results of its 2023 Convenience Store Shopper Insights Study with its proprietary Shopper Community in advance of NACS Show 2023, the industry’s global show for all things convenience, to be held in Atlanta from Oct. 3-6. For the study, Acosta Group focused on insights specific to consumer trip drivers, purchases, and the evolving customer for the c-store channel.

The company also announced its role in “The State of Snacking in Convenience” session at NACS on Wednesday morning, Oct. 4. More information below.

The new convenience store shopper study reveals that 52% of c-store shoppers are shopping once or more weekly and nearly 30% are making more trips to c-stores than they did last year. “For a vast majority of c-store shoppers – 92% – food and drink purchases are the primary purpose of the trip,” said Kathy Risch, SVP, Thought Leadership and Shopper Insights, Acosta Group.  

In-store prepared food is a significant part of the reported sales growth for the channel, increasing over 20% from 2021 to 2022 to nearly $260M, according to Convenience Store News, 2023.

The Acosta Group study shows that 45% of c-store shoppers are purchasing hot foods at least once weekly, with sandwiches, breakfast foods and pizza as the top choices, and 51% rated hot food items just as good as fast food or quick-serve restaurants, often at a better price. “There’s no doubt that high-quality foodservice is one of the key drivers behind increased trips this year,” says Risch.

The study reflects shopper behaviors and category purchases for all c-store shoppers, diving deeper into the occupation and lifestyles driving shopper behaviors for two key c-store shopper segments: blue-collar professionals and Millennials.

Blue-Collar Professionals

  • 23% of individuals in blue-color professions shop c-store every day, versus the average 11% reflected across all channel shoppers
  • 70% are grabbing a snack on the way to, during or from work
  • 58% are purchasing lunch; 48% are purchasing dinner
  • 42% are eating in-store


  • More likely to shop weekly, if not every day
  • 53% shop in the evening
  • 44% stop for snacks to, during or from events
  • 36% stop for snacks to, during or from work
  • 32% stop for snacks to, during or from school

Snacks, candy, baked goods, and refrigerated beverages are c-stores’ most frequently purchased items. These shoppers are also buying non-food items such as tobacco products, scratch-off lottery tickets, and a variety of general merchandise products. Items shopped more exclusively at c-store include meat snacks and store-made hot foods.

It’s noteworthy that loyalty programs are especially popular for younger c-store shoppers, with 82% of Millennials and 60% of Gen Z having memberships. Millennials use the program like the average c-store shopper but are less interested in specials and promotions. Gen Z members are interested in new item alerts and points for prizes with their memberships.  

Digitally, 48% of c-store shoppers subscribe to retailers’ apps to earn rewards points and learn about specials and recommendations. That number jumps to an impressive 85% for Millennials.

According to the Acosta Group study, shoppers choose c-stores primarily for convenience and the fast trip experience. The in-store experience is meeting most shoppers’ expectations from a product availability, shelf organization, customer service, and cleanliness standpoint.

While three in four shoppers say that c-stores maintain good product availability, opinions on pricing and value are split, with price driving channel leakage to grocery and mass retailers.

Shoppers report they learn about promotions primarily via in-store signage and signage at the fueling/charging stations, in addition to retailer apps.

Of interest, a majority (58%) of c-store shopping occurs during the afternoon daypart and 78% are purchasing snacks vs. full meals at this time, taking their food to eat on the go.

As the leading sales and marketing collective bringing both CPG brands and foodservice offerings across all sections of the convenience store, Acosta Group offers a differentiated perspective.

“The c-store channel is absolutely on a growth path,” said Hobie Walker, SVP, Small Format, Acosta, an Acosta Group agency. Today, 30% of these shoppers are buying their snacks, candy, and beverages nearly exclusively in c-store, reflecting the importance of in-stock positions with the right products at the right price. “This study informs us that in-store food, both CPG and foodservice, will be more important than ever to ongoing channel sales,” he added.

Hot foods are a significant draw for many of these consumers and there’s an interest in gourmet foods like cheeses, coffee/tea and craft beers. “We have the opportunity to explore expanding foodservice options within the convenience channel,” said D.J. White, SVP, Corporate Distribution, CORE Foodservice, an Acosta Group Agency. “We see retailers moving to more sophisticated offerings, reflective of evolving consumer preferences.”  

For promotion, retailers need to effectively use their signage both outside and in-store, and recognize the importance of their loyalty and app programs for engaging with customers pre-trip. Using both methods of customer interaction will help drive trips, especially during the key dayparts when shoppers are most apt to use this channel.

Shopper research for this study was conducted in July 2023, with 1,299 U.S. shoppers who are members of the company’s Shopper Community and had shopped in c-stores during the previous six months. The Acosta Group Shopper Community is comprised of over 40,000 demographically diverse shoppers across the U.S. and is the company’s proprietary community for survey engagement.

Join Kathy Risch, SVP, Thought Leadership & Consumer Insights, Acosta Group, as she presents insights from the company’s recent study on snacking in “The State of Snacking in Convenience” session at NACS, Room A412, on Wednesday morning, Oct. 4, from 8-9 a.m. ET. Risch will lead a discussion on shopper behaviors and growth strategies with Lisa Ham, Director, Merchandising and Space Planning, Yesway.  

Guests are also invited to visit the Acosta Group Booth B2300 at NACS.

Acosta Group is a collective of the most trusted retail, marketing and foodservice agencies empowering brands and retailers to win in the modern marketplace. By delivering transformative, commerce-focused solutions and more than 95 years of expertise, Acosta Group connects the company’s partners with people at every point in the consumer journey.

Comprised of Acosta, CORE Foodservice, Mosaic, Premium Retail Services and ActionLink, Acosta Group understands and anticipates evolving consumer needs, fueling accelerated performance to connect tomorrow’s commerce today. For more information, please visit Acosta Group on LinkedIn and at www.acosta.group.