SPRINGDALE, Ark. – Wanting to better understand the nuances of snacking, Tyson Convenience Foodservice recently teamed with Anheuser-Busch to commission a study on the topic. The study identifies a variety of opportunities for convenience store operators to drive growth through prepared food snack sales.

"Snacking is a mega-trend," said Kevin Miller, senior marketing manager for Tyson Convenience Foodservice, a division of Tyson Foods Inc. Citing a 2014 Technomic snacking study, Miller said 51 percent of Americans snack twice a day and 31 percent snack more frequently than they were two years ago.

A key point the study discovered is that late afternoon/evening offers potential for incremental prepared food purchases. Although convenience store traffic is highest during morning and lunch times, the study showed half of all recent convenience store snack purchases were between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. Of those snack purchases, however, only 22 percent included a prepared food item.

The study also found that consumers view snacks as an opportunity to reward themselves with indulgence, and prepared food snacks in convenience stores more strongly fulfill that need.

According to the study, prepared food quality and freshness were the most important attributes consumers consider, even for snack purchases. In addition, snacks should be easy to consume on-the-go and satisfy without overfilling.

The study revealed that only 5 percent of recent convenience store beer purchases included a prepared food item. However, when they were purchased together, more than half of those purchases were consumed as a snack.

The study also advises convenience stories to target millennial impulse buyers with strongly branded signage, value-driven offerings and an emphasis on “quick and quality” product attributes.

“These findings indicate operators have the opportunity to better communicate their snack and prepared food offerings, as well as develop cross-purchasing programs if they want to attract and maximize sales with today's consumer,” Miller said.

CJ Watson, vice president of small format at Anheuser-Busch, said the study provided additional insight on something the beer maker already knew: that cross-merchandising beer with snacks helps drive additional revenue.

“Displaying items together gives retailers an opportunity to potentially create occasions and capture more shopping missions,” Watson added. “Displaying beer alongside the prepared food items in the c-store can tap into the key snacking opportunities this study uncovered and capture unplanned sales.”

The study results were based on a combination of online qualitative discussion groups and quantitative research, as well as in-person interviews.