CHICAGO — On-the-go consumers prefer restaurants that offer quick and convenient meal and snack options that will meet their expectations. One convenient foodservice option, however, that is widely ignored by hungry shoppers is the convenience store, according to Mintel.

Although c-stores position themselves as the ultimate destination for convenience, recent Mintel research uncovered that 33% of consumers who have never bought food at a c-store haven’t done so because they believe it is low-quality food.

When consumers think of convenience stores, food quality isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, said Eric Giandelone, director of foodservice research at Mintel. “Improved quality — not just for products but for service, location and marketing communications — is needed to bring in or bring back consumers for whom c-stores aren’t top-of-mind choices,” he added.

Regarding people who don’t buy processed food at convenience stores, 64% said they never or rarely consider purchasing food from a c-store. Thirty-two percent said the food was not appealing to them and 26% said high prices are too high. Thirty-five percent said there were better food options nearby.

Convenience stores are always going to face competition from restaurants, especially fast-food establishments, Giandelone said. “Luckily, convenience store foodservice suffered less than restaurants did during the recession and we forecast this $22.8 million dollar industry to experience 4.1% growth in 2011,” he added.

At present, c-stores are most popular for their beverage options. Fifty-eight percent of consumers say they purchase fountain beverages, 52% purchase coffee drinks and 44% purchase “slushies” or other frozen beverages. Regarding consumers who buy c-store food, hot dogs (38%) and pizza (33%) are the most popular food purchases. And 28% buy made-to-order sandwiches, 26% grab nachos while 25% of shoppers opt for chicken wings or tenders.