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NACS Show Wrap-Up — Products — Seen at the NACS Show…

A growing trend in health and wellness.
 

By Lisa Plummer Savas

If you had a chance to attend the NACS Show last month in Atlanta, you might have noticed something significant on the expo this year — better- for-you snacks and drinks seemed to be everywhere. Why the bigger presence? Because as people are becoming increasingly conscious of their diets and the importance of good nutrition, the demand for healthier on-the-go food and beverage options is also increasing — and some suppliers have been paying attention.

“This health trend is definitely moving along and getting more traction,” said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of industry strategic initiatives. “It’s possible that once it starts happening, it will happen fast. You’re seeing it here at the Show with products brought to market. So for retailers thinking, ‘How do I do this?’ it’s out there on the trade show floor and you’re going to see even more next year.”

As a c-store retailer looking to meet your customers’ changing needs, it’s important to stay open to this trend for a variety of reasons, — including the need to change public and government misperceptions about the industry, what it offers and how it can have a positive influence on public health.

National anti-obesity campaigns, the Obama Administration’s call for c-store menu labeling and the controversy over food deserts are all issues NACS is addressing and plans to combat with the help of an upcoming nutrition initiative. Until then, you can make a difference by being part of the solution and that means offering options for more health-conscious consumers.

From protein bars coated in Greek yogurt and wellness waters to organic juice purees and gluten-free fruit and nut bars, a plethora of wholesome snack and drink options dotted the NACS Show expo.

While not a comprehensive overview of everything on the expo this year, here are some healthier-for-you highlights that might be worth a second look.

Wholesome Snacks

  • Wai Lana Chips: Made from nutrient-rich cassava root, these crunchy veggie chips are gluten, wheat, soy and cholesterol-free and come in 10 finger-licking flavors, including Thai curry with lime, herb & garlic and pizza, and contain 30% less fat than regular potato chips.
  • Dry Roasted Edamame: Packed with protein, this crunchy soybean snack comes in three flavors: lightly salted, spicy wasabi and the new crunchy coated premium black edamame in sea salt. Made by Seapoint Farms, the snack is not only non-GMO but also gluten-free.
  • Fruit Flavored Almonds: Blue Diamond has once again made almonds more delicious and fun to eat, this time by coating them with sweet berry flavorings. Full of antioxidant-rich Vitamin E, these yummy nuts come in raspberry, strawberry and blueberry.
  • Tapaz 2 Go: Mediterranean Snacks has come up with a convenient, healthy on-the-go mini-meal that pairs sea salt lentil crackers with hummus dip in a portable single-serving package. Easy to eat, gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly, it’s a good source of protein, vitamin C and iron and is available in three varieties — roasted garlic, red pepper and classic.
  • Sahale Snacks: This Washington-based company offers a comprehensive line of premium nuts and nut and fruit blends that are not only gluten- free, organic and kosher but also spiked with exotically appealing flavor combinations. Over a dozen sweet and savory varieties are available, including the new grab-and-go sizes in five flavors: almonds with cranberries, honey & sea salt; cashews with pomegranate & vanilla; California almonds with sea salt and classic fruit & nut.

Wellness Drinks

  • Fruit Snacks and Veggie Blends: Perfect for health conscious snackers and parents searching for healthy treats for their young ones (they’re not just for young ones!), these 100% pure, organic fruit and vegetable purees made by Peter Rabbit Organics come in a convenient, easy-to-use squeeze pouch. Great for on-the-go, health-conscious consumers, these all-natural liquid snacks come in 13 flavor combinations, including mango, banana and orange and pear and pea.
  • Bolthouse Farms Smoothies: Health conscious or otherwise, most people love fruit smoothies. Among the company’s plethora of drink offerings, its smoothie category offers seven nutrient-rich varieties, including Berry Blast, Strawberry Banana and its newest flavor, Multi-V Goodness, which contains the antioxidant power of cherries.
  • Karma Wellness Water: New to the scene, this wellness beverage boasts a clever mix-to-drink feature that stores high-potency vitamins and nutrients in a patented push-button cap, then releases them into spring water with the push of a button. Lightly sweetened with a combination of Stevia and sugar, this thirst-quencher comes in five natural varieties formulated with ingredients designed to deliver distinctive functional benefits, including Mind for sharper thinking; Spirit for elevating mood and Balance for boosting immunity.
  • Alo: This San Francisco-based company has harnessed the digestive and health benefits of aloe vera with an extensive portfolio of aloe-enhanced beverages, including original, coco and light formulas. Low in sugar and made with aloe vera pulp, these refreshing blends feature nutritious and exotic ingredients including mangosteens, watermelon, cranberries, wheatgrass, pomegranate and mango.

Nutrition Bars

  • Smart Bars: As Detour’s answer to the more health-conscious consumer, these tasty whole grain oatmeal bars are certified gluten-free, low in sugar, contain organic fruit and come in three wholesome flavors: blueberry, apple cinnamon and cranberry flax.
  • Healthy Grain Bars: This new offering by KIND Healthy Snacks is made from 100% whole “super” grains including amaranth, quinoa, oats, millet and buckwheat. Sweet, chewy and crunchy, the bars are gluten- and GMO-free and come in: oats & honey with toasted coconut; vanilla blueberry; dark chocolate chunk; maple pumpkin seeds with sea salt and peanut butter dark chocolate.
  • Fiber One Meal Bars: General Mills has jumped on the health bandwagon with this delicious nutrition bar that packs in 10 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber and comes in two tasty flavors: chocolate peanut butter and strawberry Greek yogurt.

Don’t Forget Fido

  • Pawtriotic Dog Treats: Great for health-conscious pet owners who want to extend good nutrition to their furry companions, these certified organic canine snacks by Wet Noses are made with the best human grade domestically grown ingredients and are free of sugar, salt, wheat, corn, soy and preservatives.

According to many NACS exhibitors in this category, the trend in healthier food and beverage is not only accelerating interest in their products, it’s causing an increased velocity in sales.

In fact, some suppliers said they were receiving more retailer attention than ever before at this year’s NACS Show. This means that providing healthy options in your stores just might turn out to be a big win-win — for your bottom line, your customers and the c-store industry at large.

“There’s definitely an opportunity to increase margin dollars, customer demographics and if you feel it’s part of what your store culture is, not to just change perceptions (about the industry) but also change society,” said Lenard.

Lisa Plummer Savas is a meetings and events writer based in Atlanta. As an aspiring vegan who traditionally shops at farmers markets and health-oriented grocery stories, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that many c-stores are now offering some of the healthier snacks and drinks she craves — who knew?