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A food service brand had an idea of what “jobs could be done” prepared foods at c-stores could do in general; however, they did not have this information for hot foods specifically, and certainly not for different types of hot foods. Furthermore, while the brand is a player in several hot food categories, there was a need to identify opportunities for one particular hot food category within c-stores where the brand felt there was the most room for growth. 

In order to approach c-stores with category opportunities, they needed to conduct in-depth research about all hot food categories in c-stores not only to identify any “white space” their category could fill for “jobs to be done”, but also to establish themselves as the category expert to their retail partners.
 

Problem

One category for a food service brand has limited distribution in c-stores, but the brand suspected that there were more opportunities for the category than c-stores realized. While they knew that certain categories were “givens” in c-stores, they wanted to show how their category not only had a distinct place, but also how it would be incremental to categories that are already carried and purchased more frequently.

In addition to this, they knew that learning about all hot foods in c-stores would position them as experts, putting them in a place to advise c-stores on the proper hot foods assortment to carry.
 

Result

The research confirmed that purchases of this category were less common than other c-store hot foods and that the category had limited awareness among consumers for being in c-stores. However, in addition to providing confirmation, it also identified an opportunity for expansion, as well as some challenges.

We learned that while there were “jobs to be done” unique to this category, they weren’t as important as other jobs. And, while the category performed well at the most important jobs, other categories had more ownership of a handful of the important jobs. C+R’s research team also learned that in addition to having unique jobs, the category could also fulfill different days and dayparts than other more frequently purchased hot foods. Purchasers were also profiled in terms of demographics, c-store habits, and attitudes – identifying a unique type of shopper that the category could reach.

The research also identified where the category was incremental (inspiring additional purchases with hot foods, as well as other categories in the store). However, it also detected some challenges, as most would substitute another hot item if the category wasn’t available, and those who hadn’t tried the category before had some hesitations around quality.

These findings enabled us to provide our client with direction as it continues to work with c-stores to expand distribution in terms of reaching a certain occasion/type of shopper, creating incremental purchases, and in developing promotions and messaging.
 

Solution

A robust online survey was used to gain a deep understanding of hot food purchases at c-stores across a variety of categories. 
 
Recent purchasers of hot foods at c-stores were asked specific questions about the hot food categories they had purchased – including occasion specifics (where, when, etc.), as well as motivations and satisfaction with what they purchased. A robust sample size enabled us to analyze the results across eight different hot food categories. Those who hadn’t purchased our client’s category of interest were also asked about their intentions, as well as any barriers to buying it.

Data were analyzed by category, with the goal of understanding where categories could be incremental in terms of: 

  • Fulfilling unique days/dayparts
  • Meeting different needs (“jobs to be done”)
  • Being substitutable and/or adding to existing purchases
  • Whether consumers intend to buy the category again
  • Reaching a unique group of shoppers

And, while the report and summary focused on our client’s specific category of interest, they were provided with data for all categories, which they used to identify opportunities for other categories where they play.