Packaging cheese for c-store needs

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

Sargento brings more meat-free protein snacks to the c-store.
Sargento brings more meat-free protein snacks to the c-store.

Related tags: NACS, c-store, convenience channel, Convenience store, Protein

Dairy companies at this year’s National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) show highlighted protein products, though cheese snacks at the US convenience store haven’t changed much in the last decade, with sticks and bars still ruling the aisles.

Pit stops at gas stations and snacking in-between meals dominate the convenience channel. Cheese is a staple at the c-store, usually in the form of individual string cheese and cheese bars.

Last week at the NACS show in Atlanta, cheese was on show in the protein kit space. In the last few years, the ‘adult lunchable’ concept has increased in popularity, typically pairing cheese, protein and nuts together in accessible snack kits.

The P3 Portable Protein Packs from Oscar Mayer are a category leader in retail that advertise as a “more interesting way to get your protein.” But many legacy meat and cheese companies now have a variation of the pairings.

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Traditionally, snack kits have been meat heavy, and Nielsen data reported that these products grew 9% in dollars and 7% in units over the last year. But at NACS, Sargento showcased its Balanced Breaks, a pack that eliminates meat and combines cheese, dried fruit and nuts.

Despite the growth in meat kits, Sargento shared that the Balanced Breaks have been the number one protein kit in dollar share in the convenience channel.

White Cheddar/Almond/Cranberry, Sharp Cheddar/Cashew/Cherry Cranberry, and Double Cheddar/Cranberry/Walnut are the savory Balanced Break options. It also has a few sweet choices that include yogurt, peanut butter and chocolate.

Sargento told DairyReporter that there hasn’t been a lot of innovation happening in cheese, and it wanted to bring more options to the on-the-go consumer, particularly meat-free choices.

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Previewed at NACS was Sargento’s newest product, the Snack Bites. The 1oz containers combine two varieties of cheese in bite-size pieces and are expected to launch in January 2020.

Three varieties will be available individually in c-stores - Colby/Monterey Jack, Fiesta Pepper Jack/Asadero, and Sharp White Cheddar/Mild Yellow Cheddar. Sargento said more options will roll out in grocery, including a Gouda option.

The best-selling, most widely recognized cheese varieties often go into the c-store channel, Sargento said, because when pressed for time consumers usually stick with the familiar. Quick, healthy snacks are more appealing to today’s shoppers, even in c-store retail.

cargill nacs 1

Cargill also puts a focus on protein in its c-store division. Though known for supplying ingredients in dairy, baking and other industries, Cargill works in protein snack packs as well.

The Castle Wood Reserve brand found at Sam’s Club introduced Premium Snacking trays this year, with ingredients supplied by Cargill. The four varieties are Asiago, Provolone, Pepper Jack and Gouda, along with a mix of meat, fruit, granola and pretzels.

Castle Wood said it is tapping into the 46% of consumers who are interested in high protein snacks, and the 71% who said they would pay more for a healthy snack. 

The Cargill c-store team told DairyReporter it’s been an exciting product to work on while on-trend in the protein snack space.

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