7-Eleven tops best grocery store list

Discussion
Photos: 7-Eleven
Dec 12, 2022

These days, the favorite grocery store in the U.S. is not even a supermarket, a new survey says.

Based on research from YouGov, Convenience store chain 7-Eleven is the most popular place for people in the U.S. to get their groceries, according to Eat This, Not That. With a 62 percent popularity rating, the retailer beat out discounter Aldi and supermarket giant Kroger (which both had a 61 percent rating).

Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods came in fourth and fifth on the list (at 58 percent and 53 percent, respectively). Albertsons and Piggly Wiggly also made an appearance, as well as other convenience stores including Circle K and 7-Eleven-owned Speedway. Millennials, in particular, favored 7-Eleven more than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers, who preferred to shop at Kroger. And men chose 7-Eleven more than women, who were bigger fans of Aldi.

Convenience stores have become a more popular meal destination at a time when inflation is driving people to be more cost conscious, as a PYMNTS article explores. Low-income consumers have been turning to food pickup from c-stores rather than pricier delivery.

Foodservice is a point of emphasis at 7-Eleven, but has not been its sole focus. The chain recently opened its ninth “Evolution” store in the country and fifth in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This particular location features an in-store Laredo Taco Company restaurant, custom beverages and even a premium cigar humidor. 7-Eleven Evolution stores are meant as testing grounds for new technologies and offerings, and gives the retailer an opportunity to tweak product and design in response to customer feedback.

The convenience store giant has also improved its technological positioning, introducing features like app-based home delivery as well as delivery through DoorDash and Instacart. These features have become table stakes in the convenience vertical, with 57 percent of operators having some sort of last-mile fulfillment solution in place.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Why are more people shopping at 7-Eleven and other convenience stores for meals in the current economic environment? What lessons can other food retailers take from convenience stores?

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"Traditional grocery trips are no longer traditional. Forcing today’s consumer into yesterday’s supermarket format is an ill-advised recipe."

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31 Comments on "7-Eleven tops best grocery store list"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Food shopping is now more fragmented that ever. Consumers are making more trips than in the past, many of which are focused on top-up missions or food for immediate consumption. 7-Eleven caters to this and has benefited from improved ranges and – in a handful of locations – a better shopping experience. All that said, I find the survey a bit vague as it does not mention why 7-Eleven is the most popular. Is it based on convenience, range, price, service, or something else? Without that detail the information is a bit meaningless.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Convenience stores are simply more convenient than traditional grocery retailers, and so their popularity is not surprising. What is surprising is how many people use convenience stores for grocery purchases. While I doubt that 7-Eleven will ever be a good option for a weekly grocery run, convenience stores have a real opportunity to take a bigger bite out of the grocery category (and other categories for that matter), if they can deliver a good in-store experience, a selection of daily staple items and reasonable prices.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Could have fooled me! I have not been inside a 7-Eleven in decades.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Bob, you are obviously not a Millennial or younger.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Gene,

While I couldn’t find much on YouGov’s site re: sample size, weighting, etc. they do break the results out be gender and age at: https://today.yougov.com/ratings/consumer/popularity/grocery-stores/women

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Bob — right! But I’ll bet you’ve been in a grocery store at least once a week in those decades. Invalid study IMO, should not even have been included.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

In the past, we often referenced channel blur related to the overlapping choices consumers considered for their shopping journey. Today, it is more often about convenience, options, and consistency.

7-Eleven has done especially well positioning itself as a “fill-in” retailer for many trips — including meals and grocery. There is mounting pressure to effectively compete across all retail categories, however, grocery and health may be among the most disrupted.

The lesson here is to be 100 percent consumer focused and adjust to meet their needs. Traditional grocery trips are no longer traditional. Forcing today’s consumer into yesterday’s supermarket format is an ill-advised recipe.

Christine Russo
BrainTrust

Perhaps it’s a testament to the size (smaller) and the speed and seamless checkout due to their tech stack. Also, who doesn’t want a Slurpee when grocery shopping?!

DeAnn Campbell
BrainTrust

A large portion of these c-store purchases are being made in food deserts where grocery stores are not near the local neighborhood. Urban areas – which are growing in population – are especially challenging for those who have to shop via public transit. This is more an indicator of shoppers finding it harder to plan and execute grocery runs than it is a preference for convenience store food.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

More people are getting their groceries from 7-Eleven because there are likely fewer grocery stores in the neighborhoods surveyed. See also “food deserts.” Not sure how cost consciousness drives shoppers to c-stores. The “c” typically means “convenient” and not “cheap.” Many people buy lottery tickets, cigarettes, and liquor that are not always available at full-service grocery stores.

If you go to the YouGov website, you see that “Popularity is the % of people who have a positive opinion of a grocery store.” Without naming names, I have no idea how some of these brands that are known to have stellar service, and many with competitive prices, get “popularity” scores in the 30s and below.

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

7-Eleven has a very clear value proposition that they’ve spent decades honing: fast service, decent products, and fast service (sic). However this is a little misleading in my opinion. I would be surprised if anyone in their study is exclusive to 7-Eleven. More likely it’s 7vie (as it’s called in my house) a few times a week plus a big weekly shop at one of other main line grocers on this list. Yes, they may visit their local c-store more often for grab and go and convenience items, but I don’t think many people at all can fill out their weekly list there.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I think there are many consumers that utilize convenient grocers as a portal to save time and money. Convenience stores are not a place for substitutions on large food grocers with variety, they just provide better convenience with the feeling that they’re not spending as much time and money in the grocery stores.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

If convenience stores can add quality and localized relevance to their convenience offer, they have a chance to take a meaningful bite out of supermarkets’ share. The question is whether or not they have the data and the tools to ensure every inch of limited shelf space is closely aligned with the needs of each store’s local market, and whether the prepared foods are of high enough quality to attract people to the store. If the prepared foods can attract them, and the groceries they desire are available on the shelf, c-stores could be compelling grocery alternatives.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

What am I missing here? Why is 7-Eleven rated higher than a conventional store?

It’s not a complete shop and normally higher priced. I would believe this if their stores were larger maybe…

Scott Norris
Guest

A 7-Eleven in Japan, definitely. But a typical one in the States? Ehhh?

Perry Kramer
BrainTrust

Convenience stores are accelerating faster than big box grocers in three major areas that align with customer expectations. They have made the experience faster by dramatically improving checkout technology and speed. They have instituted self-service technology and applications for ordering custom meals that are made fresh, and they have broadened their inventory and improved their replenishment.

All of these factors align with consumers’ desire to shop in smaller more frequent trips, have convenient delivery options/locations and not fight large parking lots. This is a trend that will continue.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

And this is why you shouldn’t pay attention to surveys like this.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

I agree, Stephen, that surveys can be VERY misleading. As Mark Twain famously remarked, there are “lies, damn lies, and statistics.” Despite that, there are always some truths in surveys.

In my opinion, grocers must pay attention to changing consumer likes/dislikes, demands, and expectations. When an ostrich sees an approaching danger, it buries its head in the sand believing that an unseen danger is no danger at all.

Brian Cluster
BrainTrust

People are shopping at c-stores more frequently in the past years as a result of the greater adoption during the pandemic and continuous consumer-centric evolution. Some consumers were reintroduced to c-store in the past two years and have stayed to enjoy some of the quick convenient and affordable benefits.

7-Eleven and several other retailers have really improved their private brand offering quality and scale. The grab-and-go beverage section now includes cold-pressed juices and more sparkling waters to appeal to more healthy-minded consumers. From a food service perspective, you really can’t beat them for a quick and cheap lunch option.

I think that 7-Eleven has been successful since it stayed true to the goal of super fast convenience, and that is why they are popular. Their app is really easy to use and they have very fast checkouts in-store while offering more variety in their hot food offerings as well as their product line.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Is it economics or lifestyle? The fact that 7-Eleven beat out the competition (although I’d really need to have better insight into the survey instrument, sample size, sample parameters, etc., to have a solid opinion) seems to indicate that consumers may be falling out of love with the supermarket format. More telling to me than the fact that 7-Eleven “won” is that four out of the top five consumer picks were nontraditional supermarkets, and that little fact ought to keep supermarket chain executives up at night. The real question is, is the 100,000 plus square foot we sell everything to everybody approach to food retailing still resonating with consumers? If this survey is to be believed, the answer would appear to be no.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Saturday, my granddaughter and I were sent to get a half-gallon of milk. She took me to the largest ShopRite I have seen. We walked through the entire store to get to the milk section. I asked her why the milk was so inconvenient to show her how wise her grandfather was. She said, “to make you go through the whole store.” She is my granddaughter.

We have written continuously about how convenience and time have become #1 shopping priorities. Did I say the word “convenience”?

My prediction is that the continued growth of convenience stores will track parallel to the continued growth of online grocery shopping. People will do more weekly grocery shopping online and use convenience stores for quick fill-ins. Milk and gas? Maybe even milk and EV charging?

By the way, I can’t imagine dining at 7-Eleven.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

What I’d like to know is who’d include 7-Eleven in a grocery study? That’s not groceries, that’s literally what they’re called, “convenience items.” Consumers might like to go to C-stores more than G-stores because it’s faster, but it’s not the same thing. Invalid information, IMO. Take them off the list and ask about grocery stores ONLY please.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
Lee, I respectively disagree. While I understand your point — seeing it I assume as an apples to oranges comparison, which is entirely logical and fair — what happens if you look at it as a food sourcing study, which is what I think it really is. Then the question doesn’t become, “Which supermarket is the favorite, but rather what format is the favorite to shop for things also carried by a supermarket.” I have my own doubts about this study, not being familiar enough with the methodology. But the broader point is still worth noting. Back in the Second Ice Age I did the first comprehensive study of where the total number of dollars spent on food went. I’d hate to tell you how long ago that was, but the bottom line was that supermarkets were capturing less than 50% of the food dollar then, and they’ve been losing share ever since to institutional providers, foodservice, online specialty foods, etc., etc. To me, that’s what we should be looking at. Supermarkets aren’t going away,… Read more »
Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

This is quite a funny survey. God only knows what question consumers thought they were answering — because it certainly doesn’t appear to be the one YouGov decided they answered.

In broad terms, there is clearly something they rank 7-Eleven higher for. It’s not grocery shopping as it’s not a grocery store by any stretch of the imagination — unless the survey was done among dorm-living college students.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Yes, Doug. Was the answer, “I go two or three times a week to fill the gas tank”?

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Convenience continues to be important and is usually characterized by speed, in-and-out but limited selection, and fast payment. Customers don’t look to plan for trips to convenience stores, and they’re looking for the immediate meal, drink or sustenance. C-stores aren’t replacing supermarkets. 7-Eleven has tremendous brand presence and tens of thousands of stores with customers also buying from them, hence any online polling will show high rankings.

That said, convenience stores are introducing food-specific service capabilities that rival those of QSRs, cafe shops and restaurants.

The Alltown gas and convenience near me serves up almost perfect quesadillas on an open grill with at least three “chefs” and puts them into neatly convenient packaging for a pick up and go option that supermarkets have yet to replicate. The food service phenomena extends to super and hyper markets too — as indicated by companies like Wegmans or regional grocers looking for differentiation.

For food retailers, the key lesson is to design their stores strategically to accommodate the convenience segment as well.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

These results on first glance are hard to believe. There is no data presented as to why 7-Eleven tops the best grocery store list. I do not believe it is groceries. Its range of offerings and pricing put it at a competitive disadvantage vis a vis traditional grocery stores. Where it has shined is in the “what’s for dinner tonight” category.

Ironically, most c-stores are eschewing groceries for foodservice offerings. Every meal delivered by a c-store is one less meal provided by and perhaps one less visit to a traditional grocery store.

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

7-Eleven is America’s favorite grocery story? What nonsense! I don’t care how you spin it. Beware of bogus surveys. They are everywhere nowadays.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

7-Eleven has a smaller footprint that is stocked with the essentials. What makes them popular is convenience. The smaller footprint is more convenient. Few customers in the store is more convenient. Rock star parking spots close to the entrance is more convenient. You get the idea … convenience is a differentiator. While the larger stores can’t provide smaller footprints, close parking spots for everyone, etc., they can find other ways to be more convenient.

Rachelle King
BrainTrust

Few retailers know their customer the way 7-Eleven does. The fact that they are resonating more with Gen-Z than Kroger is an indication of what’s next. As big box stores work on experience, consumers simple want products that meet their needs with good value and good price. Factor in the neighborhood convenience of 7-Eleven and quick trips, this is a recipe for success.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

Amid high inflationary pressures, customers have started rethinking their shopping habits. Since most convenience stores offer affordable meal options, they remain a preferred choice for customers.

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Braintrust
"Traditional grocery trips are no longer traditional. Forcing today’s consumer into yesterday’s supermarket format is an ill-advised recipe."

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