Two key demographic groups, representing a third of all shoppers, are not spending as heavily in the convenience store sector as other age groups, according to data from the 2016 Convenience Tracking Programme (CTP) from HIM Research and Consulting.

According to CTP, 15% of the shopping population are Millennials (aged 18-24), while 20% are aged over 65, yet these two age groups markedly underspend in c-stores compared to middle aged life stages. While older shoppers use the c-store sector for the CTN mission, they are often using other channels for top-up shopping, whereas the Millennial generation are simply not visiting c-stores as frequently as other age groups.

These “Life Stage Extremes” represent a key opportunity to drive growth in the c-store industry, said HIM’s commercial director Katie Hemmings.

“Millennials are a very different breed of consumer,” she said at the official launch of the 2016 findings yesterday. “They only know the recession and austerity, have been brought up on Facebook and instant access to the internet, and get inspiration for their food shopping from bloggers via social media platforms such as Instagram.”

The 18-24 age group typically buy less alcohol than older shoppers but considerably over-index on coffee and are five times more likely to buy chilled soup than other ages, she explained. They are high spenders on food at weekends, are heavy users of the discounters, and take a very close interest in the origin and health credentials of prepared, often making their own lunches from scratch.

Among older generations, there is a marked split in behaviour depending on affluence, with wealthier customers looking for healthy quality fresh food and less wealthier more concerned about value options, with neither type using the c-store channel for top-up shopping to any great degree.

“There is a really big opportunity in identifying these life stage extremes, and providing for their needs better,” added Hemmings.

Other key findings from the report are that the percentage of the population who never do a “big shop” has risen again, from 30% to 35%. In addition, 29% of c-store shoppers are now specifically looking for food to go on their c-store visit.

CTP is the largest commercial face-to-face research programme in the UK, featuring in-store interviews with over 20,000 convenience store shoppers at different times of day, parts of the country and store fascia groups.