Fuel missions are in long-term decline, according to Val Kirillovs, research and insights director at shopper specialist HIM.

He says fuel being the main reason for people to visit forecourts has declined by 14% overall since 2019. He also claims top-up shopping in forecourts has stagnated and is not showing the growth of five years ago.

“There are still quite a lot of improvements that forecourts could do to encourage shoppers on a top-up mission – and good reason to as it’s this category that represents the highest basket spend. Dairy, bread, fresh fruit and veg are the areas to focus on.”

He said the number one mission in the forecourt channel is food to go (FTG): “About one quarter of the people visiting a forecourt are on a food-to-go mission. They spend £2.84 in forecourts compared with £2.11 in average convenience store. It shows forecourts are managing to upsell. The reason FTG is so key in forecourts is that people choose which one to go to is based on their FTG range – they are twice as likely to judge a forecourt in this way, than a convenience store, even before they’re in the store.

This shows forecourts need a hot drinks and FTG solution, maybe a couple of options – such as a barista coffee as well as self-service.

Drinks and food to go are more important in forecourts than other convenience stores with hot drinks at number one, followed by soft drinks, hot food to go and sandwiches. Quality of food is also a key trend in FTG.

Forecourt shoppers are spending more per trip, with latest figures showing a 5% increase to £6.06 (excluding fuel).

Other opportunities to recognise are that forecourt shoppers are the most likely to buy on impulse – products such as snacks, confectionery, coffee and soft drinks; plus chilled products. But something to take note of is that there is a big shift towards healthier eating. Sustainability is also important as eco shoppers are 10% more likely to have a high spend in c-stores; only a third of shoppers believe retailers are doing enough in the war on plastic.