Convenience stores score solid marks for providing a variety of tasty, high-quality items, but there is room for improvement in the area of healthy foods, say consumers.

Foodservice consultant Technomic, Chicago, says its latest research finds that just 28 percent of consumers think convenience stores do well at offering healthy options. However, 52 percent would like to see more healthy food items there, and 47 percent would like to see a wider variety of healthy beverages.

“Today, major convenience chains are actively developing healthier, higher-quality food offerings in order to benefit from trade-down restaurant spending and to compete more effectively with limited-service restaurants,” says Darren Tristano, an executive vice president at Technomic.

Technomic's Convenience Store Foodservice Consumer Trend Report also finds:

-- Nearly two-thirds of consumers (63 percent) say they visit a convenience store at least once a week, but only about half (53 percent) purchase food or a beverage.

-- Convenience stores’ strongest competitors for food purchases are fast-food restaurants. Nearly half of consumers (49 percent) said fast-food restaurants were their alternative for breakfast, 47 percent for lunch, and 32 percent for dinner.

-- Consumers find made-to-order offerings highly appealing, especially sandwiches (57 percent), salads (50 percent), beverages (48 percent) and hot foods (46 percent).

Technomic says it interviewed more than 1,500 U.S. consumers in July 2010 and also leveraged menu and concept trends at leading convenience store chains.