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Coming to 7-Eleven: dry roasted edamame, other healthy snacks

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7-Eleven has long been known for its junk food staples such as Big Gulp sodas and Slurpee drinks. However, the franchise plans to expand its market to healthier snacks, such as dry roasted edamame, trail mix with pepitas and soy nuts and veggie chips.

Participating stores will be rolling offering the convenience giant's own 7-Select line of trail mixes and snacks, as well as gourmet brands that may seem out of place in a convenience store. However, 7-Eleven is confident that the change will benefit snackers in search of both healthy and indulgent options.

While the new items sound more gourmet than 7-Eleven's Big Bite hot dogs, their retail price will be relatively low— between $1.49 and $4.99 depending on the product. 7-Eleven declined to share how much the new healthy snacks would cost franchisees.

More than 90 percent of 7-Eleven's over 7,500 stores in the United States have ordered the healthy snacks to date, according to 7-Eleven representative Margaret Chabris.

7-Eleven tested dozens of snack items in select stores around the country to narrow the healthy snack selection to the most popular treats. The new snack selections will be highlighted on special displays in prime locations immediately visible when customers enter the store.

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The bold placement of "better-for-you" options can be seen as a rebranding of the store's less than healthy image. 7-Eleven would not be the first franchise to try and switch up their offerings to be seen in a healthier light. Dunkin' Donuts is celebrating the fifth year anniversary of its healthier DDSMART menu, which features items such as egg flatbread sandwiches and oatmeal with dried fruit. McDonald's Canada recently launched the new Veggie Signature McWrap, with vegetables on a whole wheat tortilla. In just the last week, Chipotle's advertisements highlighting organic and sustainable farming have gone viral.

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However, 7-Eleven maintains that the changes are driven by the demands of snacking consumers instead of an attempt to give the franchise a makeover. Shoppers are snacking more and more, with The Hartman Group reporting that more than half of all eating occasions among Americans were snacking.

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With the rise of snacking, customers are increasingly seeking healthy options. While once snacking was seen as intrinsically unhealthy, mindless eating, increasingly snacking is viewed as a healthy way to supplement meals and keep metabolism high, according to research by NPD.

Additionally, Mintel research found that while consumers are trying to eat less snacks generally compared to eating more, 38 percent of consumers in 2011 were actively trying to eat more healthy snacks compared to a year before.

"Better-for-you is one of the fastest-growing segments of the snacking category," Rebecca Frechette, a 7-Eleven vice president of merchandising, said in a news release last week. "People are snacking throughout the day, and they're looking for ways to improve what they eat without sacrificing taste."

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