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Convenience Store News March 2022




Volume 58, Number 3

MARCH 2022


• • •

4247 Digital Trade Program Ad_CSNews_MECH.indd 1

2/18/22 11:16 AM


TWIC Shows What C-store Channel Can Do to Accelerate Change Each year, more women and companies rise up to advance gender equity that since 2014, more than 400 convenience industry women have been recognized in Convenience Store News’ Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards program?


These accomplished female leaders have included retailers, suppliers and wholesalers. They’ve ranged from c-suite executives to store managers. They’ve represented every professional discipline of the industry, from merchandising and marketing, to technology, human resources, and national and regional sales managers. In Chicago last October, 74 exceptional women who made a positive impact on the convenience store industry were honored at our 2021 TWIC Awards Gala. More than 300 industry people turned out to honor these female leaders. Attendance included the CEOs of the three largest c-store retail chains, along with scores of other executive leaders from the retailer and supplier sides of the business. You’d be hard-pressed to find another issue that has such enthusiastic support from the entire convenience industry. As we open nominations for our 2022 TWIC awards, we have another exciting announcement to make. This year, to recognize the companies

that have committed to gender equality and the promotion of female leaders, CSNews is proud to launch the TWIC Corporate Empowerment Award. The criteria for this new award was established by the TWIC Advisory Board, which consists of key longtime program sponsors and the five 2021 TWIC Women of the Year. The TWIC Corporate Empowerment Award winner will be the retail company that most effectively champions for women in their networks, workplaces and communities. It will be an organization that paves the road to empower women in leadership roles. It will be a champion for the inclusion of women in the goals and vision of the enterprise. Examples include advancements in board membership, promotions leading to senior management positions, and relevant professional development. This award is currently open for nominations. To nominate your company, simply answer the questions on the nomination form, which can be found at csnews. com. The deadline for nominations is April 1. The winner will be notified by the end of May and be prominently recognized in the August issue of CSNews. The award will be presented at the 2022 TWIC Awards Gala in Las Vegas on Oct. 2.

For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director, at (201) 855-7606 or dlongo@ensembleiq.com.



2021 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Infographics, June 2021

2018 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Editorial Use of Data, June 2017

2013 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Best Single Issue, October 2012

2013 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Profile, August 2012

2020 Eddie Award, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Series of Articles, September 2019 2018 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Website Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2017 Business to Business, Editorial Use of Data, June 2017 2017 Eddie Award, Folio: magazine Winner, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, May 2017 Honorable Mention, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, June 2016 2016 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2015 Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, August 2015

2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Bronze, Best Original Research, June 2015 2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Silver, Best Original Research, June 2015

2015 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2014 2014 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2013 Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2013 2013 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2012

Laura Aufleger OnCue Express

Ray Johnson Speedee Mart

Chad Beck Core-Mark

Ruth Ann Lilly GPM Investments LLC

Edward Davidson Ed Davidson & Associates (7-Eleven Inc., retired) Robert Falciani ExtraMile Convenience Stores Jim Hachtel Eby-Brown Co. Chris Hartman Rutter’s

Vito Maurici McLane Co. Inc. Matt Paduano Lakeport Markets Jonathan Polansky Plaid Pantries Inc. Greg Scriver Kwik Trip Inc. Roy Strasburger StrasGlobal

2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014 2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best Special Supplement, November 2014 Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014 2013 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Bronze, Best Editorial/Commentary, July 2012

2020 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Honorable Mention, Best Single Issue, September 2019 2016 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Silver, Front Cover Illustration, June 2015


20 22

Convenience Store News 3










3 TWIC Shows What C-store Channel Can Do to Accelerate Change Each year, more women and companies rise up to advance gender equity.

73 Same Mission, New Name Network of Executive Women is now NextUp.

28 The DEI Imperative A diverse, equitable and inclusive convenience store industry is more important than ever. FEATURE

38 Data Drives Leading C-store Suppliers Seventeen companies earn recognition in this year’s Category Captains awards.


77 Built for High Traffic QuikTrip’s new remote travel center concept targets geographies with strong truck traffic.

8 CSNews Online 18 New Products




38 4 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

22 Overcoming Labor Challenges Focusing on what employees seek most beyond money can be a smart play for small operators.

98 Finding Balance in Beverages Consumers seek moderation as they celebrate the simple pleasures of life.


STOP!! DO YOU CARRY THE NEW ADVIL DUAL ACTION 18CT? The perfect size for Convenience!








Contact your local GSK C-Store representative on how to order or email edwin.d.baker@gsk.com ©2021 GSK group of companies or its licensor. All rights reserved.




8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631 (773) 992-4450 Fax: (773) 992-4455 www.csnews.com

BRAND MANAGEMENT Vice President/Group Brand Director Paula Lashinsky (917) 446-4117 plashinsky@ensembleiq.com EDITORIAL Editorial Director (201) 855-7606

Don Longo dlongo@ensembleiq.com

Editor-in-Chief (201) 855-7608

Linda Lisanti llisanti@ensembleiq.com

Senior News Editor (201) 855-7618

Melissa Kress mkress@ensembleiq.com

Senior Editor (201) 855-7619



10 Convenience Store Retailers Set Forth 2022 Strategic Plans


12 7-Eleven Inc. & Seven-Eleven Japan Form New Venture 14 Fast Facts 14 Eye on Growth 16 Retailer Tidbits

54 Making a Grab for Eat-at-Home Sales Consumers are increasingly interested in take-home meals and family-size portions. 62 Another Active Year Taxes, flavor bans and the future of alternative tobacco products are still on the table. ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

68 The Wonders of Workforce Management Today’s technology enables convenience stores to do more with less store-level staff.

Managing Editor (201) 855-7604

Danielle Romano dromano@ensembleiq.com

Contributing Editor (303) 741-3377

Renée M. Covino reneek@aol.com

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Tammy Mastroberte tmastroberte@gmail.com

ADVERTISING SALES & BUSINESS Associate Brand Director & Northeast Sales Manager (774) 212-6455

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Ron Lowy rlowy@ensembleiq.com

Associate Publisher & Midwest Sales Manager Kelly Fischer (773) 992-4464 kfischer@ensembleiq.com


16 Supplier Tidbits TECHNOLOGY

Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com

65 The Ins & Outs of Alcohol Delivery Everything c-store retailers need to know before entering this burgeoning market.

Account Executive & Classified Advertising Terry Kanganis (201) 855-7615 tkanganis@ensembleiq.com Classified Production Manager Mary Beth Medley (856) 809-0050 marybeth@marybethmedley.com AUDIENCE List Rental (914) 309-3378

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65 CORPORATE OFFICERS Chief Executive Officer

Jennifer Litterick

Chief Financial Officer

Jane Volland

Chief Human Resources Officer

Ann Jadown

Executive Vice President, Content

Joe Territo

Executive Vice President, Production

Derek Estey


The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for product claims and representations.

Convenience Store News (ISSN 0194-8733; USPS 515-950) is published 12 times per year, monthly, by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscription rates: Subscription rate in the United States: $125 one year; $230 two year; $14 single issue copy; Canada and Mexico: $150 one year; $270 two year; $16 single issue copy; Foreign: $170 one year; $325 two year; $16 single issue copy; Digital One year, digital $87; two year, $161. Periodical postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631, and additional mailing addresses. Copyright 2022 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Reprints, permissions and licensing, please contact Wright’s Media at ensembleiq@wrightsmedia.com or (877) 652-5295. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Convenience Store News, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631.

6 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m




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7-Eleven’s Global Network Hits Milestone

The 7-Eleven brand is now ringing up customers at 77,711 convenience stores globally. “Since the inception of convenience retailing with the first 7-Eleven store in [Dallas], a lot has changed in how, when and where we do business. As customers continue to redefine convenience, we redefine our approach to ensure that we are exceeding their expectations,” said 7-Eleven Inc. President and CEO Joe DePinto.


Three C-store Chains Make the 2022 Franchise 500 List


Kwik Trip Unveils New Store Type


Wawa & QuikTrip Recognized Among Top 100 Brands Consumers Love


The Biggest Alcohol Trends of 2022 Will Include Low/No ABV Drinks & Much More

7-Eleven, Circle K and Farm Stores secured spots on Entrepreneur’s 2022 Franchise 500 list. This year marks the magazine’s 43rd annual ranking, which “shines a light on the unique challenges and changes that have shaped the franchise industry over the last year — and how franchisors have adapted and evolved to meet them.” Kwik Trip Inc. is growing its family of brands with the launch of Kwik Spirits. The new store format features a wide variety of products such as wine, liquor, beer and tobacco, including humidor cigars, roll-your-own, chewing tobacco, vape products and cigarettes.

Forbes listed the retailers on its inaugural Halo List, which measures how well and how responsibly brands serve their U.S. customers. Pennsylvania-based Wawa took the No. 12 spot on the list, while Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip captured the No. 36 spot.

Customers are increasingly trying no- and low-ABV drinks as they focus more on health and moderation. Other notable alcohol trends, according to 2022 predictions released by DoorDash, are portable formats and bold, adventurous flavors and compositions.

C-store Mobile Apps Need to Deliver in a Crowded Field The average person checks their phone 157 times a day. Building up a presence among consumers’ multiple screens is a must for retailers these days. To be successful, a mobile app needs to be user friendly, adaptable to all formats, and easy to find, Ryan DiLello, a content specialist with Paytronix Systems Inc., explained during a recent Convenience Store News webinar. Along with ordering and delivery capabilities, another integral part of any mobile app is a loyalty program. A study conducted by Paytronix in collaboration with PYMNTS found that loyalty program mobile app users typically spend 10 percent to 20 percent more a month, and visit 20 percent to 30 percent more frequently a month. For more webinar content, visit the Events & Webcasts section of csnews.com.


How to Take a Mindful Approach to Omnichannel Integration? Convenience store companies generally want to create a journey that is so simple, their customers hardly notice how it all came together. At times, however, there is the potential for apps, flatscreens, touchless vending machines and the like to make things more cluttered and confusing, not less, writes Joseph Bona, founding partner and president of Bona Design Lab, and James Owens, vice president and shareholder at HFA. Their tips for a more mindful approach to omnichannel integration include ramping up collaboration, staying grounded, and staying on top of new trends.

8 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Fanta Dragon Fruit Zero Sugar The newest addition to the Fanta brand is a popular international flavor that hit U.S. shelves in February. Fanta Dragon Fruit Zero Sugar contains no caffeine or sugar, has no calories, and is made with 100 percent natural flavors. The sweet, pink dragon fruit flavor is available in 20-ounce bottles, two-liter bottles, and 12-packs of 12-ounce bottles. The Coca-Cola Co. Atlanta (800) 520-2653 fanta.com




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Email sales@buzzballz.com to learn more. ©2022 BuzzBallz, LLC, Carrollton, TX. Please Enjoy Responsibly.

A crisp, refreshing drink completes any meal. Serve your guests the best from this new, premixed cocktail brand. Contact sales@southern-champion.com for more details.

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Convenience Store Retailers Set Forth 2022 Strategic Plans Casey’s, Love’s, Murphy USA and more pursuing expansion and new initiatives SEVERAL CONVENIENCE store retailers entered 2022 with agendas chock full of growth plans and new initiatives. Among them are Casey’s General Stores Inc., Love’s Travel Stops, Murphy USA Inc., Pilot Co., and TravelCenters of America Inc.

On the growth front, El Dorado, Ark.-based Murphy USA plans to deliver up to 45 new stores — including seven QuickChek locations — and 35 raze-and-rebuilds in 2022. Meanwhile, Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot’s strategic growth plan calls for the addition of at least 34 locations to its travel center network, consisting of 14 travel centers and at least 20 dealer sites. In addition to network expansion, Pilot plans to upgrade site amenities and offerings. Key initiatives will include testing new food concepts, facility upgrades, technology enhancements, and introducing new partnerships. The retailer is teaming up with Southern Tire Mart to open 40 new Southern Tire Mart at Pilot Flying J Service Centers across the country. Westlake, Ohio-based TravelCenters of America will mark its 50th anniversary this year with continued plans to advance key initiatives to

10 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

transform its business. Those initiatives include expanding its restaurant options, remodeling sites, opening new travel centers, upgrading technology, growing its franchise base, and bringing alternative energy resources to the marketplace. Meanwhile, Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s is approaching 2022 with three main goals in mind: private brand and prepared food expansion, increased customer signups for its Casey’s Rewards digital loyalty program, and continued store-count growth. Love’s 2022 to-do list also includes store-count growth — specifically, adding more than 40 locations, which will also mean more than 3,000 new truck parking spaces and 3,000 new jobs. The Oklahoma City-based company’s other goals for this year are opening more than 20 Love’s Truck Care and Speedco locations; continuing to enhance the Love’s Connect mobile app with new features; expanding its private label product line; introducing fresh and hot food offerings; and increasing fueling options across the United States through Trillium, a member of the Love’s family of companies that provides alternative and renewable fuel supply.


7-Eleven Inc. & Seven-Eleven Japan Form New Venture 7-Eleven International LLC will leverage both retailers’ strengths 7-ELEVEN INC. and Seven-Eleven Japan joined forces to form 7-Eleven International LLC (7IN), intended to combine the strengths that both entities have developed.

As a result of the tie-up, 7IN will be able to better leverage 7-Eleven Inc.’s product development capabilities, digital technology, and environmental, social and governance initiatives while maintaining its position as a global brand, according to the announcement. 7-Eleven Inc.’s Joe DePinto, CEO; Chris Tanco, executive vice president and chief operating officer; and Stan Reynolds, executive vice president and chief financial officer, will serve on the 7IN board of directors alongside Ken Wakabayashi, co-CEO of 7IN. Wakabayashi was recently named to the co-CEO post. He was previously 7-Eleven Inc.’s senior vice president, head of international, and will now lead the 7-Eleven brand’s global growth strategy alongside co-CEO Shinji Abe from Seven-Eleven Japan. “We are thrilled to offer our congratulations to Ken Wakabayashi on this exciting new role,” DePinto said. “With this move, Ken will help lead the 7IN team to further our global growth strategy and provide world-class value and

12 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

support to our international licensees and master franchisees.” As co-CEOs of 7IN, Wakabayashi and Abe will be responsible for all operations outside of North America and Japan, and oversee the 7–Eleven trademark globally. “This change reinforces 7-Eleven Inc.’s and Seven-Eleven Japan’s commitment to the growth of the 7-Eleven brand and to providing value and support to our licensee and master franchisee organizations,” said Wakabayashi. “We are well positioned for growth and long-term value creation as we focus on expanding the brand into new territories and provide an enhanced support structure for our existing territories.” With offices in Dallas and Tokyo, 7–Eleven International franchises and/or licenses more than 41,000 stores in 14 countries and regions: Australia, Cambodia, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, China (Taiwan), Thailand, Vietnam, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The organization also operates corporate and/or franchise stores in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Japan. Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc. operates, franchises and/or licenses more than 14,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada.




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Eye on Growth

Arclight Capital Partners is acquiring the Pride gas station and convenience store chain from owner Bob Bolduc. The sale includes 31 c-stores, two truck stops, 15 Subway franchises, and 15 Chester’s Chicken locations.

the Boise, Idaho, market in 2023. This expansion follows Kum & Go’s planned moves into Utah and Michigan later this year.

Global Partners also completed its purchase of Wheels Convenience Stores from Consumers Petroleum of Connecticut Inc.

Global Partners LP purchased Miller’s Neighborhood Market, expanding its footprint in the Mid-Atlantic region. The acquisition included 23 c-stores and fuel supply agreements with 34 locations, primarily in Virginia. Parkland Corp. is diversifying its retail strategy with the acquisition of M&M Food Market, a frozen food retailer. The deal includes more than 300 standalone franchise and corporate-owned stores, and 2,000-plus M&M Express locations. Cole Distributing Co. is picking up the assets of W.G. Johnson Oil Co., including its Tiger Totes retail sites and Exxon and Shell branded fuel distribution. The sale marks W.G. Johnson Oil Co.’s exit from the industry. Kum & Go LC’s next stop will be Idaho. The retailer is planning to open a set of stores in

Buc-ee’s is staking a claim in Johnstown, Colo., for its first location outside the South. The store will be located off Interstate 25 and is expected to open in 2024. Sheetz Inc. continues its expansion into the Columbus, Ohio, market with its first store in Reynoldsburg. This location marks the 13th Sheetz store in the area. Stewart’s Shops celebrated its first grand opening of 2022 in Colonie, N.Y., on Jan. 17. This year, the retailer plans to open 20 new stores, consisting of seven new-to-industry locations and 13 rebuilds.



Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, 42 percent of consumers have used at least one delivery service aggregator, and 15 percent have used three or more. — Paytronix Systems Inc.

14 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

148,026 There are 148,026 convenience stores operating in the United States, a 1.5-percent drop from a year ago. The decline was led by a 3.1-percent decrease in single-store operators. — 2022 NACS/NielsenIQ Convenience Industry Store Count


There are 3.5 times more women who buy ready-todrink/beyond beer products in c-stores than men, and Gen Z and millennials make up two-thirds of the shoppers in this segment. — VideoMining RTD/Beyond Beer MegaStudy

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Retailer Tidbits

7-Eleven Inc. and Grubhub collaborated on the national launch of a branded convenience concept called Grubhub Goods. The launch followed a pilot of several Grubhub Goods locations operated in partnership with 7-Eleven in New York. ExxonMobil is partnering with Citi Bank to offer an enhanced credit card: the Exxon Mobil Smart Card+. The card offers instant savings at the pump, up to 12 cents off per gallon, at more than 12,000 stations. Sheetz Inc. launched subscription services for its “fryz” and self-service drinks. Both subscriptions are available through the retailer’s mobile app.

Supplier Tidbits

As part of its 2022 agenda, MAPCO is divesting its locations in the Louisville, Ky., market. The decision comes as the retailer turns its focus to innovation in its main markets.

Between refreshes and new-to-industry locations, MAPCO expects to execute 20-plus projects this year.

H&S Energy teamed up with Vroom Delivery to launch a proprietary online ordering and home delivery offering at 130 c-stores. Orders can be placed through its mobile app, website and social media. Kwik Trip Inc. recently asked customers to bring their own cup due to a supply shortage affecting many foodservice retailers. To make up for the inconvenience, customers were offered any-size refill for just 99 cents.

Monster Beverage Corp. is acquiring craft beer and hard seltzer company CANarchy Craft Brewery Collective LLC in a $330-million cash purchase. The deal does not include CANarchy’s standalone restaurants. 22nd Century is piloting its VLN cigarette brand in its first major metropolitan market. VLN King and VLN Menthol King are the first combustible cigarettes approved to be marketed as reduced risk.

Molson Coors and Coca-Cola teamed up in late 2020 to manufacture, market and distribute Topo Chico Hard Seltzer in the United States.

The M&M’S brand launched a global platform to increase a sense of belonging in the world. Consumers will see a focus on inclusivity across all of the brand’s touchpoints around the globe. Utz Brands Inc. acquired the assets of two direct-store delivery (DSD) distributors of its products, Clem Snacks Inc. and J&D Snacks Inc. The move added 125 DSD routes in the New York City area.

Molson Coors Beverage Co. and The Coca-Cola Co. expanded their alcoholic beverage pact. The companies will develop and commercialize a brand of full-flavor alcoholic beverages inspired by Simply, the chilled juice brand.

16 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Reynolds American Inc. is joining forces with NACS and Conexxus to sponsor TruAge, the digital age-verification solution. TruAge is being piloted in three markets, with a wider rollout expected later this year.




3 1

1. Cuties Three-Pack

2. Bevy Long Drink

Core-Mark International is now the exclusive distributor of three-pack bags of Sun Pacific Cuties to the convenience retail market. Available to all 50,000-plus convenience stores served by both Core-Mark and Eby-Brown in the United States, the Cuties Three-Pack offers on-the-go consumers a delicious, easy to-eat option for a healthy snack. Adding Cuties clementines builds on the company’s commitment to offering wide-ranging choices.

The Boston Beer Co. introduces Bevy Long Drink, a hard sparkling refresher. The new beverage is inspired by the national cocktail of Finland, the “Long Drink” or “lonkero,” which typically consists of gin, grapefruit soda and tonic. Available in two varieties — Sparkling Citrus Refresher and Sparkling Berry Refresher — Bevy Long Drink is made from an easy-drinking blend of citrus flavors and wild juniper berries. Each can has a 5.8 percent ABV.

Core-Mark International Westlake, Texas core-mark.com

The Boston Beer Co. Boston bevylongdrink.com

3. Dove Large Promises

4. Rich’s Plant-Based Cheese

Mars Wrigley’s Dove Chocolate presents Dove Large Promises, which are three times the size of the original Dove Promises. The new offering brings consumers a more premium experience to share, enjoy individually, or take on the go. Packaged in a set of three, Dove Large Promises feature a decadent filling enrobed in silky-smooth chocolate. They are available in two flavor variations, Milk Chocolate & Caramel and Dark Chocolate & Peanut Butter.

A vegan, non-dairy alternative to traditional cheese, Rich’s Plant-Based Cheese is naturally cultured to deliver the melt, flavor and texture consumers expect. Available in two varieties — mozzarella-style shreds and American-style slices — the plant-based cheese is made without the top eight allergens and contains no artificial flavors or colors. The Mozzarella Shreds come four per case at 2.5 pounds each. The American Slices come six per case at 1.5 pounds each.

Mars Wrigley Newark, N.J. dovechocolate.com

5. Passport Express Lane Self-Checkout With Cash Automation Gilbarco Veeder-Root is partnering with Crane Payment Innovations (CPI) to offer cash automation technology with its Passport Express Lane Self-Checkout system for convenience stores. CPI’s Paypod cash recycler hardware is now available as an optional feature for Passport Express Lane, as cash remains an important aspect of the c-store environment. Paypod cash recyclers reduce daily cash reconciliation activities, streamline retail operations, reduce shrink, remove hygiene concerns, and help retailers maximize their investment with a solution that is designed to evolve with the market, according to Gilbarco. Gilbarco Veeder-Root Greensboro, N.C. gilbarco.com/us

18 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


Rich Products Corp. Buffalo, N.Y. richsusa.com/plantbased-solutions


7 9 6


6. Truly Margarita Style Hard Seltzers

7. BIC Out of This 8. Minute Maid World Lighter Series Aguas Frescas

9. Starbucks Zero Creamers

Truly Margarita Style Hard Seltzers offer a new take on the classic cocktail. The line includes four flavor varieties: Classic Lime, Strawberry Hibiscus, Watermelon Cucumber, and Mango Chili. They are available nationwide in the Truly Margarita Style Mix Pack. These beverages put Truly’s spin on the traditional margarita, delivering a crisp, refreshing hard seltzer taste with the bold, zesty flavors of a margarita. Made with real ingredients, including lime juice concentrate, agave nectar and sea salt, the beverages have a 5.3 percent ABV.

BIC is betting consumers will be “over the moon” when they see the new designs in its latest special-edition series of lighters. The Out of This World series features designs ranging from alien spaceships to breathtaking celestial views. Each lighter in the new series has a suggested retail price of $2.09. BIC Maxi Lighters are long-lasting, reliable and 100 percent quality inspected, according to the company.

Minute Maid Aguas Frescas are refreshing juice drinks made with real fruit juice. The line launches in March 2022 with three bold flavors: Strawberry, Mango and Hibiscus. Developed to satisfy Gen Z’s desire for unique flavors and indulgence, but with half the calories of the closest competitor, Minute Maid Aguas Frescas will also pique their curiosity with the line’s globally inspired heritage, according to the maker.

Starbucks Zero Creamers are joining the existing Starbucks Creamers lineup. Two flavor varieties are now available with zero grams of added sugar per serving. Starbucks Caramel Flavored Zero Creamer is crafted with sweet, buttery caramel and vanilla flavoring. Starbucks Hazelnut Flavored Zero Creamer is crafted with rich hazelnut flavoring.

BIC USA Inc. Shelton, Conn. us.bic.com/en_us

The Coca-Cola Co. Atlanta minutemaid.com

Truly Hard Seltzer Boston trulyhardseltzer.com

10. Eco-Products Compostable Takeout Containers Eco-Products’ Vanguard line of compostable takeout containers now offers seven new options for retailers and restaurants seeking environmentally preferable options. The two-piece containers are made from plant-based sugarcane fiber and certified as compostable. Retailers can choose from round, oval, square and rectangle container shapes, including some with compartments. They are microwavable and freezable. Eco-Products Boulder, Colo. ecoproducts.com

20 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


Starbucks Coffee Co. Seattle athome.starbucks.com

We started out with a simple vision, to be your trusted bargain brand. Fast forward 12 years and Pyramid has sold over 2 billion packs. All we can say is THANK YOU! Here’s to another 12 years and 2 billion more packs of success.

ORDER THE BRAND YOU CAN COUNT ON. Call 1-877-415-4100 to order or contact your LVB rep today. Liggett Vector Brands is the exclusive sales, marketing and distribution agent for Liggett Group and Vector Tobacco. © 2022 Liggett Group MSA PARTICIPANT. 2 billion packs of Pyramid based on company sales 2009 through August 2019.


Overcoming Labor Challenges Focusing on what employees seek most beyond money can be a smart play for small operators By Brian Berk FOR INDEPENDENTS and

small convenience store chains seeking to hire and retain employees, the deck may seem stacked against them. Likely unable to pay the same salaries that large c-store chains can, as well as having less money available for technological upgrades to help solve today’s labor crisis, the industry’s small operators face unique challenges. Large c-store chains are currently offering hourly salaries in the $15- to $20-per-hour range. They also offer paid time off, tuition reimbursement, overtime at time and a half or double time for holidays, as well as a full benefits package, including medical, dental and vision insurance, according to Mark Millman, president and CEO of the Maryland-based Millman Search Group, a 40-year-old hospitality and retail recruiting firm. “There are employees that joined

22 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

convenience stores as recently as six or eight months ago, and they have already received three raises,” Millman told Convenience Store News. “Companies are also adding sign-on bonuses for employees after a 60- or 90-day period. Employers are doing everything they can to attract and retain employees.” Due to these impressive packages being offered by large retailers, some small operators have had to close their doors because of lack of staff. Even some bigger c-store chains have had to close locations due to staffing shortages, noted Millman. There is some good news, however. Small operators are armed with aces up their sleeves that they can use now to hire and retain employees, and better compete against bigger players. Examining what employees seek most beyond money is a good first step. “Beyond competitive pay, frontline workers are looking for changes that will have a positive effect on their work experience in a way that also complements their personal lives outside the workplace,” said Rob Klitsch, director of


the retail, hospitality and foodservice practice at UKG, a global provider of payroll, human resources services, and workforce management solutions. “A life-work balance is the ultimate goal. Employees who feel valued and excited about their work build positive and productive relationships with the customers they serve, driving sustained brand relationships and helping the bottom line.” Employee flexibility is extremely important, echoed Millman. “Employees are asking for quality of life, time off and not working ridiculous hours, so they can spend time with their families,” he said. “Beyond that, employees want an employer who truly cares about them, their well-being and treats them well,

“This is the toughest recruiting environment small businesses have faced in decades.” — Dave Gilbertson, UKG

24 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

while providing a safe and friendly environment. Employees want to feel good about going to work and be around someone they trust.” Perhaps a small operator’s greatest asset is themselves. Unlike large chains, a small operator and their family members could be the only people an employee will ever work with. If a potential employee likes the operator, that can make all the difference. “If an employee knows the operator is always looking out for their best interest, and provides a fun environment, that gives them a comfort level about job security and will be a place they look forward to going to work,” Millman explained. “Another thing to do is mix up their responsibilities so that there is a path for advancement.” The promise of training and incentive programs based on sales are other ways small operators can draw in and retain employees. “A big thing we’ve seen is new hires start as an hourly employee, but then begin a management program and become an assistant manager and eventually a manager, where they can get nice salaries and benefits,” Millman said. Klitsch holds a similar sentiment regarding such programs: “Focus on the employee experience: let them be heard, invest in their well-being, offer financial incentives, and invest in their growth.” Small operators can also stand out from their competitors by seeking feedback about the employee experience and, most importantly, taking action and proactively communicating the action plan. Employers should ask their workers: What do they value today and therefore should be sustained and recognized as a win? What changes would they like to see to elevate their experience? Why do they stay in their role and what is keeping them working here?


“The most critical element, however, will be to follow up with the actions that demonstrate your commitment to improving their experience,” Klitsch relayed. Small operators should take the time to define career paths and create opportunities for employees to learn and grow. “Establishing a mentor program as part of this journey is a great way to make an immediate impact,” noted Klitsch. “In fact, there’s value for both the employee and the teacher, empowering all involved to contribute a larger role beyond day-today tasks.” Investing in employees’ well-being is yet another way small operators can differentiate themselves and be a more attractive employer. “Think through simple programs that invest in their physical and mental well-being,” he added. “For example, providing health precautions to counteract ongoing risks or offering additional days off for mental health or self-care.”

Do Not Ignore Economics Although the industry’s small operators may be unable to compete on wages alone, they cannot completely ignore economic factors. Inflation woes have exacerbated the labor crisis. “[Inflation] is now offsetting some of the wage increases that may have been taken to attract talent in this competitive hiring market,” said Klitsch. “To help stand out among competitors, recognize your workers’ loyalty by offering financial incentives — even small increases go a long way. Perhaps this includes loyalty bonuses, or gift cards for groceries, gas or mobile phone providers, to help offset everyday living expenses. Again, listen to the employee voice to determine what will be most impactful to your people.” Economic incentives can be made in other ways, too. An employee stock ownership program (ESOP), where every employee participant owns shares of the parent company, is a great perk to offer, according to Millman. “Managers basically become unapproachable by other companies and cannot afford to leave because they have so much money tied up in the ESOP program,” he explained. “It really helps retention and reduces turnover. When managers do decide to retire, they are

26 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

“Any company trying to attract employees has to make a major overhaul to their benefit, compensation and bonus programs.”

— Mark Millman, Millman Search Group

often very well-off [financially]. They would never be able to achieve the same amount of money in other operations.” One thing small operators should definitely not do is simply wait until the labor crisis is over. “I do not foresee the labor situation improving in 2022. I do not see this letting up for at least one year from now,” Millman predicted. “There are major, dramatic staffing shortages throughout the country in the hospitality industry, which includes convenience store retail. Any company trying to attract employees has to make a major overhaul to their benefit, compensation and bonus programs.” UKG data suggests that significant numbers of lower-wage employees remain on the sidelines, a situation likely to persist until there is more certainty in the health care risks associated with working jobs that interact with the public, and until these roles offer a work-life balance that’s seen as inspiring and sustainable by the employees who work these jobs. However, as vaccination rates increase and as schools and childcare centers continue to learn to navigate the pandemic, and people overall feel more confident about their personal safety, the employment market could begin to stabilize. “This is the toughest recruiting environment small businesses have faced in decades and the recent uncertainty around the Omicron variant has made things worse,” said Dave Gilbertson, vice president and chief customer officer at UKG. He suggests convenience store operators use this time to focus on two core areas that can reimagine their businesses for the long-term. First, invest in training to make their managers great and help reduce the turnover that has always plagued the industry. Second, think more creatively about the benefits offered to new hires. “Alongside investing to grow the careers of existing team members, layering in the things that new team members care about like shift flexibility, earned wage access and tuition reimbursement can quickly give c-stores a leg up on their competitors and prepare the business for the future,” said Gilbertson. CSN

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as DEI — are no longer buzzwords in the corporate world. DEI is now an imperative, and the convenience store industry's retailers and suppliers are increasingly taking notice and taking action. “As the recognized industry leader, we have a responsibility to accelerate diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) at 7-Eleven. Given today’s marketplace and the incredibly diverse makeup of the customers we serve, it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s a business imperative,” said Treasa Bowers, vice president of human resources and Women’s DE&I and Belonging at Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc., the nation’s largest convenience store chain. “Having a diverse and inclusive culture is core to the 7-Eleven value proposition for both our workforce and customers. It is incredibly important to both stakeholder groups and gives us a competitive advantage, especially when it comes to core growth drivers like innovation and building loyalty.” While the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t new, 2020 and 2021 served as a wakeup call for companies to reexamine their DEI initiatives, particularly in light of what some are calling The Great Resignation, the examination of the Voting Rights Act in the United States, and the Black Lives Matter protests around the world, among many other human rights concerns in society, noted Steven Kramer, CEO of WorkJam, a Montreal-based company that helps businesses with frontline employees deliver a superior employee experience. “Advancing workplace diversity is more important today than ever before,” he said. “Workplaces are essential to each individual’s ability to grow and care for themselves or their families, and they are also the place where social issues are discussed and debated, whether we as leaders acknowledge that or not. Our customers and employees are taking their business (including their choices where to work) to companies with a proven commitment to DE&I.”

Reflecting Your Community At Fort Worth, Texas-based Yesway Inc., which operates

more than 400 convenience stores across a ninestate footprint, the DEI journey centers on reflecting the communities it serves. “We want a true meritocracy and culture of excellence. A commitment to diversity must change culture and not merely be a strategy,” explained Derek Gaskins, chief marketing officer at Yesway. “To ensure the exercise is authentic, all levels of the organization must embrace change for it to take root. Culture change is systemic and that is what it takes to commit to diversity, equity and inclusion.” At Yesway, the DEI commitment comes from the top down. CEO Tom Trkla has championed diversity throughout his career, and the proof is evident in the company’s senior leadership team, according to Gaskins. Additionally, more than 61 percent of Yesway’s roughly 5,300 corporate and retail employees are women, and more than 43 percent are persons of color. Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., the Laval Quebecbased parent company of Circle K, has a similar mission: representing its customers and its communities. “As part of our stated sustainability ambitions, we are working toward equity in opportunity, representation and pay. We are committed to a workplace where all team members feel safe, respected and able to develop their full potential. And our aim is that our people and management teams better represent the diverse communities where we work and operate,” said Elisa Goria, global lead for dispensed beverages at Couche-Tard and a D&I advisor to the retailer’s Executive Council for Diversity & Inclusion.

From Vision to Action Companies are undertaking a variety of initiatives to turn their DEI goals into reality. Yesway aims to make steady progress with an emphasis on starting local. Hiring locally as much as possible and leveraging tools like in-store community


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bulletin boards enables the retailer to support local needs. Its goal is to empower store managers to engage with their local communities, focus on the creation of inclusion, and drive positive business outcomes. “We aim to continue to empower our regional, district and store managers to support the local communities they serve,” said Gaskins. “We give them autonomy with some oversight to get involved and sponsor worthy causes.” On the corporate level, Yesway recently launched an organization called Black Kids Predict that is designed to help inner-city Chicago youth develop a passion for STEAM careers (science, technology, engineering, analytics and math). The retailer also supports numerous organizations, including universities and social justice groups, and it supports its executives who serve on boards and organizations working to improve social justice, diversity and inclusion. Couche-Tard views DEI as a shared responsibility across the organization. Believing “it takes a village,” the c-store operator encourages its employees throughout the company’s global network — from its stores to operations, IT, fuels, marketing, finance and more — to join its business resource groups. CoucheTard started with the formation of its Women's Council about four years ago. Since then, it’s added five more business resource groups to address other underrepresented minorities: Race; Culture & Ethnicity in both Europe and the U.S.; Disability Inclusion; and LGBTQ+. “We aim to turn courageous conversations into measurable action, driving change and building a more equitable workplace that reflects the diversity of our team members and customers,” said Letty George, director of global communications and a D&I advisor to the company’s Executive Council for Diversity & Inclusion. Couche-Tard also use its frontline mobile app to engage with store employees, encouraging them to share content around the DEI journey and open further discussion. It hosts culture-building celebrations and educational opportunities across its global network. And just recently, it launched a partnership with CALIBR, a strategic talent development partner dedicated to accelerating the readiness of mid-level Black executives for senior executive roles. “We know that change doesn’t happen overnight, but these initiatives are part of our journey of creating an environment where our minority team members can grow and bring their authentic selves to work,” said George. “We want to create a pipeline for developing diverse talent as we work toward our D&I ambition of equity. And we will

30 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

continue to research further partnerships and growth opportunities for all our underrepresented groups.” At 7-Eleven, its commitment to DE&I is built on three guiding principles: be intentional, be authentic, and be accountable. All three principles work together to help the retailer make decisions about DE&I initiatives and track progress, as well as identify opportunities for growth and improvement, Bowers explained. “7-Eleven leadership understands how crucial this work is for our entire portfolio of brands and they put a stake in the ground early on to signal DE&I and the future of our business are inextricably linked,” added Larry Hughes, 7-Eleven’s vice president of corporate human resources and DE&I. This has allowed 7-Eleven’s Office of DE&I to engage leaders across the company with education and training programs impacting all departments, he noted. 2021 was an inflection point in making more significant headway in building DE&I into the company’s culture and stakeholder engagement, Bowers shared. 7-Eleven ran a number of DE&I education campaigns celebrating myriad cultures and groups, with extensive participation from its associate business resource groups, which play a tremendous role in leveraging DE&I across the enterprise, involving both its stores and support-center environments. “Not only are their membership numbers growing, but the value they provide through both educational and leadership developmental events, community sponsorships and other activities continues to expand,” Hughes said of the associate business resource groups. 7-Eleven also maintains an Equality & Diversity Task Force and Roundtable to serve as a sounding board for its DE&I strategy and provide important feedback on the pulse of its workforce relative to equity in the workplace. “We’re casting a wider net in terms of leaders and associates who can get involved and contribute, which is key to success,” said Hughes. Other DEI initiatives launched by convenience channel retailers and suppliers include formal mentorship programs, cultural fluency programs, celebration of events like Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, internal support and recognition, and more.

It’s Bigger Than Three Letters There is strength in diversity, according to Scott Myers, president and CEO of Altria Group Distribution Co. “We recognize the


power of diverse teams — unique individuals who don’t think or look alike — working together to achieve our vision. To win in the future, we need to build on that passion to transform our business, talent and culture,” he said. Led by a chief inclusion, diversity and equity officer and a team that supports the enterprise, Richmond, Va.-based Altria’s DEI commitment reaches all corners of the organization. Companywide efforts include its Race & Equity Initiative, which includes $5 million in contributions to nonprofits working to address systemic racism faced by Black Americans and advance social and economic equity. Other DEI initiatives at Altria include: • An inclusion, diversity and equity rating for every people leader, given by their manager based on feedback from their teams and others in the company; • Twelve employee resource groups; and • Focus groups and field surveys to assess the experience of different employee groups and identify any gaps and additional actions needed to ensure that every employee’s experience is equitable. Altria’s DEI commitment goes beyond the company level as well. Last year, it launched the “2021 Industry Stronger Together Challenge,” starting with a series of sponsorships, including Convenience Store News’ own diversity and inclusion initiative (see page 36). “This started a whole new conversation in the industry that is alive with this issue,” Myers said. Across the convenience channel, it is clear that DEI is more than just a three-letter acronym. “DEI isn’t something we ‘do,’ it’s something we embed in all we do,” said Heather Schott, diversity, equity and inclusion manager at Des Moines-based Krause Group, the parent company of Kum & Go LC. “From a practical standpoint, that approach is embedded in all our learning and development efforts. How can each opportunity of learning include building skillsets that support equity and inclusion? It is a journey, but a unique approach we are finding success with.” Schott joined Krause Group in 2020 to lead its DEI effort. The organization will be growing its DEI team this year as it aims to create a culture where the company actively and intentionally advances equity and inclusion through work on its culture, brand and business practices. Also this year, Krause Group will pilot networks across the regions in which it operates, which will open key lines of communication, according to

32 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Schott. “We can’t claim to be inclusive if we don’t build the structure to allow feedback,” she said. “This will be a key touchpoint to ensure we aren’t just talking about DEI, but are also responding to experiences and perspectives of our frontline associates.” Ultimately, the DEI team’s job is to train, help create content, impact procedures and processes to be equitable and inclusive, and then hand it off to discipline leaders and key business influencers to bring them to life in sustainable ways, Schott explained.

Creating a Path Forward With the overall vision of making its workplace even more diverse, equitable and inclusive, and extending that impact to its communities, The Hershey Co. initiated The Pathways Project, a five-year plan codeveloped with its employees to create more pathways to join its workplace, grow at Hershey, and reach out to its communities. “This year, we are continuing to drive change through The Pathways Project and have exciting partnerships happening with some of our beloved brands in markets around the world,” noted Alicia Petross, chief diversity officer for the Hershey, Pa.-based global supplier of more than 90 candy and snack brands. Led by Hershey’s human resources department, the company’s enterprise DEI strategy encompasses eight vibrant business resource groups that provide a space for employees to connect and drive company policy and community impact. Additionally, enterprise goals for representation filter through to each department — from hiring to development — and all people leaders at Hershey understand that advancing DEI is part of everyone’s role. In 2020, the company achieved 1:1 aggregate gender pay equity. In 2021, it achieved 1:1 aggregate people of color pay equity for salaried employees in the U.S. “We’re very proud of the progress we’ve made so far in our workplace and communities, but we have more work to do and will always have more work to do. This is a never-ending journey,” Petross said. WorkJam’s Kramer also views DEI as a journey, one that requires constant vigilance. “DE&I has to be embedded in your culture. It cannot be a program or a monthly training. It must be how you think and how you act. It must be what, as a company, you hold dear.

Companies have to commit to an actual investment in their diversity, both in time, budget and the bully pulpit when necessary. The reality is you can’t put a price on culture,” he said. As one of WorkJam’s strategic growth goals for 2022, DEI is reviewed and examined every month. The technology company sets goals and KPIs around its DEI strategies and activities to ensure they are continuing to make progress. This year’s focal points include: • Engaging all team members in helping achieve the company’s DEI goals; • Providing DEI education around the areas that are of most interest to its team members, or areas of opportunity identified by team members; and • Building a process that encourages outside minority vendors to bid and submit RFPs for many of the company’s finance, operational and HR contracts.

WorkJam also believes it must do its part to advance DEI in the industry. This means educating its customers and prospects on the importance of allyship, working closely with its customers to support their DEI goals, and being more proactive in communicating how its technology can be a key enabler and a tool to measure efforts. “A robust DE&I culture has significant economic advantages from higher engagement among all our team members that leads to lower turnover of employees, and also being a workplace where team members want to come to work,” Kramer said. Steady progress is happening throughout the convenience channel, for sure, but everyone agrees that there is much work still to be done. And many believe that the only way to get on the right path forward is to truly make DEI part of a company’s everyday business. “We like to think of it as a journey without an end destination, and we are proud of the progress we’ve made so far,” said Bowers of 7-Eleven. “Because we know ‘what gets measured gets done,’ we are turning more attention to data and metrics related to engagement and representation. While we are heartened by our progress, meaningful change requires us to continue to listen, learn and grow as we continue on the journey.” CSN


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WHY IS DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION IMPORTANT TO YOUR ORGANIZATION? People are critical to Kum & Go’s success — both with the associates we employ and the customers we serve. Any organization not focused on people, which is the core of diversity, equity and inclusion, is setting themselves up for failure. We need people that will share ideas, experiences and feedback to make us better or to allow us to innovate solutions. If we don’t have all voices, how can we serve all customers? — HEATHER SCHOTT, KUM & GO LC

It is important because it is good for business, and the right thing to do. Yesway has a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, and it is inculcated into our culture. From our leadership down to the store level, diversity is something that is meaningful to our organization. Giving voice to divergent thoughts and experiences drives creativity and solves problems. Simply put, diversity is important to Yesway because it drives positive business outcomes. — DEREK GASKINS, YESWAY INC.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to our organization because we recognize them as strategic drivers of long-term business success. It's that simple. — SCOTT MYERS, ALTRIA GROUP DISTRIBUTION CO. 34 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

To truly empower our workforce, both for today’s needs and in the future, we need to hire and retain top talent while also developing and promoting the best people with equal opportunity for all. We can’t take full advantage of our human capital potential unless we leverage the power of DE&I across the business. A significant contributor to 7-Eleven’s success has been our ability to innovate and anticipate the needs of customers. In order for us to continue to lead and grow, we must have a workforce — including leadership — that is as diverse as the people and neighborhoods we serve. — LARRY HUGHES 7-ELEVEN INC.

Our people are the foundation of our business and by working to create a culture where everyone is valued and can bring their whole authentic self to work every day, we strive to develop highly engaged teams while maximizing the potential of our team members. We want to build a strong and diverse bench of leaders who reflect the customers and communities where we work and live. We also know that an inclusive culture brings various perspectives, driving innovation and leading to better decisions that move the business forward and strengthen our growth. — ELISA GORIA, ALIMENTATION COUCHE-TARD INC.

I think being an ethnic operator, I have seen this firsthand, and I personally believe there should be a path for any individual regardless of their race, color, religious beliefs or gender to have an equal opportunity to work and grow. This is one of the fundamental or core structures of our company. Plurality runs in our veins.

At Hershey, setting the tone for diversity, equity and inclusion is a business priority that starts at the top with our CEO and board of directors. It’s critical that we invite new perspectives, ideas and experiences in everything we do to ensure our workforce reflects the diversity of consumers around the world. — ALICIA PETROSS, THE HERSHEY CO.


Employees are looking to leadership to make a difference. Organizations must evolve or risk a shrinking candidate pool, reduced market share and ultimately, lost profitability. We are grounded in the belief that all should have access to fair job opportunities, wages and promotions regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, disability, age, religion or sexual orientation. We strongly stand for the proposition that an equitable workplace is a basic human right. — STEVEN KRAMER, WORKJAM


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CONVENIENCE CHANNEL COLLABORATES TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY & INCLUSION Retailer and supplier leaders spearhead efforts to prioritize D&I in the industry By Don Longo LAST JUNE, after more than a year of nationwide protests and serious discussions about race and justice in America, Convenience Store News, in partnership with Altria Group Distribution Co., launched a new industry initiative to facilitate engagement among all stakeholders in the convenience channel around diversity and inclusion (D&I).

The first act of this initiative was to create an advisory board composed of thought leaders from prominent retailer and supplier companies in the channel. Seven retailers, three suppliers and one wholesale distributor currently sit on the board. The mission of the board is to show retailers the business case for diversity and inclusion through education and the sharing of best practices. The plan to do this is through regular webcasts, educational columns in CSNews, and in-person events for heightened industry engagement. The first webcast was held in June with D&I expert Jayson Council from Columbia University and board members Derek Gaskins of Yesway Inc. and Danielle Holloway of Altria. A second webcast on the topic of allyship was held in November. It featured Ina Strand of Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K, Stacy Matthews of Imperial Trading Co., Steven Kramer of WorkJam, Joe Vonder Haar of iSee Innovations, and Lonnie McQuirter, owner of the 36 Lyn Refuel Station in Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was murdered. “What I’ve seen in Europe and North America is that if you really want to create change, you have to have everyone involved and represented,” Strand said during the webcast. “As an ally, it’s about engaging, listening and trying to learn.” Since the inception of this initiative, CSNews has also published educational columns by Council on how to get started in D&I and by Alicia Petross of The Hershey Co. on how her company’s Pathways Proj-

36 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

ect helped it achieve a top ranking among female-friendly firms. A special Diversity & Inclusion page on CSNews.com has been established to aggregate all related content from across the industry in one place. And 2021 was capped off with a live, in-person meeting of the Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board during the NACS Show in Chicago. For 2022, the board plans to: • Provide additional webcasts and educational columns; • Start developing industry D&I benchmarks; • Share research on D&I with the industry; • Encourage smaller retailers to get involved in the effort; • Emphasize a broad focus on diversity across the Black, Hispanic, Asian, LGBTQ+, Differently Abled communities, etc.; • Seek out best practices from other industries; and • Conduct an in-person event to share ideas and propel the initiative forward. The Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board is interested in expanding membership to additional retailer organizations, suppliers, distributors and others allied with the industry. It is especially interested in more representation from smaller companies and ethnic-focused trade associations. Anyone interested in more information on how they can support this effort is encouraged to contact CSNews Editorial Director Don Longo at dlongo@ensembleiq.com. CSN


• • • • • • • • • • •

Treasa Bowers, 7-Eleven Inc. Rahim Budhwani, Encore Franchises LLC Emil Cantrell, Imperial Trading Co. Derek Gaskins, Yesway Inc. Elisa Goria, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K Danielle Holloway, Altria Group Distribution Co. Steven Kramer, WorkJam Lonnie McQuirter, 36 Lyn Refuel Station Alicia Petross, The Hershey Co. Tonya Robinson, Thorntons LLC Heather Schott, Kum & Go LC



DATA DRIVES LEADING C-STORE SUPPLIERS Seventeen companies earn recognition in this year’s Category Captains awards BY SUSAN DURTSCHI, PAST TIMES MARKETING

THE WINNERS in Convenience Store News’ 2022 Category Captains awards program bring insights and innovative solutions to their retailer partners, while navigating supply chain and labor issue workarounds.

Past Times Marketing, a consumer research and product evaluation firm based in New York, once again judged the entries based on information supplied by participating companies. The 2022 Category Captains are:

As they head toward a post-pandemic environment, these Category Captains have built physical and digital research hubs to provide convenience store retailers with the latest research and support needed to maximize sales and profits in key product categories. Seventeen suppliers and distributors — including one new award for overall multiproduct category management excellence — have been chosen as this year’s honorees. Now in its ninth year, the Category Captains program celebrates outstanding category management by suppliers to the c-store industry. All entries were judged based on: • Product innovation; • Creativity in merchandising, marketing,

promotion and advertising;

• Use of consumer insights to drive entire

category sales;

• Innovative and dynamic category

management tools;

• Demonstrated commitment to meeting

the specific needs of retailer customers; • Efficiently lifting sales for the entire product category; and • Fact-based evidence of market-specific or account-specific results.

38 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


Jack Link’s Jack Link’s Protein Snacks has established itself as a trusted category advisor and partner in the world of snacking and has expanded its reach into other alternative snack subcategories, such as refrigerated protein snacks and the nutrition category. Its winning entry cited: • Investment in developing category management,

shopper insights, business insights, and an array of other research projects to inform shelving and front-end strategies benefitting the world of protein snacking. • Focus on increasing basket size to combat the pandemic-fueled drop in retailer foot traffic. It

Anheuser-Busch is Proud to Accept the 2022 Category Captains Award in the Beer & Malt Beverage Category.

ENJOY RESPONSIBLY © 2022 Anheuser-Busch, St. Louis, MO


executed a 20-percent lift in meat snack sales at stores that added a queuing line with Jack Link’s guidance. • On top of another year of amazing growth in protein meat snacks, Jack Link’s has not had a recall in 35 years and experienced zero plant shutdowns in 2020-2022 even during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Anheuser-Busch Anheuser-Busch (AB) continues to leverage IGNITE, its retail category strategy grounded in a deep understanding of consumers, shoppers and occasions. AB has connected with more than 20,000 people in the last year, leveraging both established industry research partners and cuttingedge providers to inform how the alcohol and beer category will grow. Throughout the pandemic, Anheuser-Busch has led the conversation with the industry in terms of consumer insights, evolving occasions, shopper behaviors, and supply planning. Its entry cited: • Bringing new insights and shelf

placement recommendations to the skyrocketing Hard Beverages category. • Supporting several national retailers in assortment optimization strategies, leveraging national insights that can be customized to individual retailers to drive an optimal assortment approach. • Bringing omnichannel solutions to increase the relevance of meals and alcohol pairings in convenience. AB activated promotions against beer and coffee (delivering a 14-percent increase in basket dollars per trip), and beer and pizza (a 13-percent increase). • Launching “The Vault,” a unique, technologically advanced collaboration center on the company’s St. Louis brewery campus, where AB can showcase the changing world of consumers, shoppers and occasions.

40 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


The Hershey Co. Hershey continues to lead the candy category by leveraging internal partnerships between shopper insights and retail experience. During the pandemic, it developed the Hershey Insights Network (HIN), a newsroom-style setup that uses Microsoft Teams to bring customers into its Global Customer Insight Center (GCIC) virtually. Through HIN, Hershey subject matter experts can lead virtual tours through the GCIC in a dynamic and engaging way. Guests find channelspecific content, complete with a full, 12-foot-long candy aisle that illustrates Hershey’s “strike zone” optimization and merchandising strategies. Its entry cited: • Delivering a 10-12 percent lift for the confection

category when implementing Hershey shopper insights principles. To date, 32 retailers have met with Hershey’s shopper insights, retail experience and category management teams. • Bundling high-margin and high-impulse items with foodservice to counter low foot traffic due to COVID-19. Testing at two retailers saw an average increase of $580 per store for the bundled SKU, or a 23-percent increase. • In 2021, Hershey delivered 25 food bundling solutions across 21 different retailers. In more than 15,000 stores, the food bundling increased baskets by an average of 20 percent and increased dollars per store by $550 in measured stores.


E-Alternative Solutions Over the next few years, CBD beverages, vapor devices and tinctures are poised to drive CBD category growth in convenience stores. Forth CBD, from E-Alternative Solutions, has been a leader in introducing dynamic category management to the CBD channel. Since the inception of the Forth brand, it has always been a priority to not only provide adult consumers with form factors that easily fit into their daily routines, but also supply retailers with what sells best.




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Its entry cited: • Forth CBD’s form factors, value price

points and small packaging sizes are designed to meet convenience store shopper needs. Its offerings are able to address CBD trends while lowering barriers to entry for adult consumers interested in CBD products for wellness, so retailers can focus on their stores, revenues and profits. • In developing its products, Forth employs the latest consumer research and insights to best understand the evolving demand and expectations from c-store shoppers. Armed with the knowledge that these shoppers rank taste as the most important attribute when selecting a CBD product to purchase, Forth invested heavily in creating a drink formulation with real fruit juice ingredients that work in tandem with the natural taste of CBD. • Parent company E-Alternative Solutions continues to innovate within the Forth brand. Retailers can look for new product launches this year that segue into CBD products featuring functional and novel ingredients.


Frazil Frazil is the largest frozen uncarbonated beverage (slush) brand in the United States, sold in more than 15,000 convenience stores across all 50 states. The Frazil program is unique in that its business model has proven to unlock significant value for retailers, while allowing operators to hit the “easy button” on running a turnkey frozen beverage program. Its entry cited: • Developing incredible flavors. • Providing innovative marketing. • Loaning machines to stores, so they can

get into the category with no risk or capital outlay. And covering all service costs of the machines, eliminating

42 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

service-cost risk and proactively managing the service experience. • Providing internet-connected machine technology so that stores can see which of their machines are on, working and full. • Providing a category management portal that gives real-time performance updates and program improvement recommendations. • Launching Frazil University, an industry information and training platform designed to share content and drive improvements in the category.


SEB Professional Throughout 2021, convenience store retailers still recognized the elevated importance of safety and hygiene, while contending with labor shortages, trip erosion and supply chain issues. SEB Professional, which offers bean-to-cup and espresso-based beverage equipment from three brands (WMF, Schaerer and Curtis) worked alongside c-store retailers to navigate these challenges. Its main focus was being a partner that brainstorms new ideas and offers innovation.

This year's Category Captains have built physical and digital research hubs to provide convenience store retailers with the latest research and support needed to maximize sales and profits in key product categories.


Its entry cited: • Successfully taught operators how their

coffee program can drive traffic into stores and boost revenue despite an ever-changing environment. • Introduction of the first bean-to-cup solution from the Curtis brand. The Curtis Genesis is designed for smallto medium-sized convenience store operators to deliver a fresh cup of coffee while reducing waste and labor costs. • Completion of large-scale rollouts for c-store operators across the U.S., including Casey’s, Speedway and Thorntons. Casey’s introduced a freshbrewed bean-to-cup program with the Schaerer brand alongside the launch of its new breakfast menu. • Played a part in its retailer partners being recognized for their hot beverage programs, such as Circle K being named the Hot Beverages Innovator of the Year in Convenience Store News’ 2021 Foodservice Innovators Awards.

richsmarketplace.com. C-store operators are seeking ways to minimize labor and maximize investment, so turnkey programs make it simple for them to identify and implement new product lines. • Partnering with a national c-store chain to welcome spring 2021 with a flavorful, seasonal cookie that featured the right balance of on-trend flavors, profitability and quality. • Helping a Northeast chain elevate its frozen beverage program by adding Rich’s Mallow topping to create unique frozen beverage and smoothie products.


BIC International Inc. BIC saw an opportunity in the market for an innovative lighter that allows consumers to light hard-to-reach places while keeping their fingers away from the flame. Extensive research was executed prior to launch, and the BIC EZ Reach Lighter delivered on consumer needs. With more stay-at-home activities occurring, including lighting candles, fires, grilling and camping, the BIC EZ Reach Lighter reaches potential customers outside of tobacco for lighting occasions. Its entry cited:


• Research showing high purchase intent for this type

Rich Products Corp.

• An innovative marketing strategy featuring Snoop

Over the last year, Rich’s continued to invest, innovate and grow its foodservice operations despite the worldwide pandemic. The company developed new ways to serve c-store operators, such as investing in virtual meetings, contributing culinary expertise, developing a website with turnkey solutions, innovating with new products, and offering incentives and rebates. Its entry cited: • Investments in video and sound

equipment at the company’s Innovation Center in Buffalo, N.Y., to enhance communication with retailers and bring culinary ideas to life. • Providing c-store operators with a resource to find turnkey solutions with one click by launching the website,

44 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

of product, especially for candles. Dogg and Martha Stewart.

• EZ Reach is seeing strong trial and repeat sales,

with incrementality being 70 percent to the lighters category. The product now accounts for a 4-percent share of the non-refillable pocket lighter category. It is also a major driver of overall lighter performance as the BIC brand is growing by 5.3 percent vs. the prior year.


Lil’ Drug Store Products Lil’ Drug Store Products provides a turnkey, unbiased and data-driven solution to help retailers maximize health and beauty care (HBC) category sales and profit dollars. The team utilizes customer-


specific data coupled with syndicated national data, consumer research and a proprietary national retail database to deliver business reviews, trends analysis and recommendations on products, retail pricing, and merchandising.

• Holding a 28-percent share of the market. • Having the top four SKUs nationwide: full flavor,

Its entry cited:

• Always being there to assist its retailer partners

menthol, wild cherry and classic.

• Accounting for 86 percent of the volume among the

top five SKUs nationwide.

• Having the only growing filtered cigar brand in the


• Category performance outpacing

the c-store industry average across all timeframes over the past year, according to Nielsen. This was accomplished by optimizing selection and retails leading to improved topand bottom-line dollars and margin percentages. • Transitioning retailers to triple dose trial-size options, which drove total category growth, improved trade-up, and increased market baskets. • Total category unit growth at retailers ranging from 2.6 percent to 12 percent, as well as retail dollars up from 16 percent to 28 percent, and gross margin dollars up by 17.5 percent at one company. • Testimonials from retailer category managers praising the Lil’ Drug Store Products category management team for their professionalism and insights.

in driving traffic and register rings with in-store merchandising and POP to digital marketing programs.


E-Alternative Solutions Regulatory challenges, developing consumer demand and rapid growth are just a few of the factors shaping emerging alternative tobacco products. Thanks to having the right combination of compliance, marketing, leadership and financial resources, E-Alternative Solutions (EAS) is able to continue marketing its Leap brand of vapor products without interruption while awaiting marketing orders from the Food and Drug Administration. Its two modern product lines, Leap and Leap Go, have remained fixtures in the OTP category. Its entry cited: • Maintaining a strong place in the market throughout


2021 while many pod-based vapor manufacturers experienced hardship due to flavor bans and the popularity of disposable e-cigarettes.

Cheyenne International To Cheyenne, each retailer is unique and treated as such. The company’s goal is to enable retailers to feel confident in their cigar set. Compliance is key and Cheyenne has always been on the forefront of regulatory issues in the tobacco industry. The supplier offers uncomplicated contracts and simple ways in which retailers can grow their sales. Cheyenne also has a strong digital platform and was able to easily pivot during the pandemic to meet merchandising and marketing needs. Its entry cited: • Being the leading filtered cigar brand


46 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

This year's Category Captains bring insights and innovative solutions to their retailer partners, while navigating supply chain and labor issue workarounds.


• Stores with EAS products in their

assortment reaped the benefits of e-category growth, with chain stores carrying EAS brands selling an average of 81 e-category UPSPW — a significant jump up from 70 UPSPW in 2020. • Expansion of its Leap Smart Rewards loyalty program, which offers seasonal giveaways and sweepstakes to the most engaged Leap fans and entices consumers to come back to the store. Currently, Leap Smart Rewards is developing market research surveys to better understand the evolving attitudes, desires and lifestyles of adult vapers. It is also building a catalog of prize incentives to best complement this shopper.

and optimize marketing programs. Also, utilized Blue Yonder software that integrates multiple data sources to analyze and build strategy. • Alignment of marketing departments to focus on Swisher Sweets Cigar Co., Fat Lip Brands, Drew Estate, Hempire and Rogue Holdings, which have proven to be essential for the continuous growth of the entire OTP category.



Swisher Swisher combines product innovation with leading adult consumer insights, superior customer relationships and definitive action, entrenching its position as a Category Captain in the OTP category. Last year, the OTP category was under a great deal of stress and uncertainty due to the pandemic’s effect on supply chain, manufacturing and logistics. Hundreds of retail chains relied on Swisher’s category management to get them through these market challenges. Its entry cited: • More than 180 chains nationally worked

with Swisher’s Space Planning Team on merchandising and assortment decisions. The department built 2,500-plus planograms implemented in upwards of 14,000 retail locations nationwide. • Investments in staffing, tools and services to: fund research and testing to deepen consumer understanding and enhance decision-making; improve point-of-sale communication, guide concept and product development;

48 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

In 2020, The Coca-Cola Co. set out to fill a whitespace in the U.S. beverage market by creating a new subcategory that would lift sales for the entire packaged beverages category: refreshment coffee for the afternoon pick-me-up. Coca-Cola identified that three in four Coke drinkers already drink coffee, and 90 percent of younger consumers are interested in hybrid drinks. To address this opportunity and meet evolving consumer needs, Coca-Cola with Coffee launched in the United States in January 2021. Its entry cited: • Coca-Cola with Coffee was launched with a

360-degree, integrated marketing campaign that included a variety of local and national elements. Marketing channels included digital/ social, experiential, outdoor, radio, TV advertising, trial-driving sampling (via e-commerce to adhere to COVID safety guidelines), and in-store merchandising. • As of December 2021, Coca-Cola with Coffee generated $69 million in sales for measured channels in its first 10 months. This resulted in an incremental volume increase for the entire RTD coffee category of 43 percent. • In the convenience channel, Coca-Cola with Coffee generated $20.1 million in sales in its first 10 months. One convenience retailer saw $1.68 million in Coke with Coffee revenue, and another reported sales totaling more than $975,000. • Vanilla’s success as the No. 1 Coca-Cola with Coffee SKU showcased consumers’ desire for a flavored coffee experience. With this in mind, the Coca-Cola with Coffee lineup expanded in February 2022 with the addition of Mocha.

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Rogue MON units up +115% over last year

Store distribution up +81% over last year


UNDERAGE SALE PROHIBITED MSAi Swisher Database as of 1/1/22







Hostess Brands The Hostess Brands category management team captained the annual assortment review process for many large retailers in 2021, focusing on category-centric metrics designed to lift the performance of all brands in sweet baked goods. The company further supported retailers in the review process by leveraging its planogram-building and maintenance capabilities and software, building more than 190 planograms at 100-plus retailers. The category team provided continued assortment analysis throughout the year to measure and maintain category growth. Its entry cited: • Using virtual meeting software to

double the number of category reviews compared to prior years between its category management team and retail partners. This analysis included information on what’s driving the retailer’s category performance at the brand and item levels, what the key opportunities are to improve category performance, and what the threats are that could hinder performance moving forward. • Driving overall growth in the packaged bakery category, Hostess Brands was responsible for more than $99 million of growth vs. the prior year, an increase of 19 percent. Already the category share leader going into 2021, it has grown the overall category, which is up 6.6 percent year to date and up an average of 9.7 percent at customers in which Hostess Brands is the category captain. • Leading innovative research to better understand the shopping behaviors of convenience store customers and the emotions they associate with the channel. The supplier shared this information with its retail partners so they can better understand who is in their stores.

50 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


Conagra Brands Through core business growth and new innovation expansions like the launch of Slim Jim Savage Sticks Mild, David’s Seeds Bacon Mac ’n Cheese, Bigs Takis Seeds and Andy Capp’s Onion Rings, Conagra Brands is positioned to be a driving force of growth in the salty snacks category. The company is delivering growth of 20.1 percent vs. a year ago — a 26-percent faster rate of growth than total snacks in the convenience channel. Its entry cited: • Slim Jim Savage Sticks Mild delivered a 57-percent

incremental increase to the meat snacks segment.

• Bigs Takis Seeds delivered a 64-percent

incremental increase to the seeds category.

• Andy Capp’s Onion Rings is currently growing 2.5

times faster than the overall category.

• Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop is growing at a rate 6.7

times faster than the overall category, according to Nielsen and IRI data.


E. & J. Gallo Winery The wine and spirits category continues to evolve within the convenience channel. Since 2008, Category Captain E. & J. Gallo Winery has been collecting data to understand who the primary shopper is in this channel (millennials), what types of wines are favored by new consumers in the category (sweet), and why cold box shoppers purchase (immediate consumption).

Fresh foods. Fresh ideas. Fresh perspectives.

Every day, our goal is to provide the insight our customers need and expect to be successful. Through innovation, empowerment, and consumer insights, we are dedicated to provide “fresh” ideas to drive new solutions for the convenience retail industry.

©2022 Core-Mark International


Its entry cited: • Using research takeaways to recommend

an expanded wine assortment that ensures top sellers are available chilled, with an adjacent unchilled standard wine assortment, including an assortment of small sizes for impulse buys. • Partnering with Kum & Go, the 400-plusstore chain based in Des Moines, Iowa, E. & J. Gallo identified that top market sellers were not consistently available across each state in Kum & Go’s footprint due to multiple store configurations, resulting in a loss of sales. Starting in early 2021, the company helped Kum & Go streamline its assortment by identifying the best sellers nationally and by state, and generated a marketspecific core list incorporating the multiple store configurations. Then, by clustering store configurations by state, the supplier could provide a consistent assortment at the right price points and introduce new items. Kum & Go saw an 8-percent increase in wine sales. • For the latest 26 weeks, wine sales were up 8 percent year over year, outpacing total sales in the convenience channel, which were up 5 percent, according to IRI.


Core-Mark & Eby-Brown This is a brand-new award in the Category Captains program. The team at Core-Mark/ Eby-Brown put together an extremely compelling entry illustrating how the wholesale distribution firm is a true retailer partner concerned with growing sales across many different product categories. In today’s complex retail environment,

52 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

c-store operators need every advantage — information specific to their stores, strategies that addresses their challenges, and a keen understanding of their priorities. A customized visit to the firm’s Center of Excellence provides a day immersed in these advantages. Available to all retail customers, from independent stores to large chains, this proactive approach to driving store sales uncovers what a retailer needs beyond the basics of distribution. The entire visit is rich in relevant data and affords access to experts in every facet of the convenience business, delivering research, strategy, innovation and, most importantly, solutions. The 14,000-square-foot Center of Excellence is designed with “hubs” of activity. A visit might include a stop at each hub to garner valuable information across the enterprise, each one specific to the customer. Those with a more defined goal might delve deeper into just one or two hubs. This flexibility allows the Center to create a fully customized customer experience. The hubs include: • The Collaboration Hub, where customers hear

directly from company leadership on consumer trends, data and more. • The Core Solutions Hub, where retailers consult with experts in all facets of marketing and get overviews of Core-Mark’s tools. • The Food Forward Thinking Hub, where retailers can address the growing demand for fresh and prepared foods and utilize the Center’s test kitchen for discussions with foodservice team members. • The Store Innovation Hub, where retailers step inside the store of tomorrow and discover all the c-store could be, with trending products and cutting-edge technology — like SKIP, Core-Mark’s contactless mobile checkout system — giving store owners a tactile experience of how such advances could impact their operation. • The Data & Insights Hub, where customers can acquire an unbiased assessment of product performance. Totally data-driven and without emotional ties or sponsor influence, products are ranked via Blue Yonder’s Assortment Optimization Function, pointing the way to what’s working best and what’s selling most. At its Center of Excellence, the firm curates an environment for out-of-the-box thinking with no barriers to aspirational ideas or future dreams. Instead, it urges conversation and supports those discussions with hard data, strategic insights and expert advice. Customers who visited the Center reported their samestore non-cigarette sales grew 5 percent higher than Core-Mark customers overall. They also had nearly twice the sales dollars per store compared with the overall Core-Mark base. CSN

GROWING CUSTOMER LOYALTY WITH COFFEE Growing customer loyalty while navigating a pandemic is challenging. According to the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2020 Data, the average number of weekly trips has continued to fall, resulting in an erosion of 1.3 trips per shopper per week since 2016. C-Stores have strengthened customer loyalty through an effective coffee program, which leads to greater trip frequency. What if there was a way to upgrade and build excitement around your beverage program? By providing a full-scale, top-quality coffee program, you are laying the foundation for enhanced breakfast offerings, as well as reliable hot and cold coffee options all day long!





Making a Grab for Eat-at-Home Sales Consumers are increasingly interested in take-home meals and family-size portions By Angela Hanson WHEN A HUNGRY CUSTOMER makes a prepared food purchase, they typically face a binary choice: made-to-order, which maximizes freshness and customization, or grab-and-go, which offers items that can be consumed within the next four hours as they are out and about. Changing consumer behavior, however, has prompted increased sales of a third option: grab-and-go-home.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a shift in consumer behavior has seen convenience store grab-and-go visits decline 7.2 percent, while grab-and-go-home visits are up 3.4 percent, according to The Coca-Cola Co.'s iSHOP Study. 54 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

"Because consumers are spending more time at home and within the proximity of their local community, their needs have changed," said Stephanie McMahan, category leadership, small store shopper insights, North America operating unit, The Coca-Cola Co. "Retailers can capture more grab-and-go-home trips with expanded immediate-consumption and future-consumption food and beverage product offers that reach beyond in-store shoppers and help consumers solve the need to provide for additional household members and occasions.” La Crosse, Wis.-based convenience store chain Kwik Trip Inc. divides its grab-and-go-home offering into two types: hot and ready to eat, or heat it when you get home.


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"We are seeing both of these segments grow," Kwik Trip Foodservice Director Paul Servais told Convenience Store News, acknowledging though that "it is a hard business to break into” and “no one has completely figured this out." The shift toward grab-and-go-home largely comes from today’s consumers gaining a new perspective on old purchase motivators: speed and convenience. "Consumers are now evolving the previous 'grab-and-go' mindset to a 'grabfor-myself-and-other-people' behavior," McMahan said. "While time is always a consideration, when consumers are on their way home to hungry household members, the speed of grab-and-go-home may be even more appealing." On the surface, it would appear that this increased focus on quick food purchases for hungry people at home could boost the dinner daypart, which has long been a challenge for the c-store industry. But Coca-Cola’s research shows that graband-go-home trips span multiple dayparts relatively evenly, in part because of the

Kwik Trip is known for its Kitchen Cravings Take Home Meals program, which launched in 2019.

56 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

pandemic era work-from-home lifestyle. In 2021, a quarter of graband-go-home trips took place in the morning, 21 percent occurred in the afternoon, and 27 percent occurred in the evening.

What to Offer For c-store operators, catering to grab-and-go-home customers doesn't have to mean offering something drastically different from their existing grab-and-go lineup. The main difference lies in emphasizing accessibility and the ability to purchase multiple portions. Grab-and-go-home can include a wide variety of options, including larger individual product sizes, packaging designed for multiples of the same item, bundle deals, meal prep kits, take-home meals, and more. "When getting started, it's best if retailers do a bit of experimentation," advises Patrick Sebring, vice president of c-store sales at Smithfield Culinary. "With limited space and facing difficult labor issues, consider offering a couple of different items/ packaging types at first and see how it goes. Look at what sells vs. what doesn't.” Retailers must also take a hard look at their staff and determine what they can deliver well and efficiently. “It doesn't matter if something is great if you can't make it every day," he noted. Spicewood, Texas-based Texas Born (TXB) convenience stores are all about bundling, according to CEO Kevin Smartt. TXB offers such

bundles as six tacos in a package, or large quantities of chicken to cater to families. "We find those customers are typically good repeat customers for us. They appreciate the bundles," Smartt said. With the effects of inflation being felt across the board, offering grab-and-go-home bundles can give c-stores an advantage over quick-service restaurants and other foodservice retailers. "People will be looking for value opportunities for take-home," Smartt pointed out. Servais recommends that convenience retailers seeking a starting point for grab-and-go-home begin with hot offerings such as chicken wings and pizza, particularly in family-size. Kwik Trip is known for its Kitchen Cravings Take Home Meals program. Launched in 2019, the meals are prepared daily and individually packaged with full cooking instructions on the label. Standard selections include customer favorites like cheesy chicken casserole, beef stroganoff and multiple pasta meals, along with a smaller lineup of limited-time offers (LTOs). "We have a strong core menu now with things like mac 'n cheese, chicken alfredo, meatloaf," Servais said. "The LTO selections are more about us finding the right meals for the future. Every month, we introduce two meals for a limited time, and we are looking for meals that 'stick.'" C-store operators should not expect sales to skyrocket immediately as it takes time to change customers' buying habits, the foodservice executive cautioned. "Long-term, we look for the Take Home Meals program to grow and become a significant part of our food sales, but we realize this will take a while,” Servais said. Retailers can work with suppliers to identify quality, labor-saving products that can be used in take-home meals and other grab-and-go-home offerings, Sebring noted. For instance, Smithfield Culinary offers a line of fully cooked and smoked meats called Smithfield Smoke'NFast, which can be used for sandwiches, entrees, toppings, etc. “With items like that, c-stores don't need higher-level cooks, but rather a meal assembly team," he said.

Planning for the Future With retailers of all sizes and stripes building digital presences with mobile ordering capabilities, some question whether foodservice orders will eventually split into mobile/online orders largely consisting of made-to-order items, which take additional time to prepare, and in-store purchases largely consisting of grab-and-go-home items.


20 22

Convenience Store News



Other industry insiders, though, point out that digital orders — which made up a small percentage of total transactions as of 2021 — are about the quality of the offering, not the product type. "Grab-and-go-home consumers are more likely to purchase on-site; however, they are also motivated by offers," McMahan said. "Operators should make an effort to enhance their digital offers, such as discounted items when an app is first downloaded or access to LTO products. These offers not only promote and increase app downloads, but also act as a great way to introduce a digital loyalty program to increase shopper support and frequency." Making it easy for customers to order whatever type of food and beverages they want in a digital format is key. "I think it's all about the offering in the technology itself and how easy or how cumbersome it is to place an order and pick it up," said Smartt.

Kwik Trip divides its grab-and-go-home offering into two types: hot and ready to eat, or heat it when you get home.

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media. It is all helping, but sampling is our best tool today."

Marketing and promotional initiatives, whether they apply to mobile/online or in-store purchases, should highlight what sets the grab-and-go-home items apart. "Put it this way: If something can't work in the digital marketplace in the future, it's going to have a hard time being successful as it seems everything is moving in that direction," Sebring said. "Retailers must be willing to do the work with great photography and descriptions that help tell their flavor and quality story to their consumers." Servais’ advice to fellow c-store retailers is to “sample, sample, sample.” "We use our food product demonstrators (FPDs) to sample and sell the meals. Guests get to try them, and our FPDs tell our guests all about them. Where they are located in the store, how to heat, variety, what's next, etc.,” he explained. “We do a lot of digital in-store and a lot with social

Pro d uc ts

One question that has yet to be answered is whether consumers will shift away from grab-and-go-home in a post-pandemic future. Some pandemic-era shifts in consumer behavior have already begun rolling back to how they used to be, but McMahan believes that grab-and-go-home is among the changes that will persist. "It is safe to say that lifestyles have certainly changed now that we are two years into the pandemic. While it is reasonable to believe that the shift to working from home may permanently affect the volume of commuter trip traffic, the industry has gained traffic from local consumers who stay close to their neighborhoods," she said. "If c-store operators are able to market compelling offers to the local shopper, it is possible to capture a larger portion of their purchases and occasions." She noted that grab-and-go-home purchases were already increasing prior to the pandemic, seeing a 1.4 percent increase in trips — 221 million more trips — from 2017 to 2019. "This data is a good indicator that c-store shoppers were already looking to operators to provide options that they could take home and will likely continue to seek out new and innovative products that offer the same convenience," she said. CSN


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Another Active Year Taxes, flavor bans and the future of alternative tobacco products are still on the table By Melissa Kress

to be another active year for tobacco regulation and legislation.


The calendar may have flipped but, as has become typical with the tobacco category, the same issues remain on the table: taxes, flavor bans and the future of alternative products. During the 2021 congressional session, Congress considered a budget reconciliation bill that included significant increases in the federal tax rates for cigarettes and other tobacco products (OTP). Those increases were since removed from the bill, which as of press time had yet to be considered by the full U.S. Senate. "Even though the tax increases are no longer in the bill, it is important to understand how significant the increases would have been, and because of the industrywide effort, those increases were deleted from the legislation," Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets (NATO), said during a recent industry presentation delivered as part of the 2022 Tobacco Plus Expo (TPE). According to Briant, changes under the congressional proposal included:

62 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

• A 100-percent increase in the federal cigarette tax, from $1.01 per pack to $2.02; • The tax on large cigars would have changed in two respects: one change was to a dollar amount tax of $49.56 per pound, and the other would have implemented a minimum tax of at least 10 cents per cigar; • The tax on moist snuff would increase 1,700 percent to $26.84 per pound; and • A tax was proposed on modern oral nicotine and vapor products to $1.15 per pod or $4.45 per 20-pack of pouches or lozenges. “The takeaway from this congressional attempt to raise tobacco taxes is that it could happen again,” Briant cautioned. “Federal tax rates were last raised in 2009 — that’s some 13 years ago. It is important to remain watchful for future congressional moves to raise tobacco tax rates, even though the legislation has not passed Congress as of yet.” The need to remain vigilant to any potential change to the federal tax rates is evidenced by the potential economic impact. According to a NATO-commissioned economic impact study, levy increases would have resulted in $801 million in lost sales, 14,000-plus lost jobs, and $1.26 billion in lost state cigarette and OTP tax revenue.

FDA Moves The past year was also a busy one for the Food and

C-Store News FEB 2022_Visual Marketing_Full Page Bleed_OL.pdf











10:42 AM


Drug Administration (FDA). The agency announced that it would propose product standards by April 2022 and that those standards would ban the use of menthol in cigarettes and flavors in cigars. The FDA has the authority to adopt product standards without further congressional action. While the agency may be on track to release measures to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars in a matter of months, Briant pointed out that the FDA needs to follow a nine-step process that includes drafting the new regulation, submitting it to the White House Office of Management and Budget, requesting public comments, and finalizing the rule with an implementation date. “The time it takes a federal agency to go through each of those steps before new regulation can go into effect is generally a couple of years," he said. "It means that the prohibition of menthol in cigarettes and flavored cigars will not occur in the near-term, but could take a couple of years.” Any litigation after the final regulation would delay it even further, Briant added. Other FDA moves on the tobacco regulatory front are: • New graphic warnings for cigarette packaging and advertising, which are currently slated to go into effect on April 9, 2023; • Review process of premarket tobacco product applications, which the agency extended past the court-ordered Sept. 9, 2021 deadline under Enforcement Discretion; and • The agency's recent announcement that it will regulate synthetic nicotine products on a case-by-case basis.

Taking an Alternative Route As the tobacco industry faces the possibility of a combustible-free future, there are questions around the FDA’s regulations and their impact on alternative tobacco products. For instance, the vapor industry is a notable player in the U.S. economy. During a TPE 2022 education session, Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Association (VTA), shared findings from a VTA-commissioned study. The research found that the number of vape shops in the United States has declined. In 2018, there were roughly 64 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

The FDA to date has issued marketing denial orders for almost 1,000 companies covering more than 6 million flavored ENDS, essentially removing flavors from the market. 11,500 vape shops. In 2021, there were 10,257 vapor companies in the U.S., 8,328 of them (81 percent) being vape shops. With this decrease has come a reduction in industry jobs, from 166,007 in 2018 to 133,000 jobs last year. Industry wages dropped from approximately $7.9 billion to $7 billion. “Though the industry is contracting and consolidating, it is still paying its workers significant money in terms of wages and benefits,” Abboud noted, adding that the study found the vapor industry currently generates more than $22 billion for the U.S. economy. From a regulatory standpoint, the vapor industry is still waiting on the FDA to wrap up its premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) process. Under the PMTA pathway, manufacturers must demonstrate to the agency that, among other things, marketing of their tobacco product would be appropriate for the protection of public health. The FDA must approve PMTA bids for e-cigarette and vapor products to stay on the market. All PMTA bids had to be submitted by a Sept. 9, 2020 deadline. To date, the FDA has yet to make decisions on PMTAs from larger manufacturers, such as Juul Labs Inc. — with the exception of R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co.’s Vuse Solo electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS). The agency authorized this system and its accompanying tobacco-flavored e-liquid pods for the U.S. market. This marked the first authorization under the PMTA process. The FDA to date has issued marketing denial orders for almost 1,000 companies covering more than 6 million flavored ENDS, essentially removing flavors from the market. TPE 2022 International took place as a hybrid event this year, with TPE Ignite online education sessions occurring Jan. 10-14 and a live trade show occurring Jan. 26-28 in Las Vegas. CSN


The Ins & Outs of Alcohol Delivery Everything c-store retailers need to know before entering this burgeoning market By Brian Berk ON-DEMAND ALCOHOL DELIVERY can be a lucrative incremental business for convenience store retailers, but there are many details to consider before taking the plunge.

Right from the outset, c-store retailers should consider two things, according to Blaine Grinna, director of retail partnerships at Drizly, an online ordering and delivery platform that facilitates the delivery of alcohol from local retailers, including convenience stores.

familiar with all state and local laws within the area the c-store retailer serves. “It could be at the state level, county level or local municipality level. You must know if there are any regulations that will prevent you from being able to participate in alcohol e-commerce,” Grinna relayed. “Curbside pickup is an option in some places and delivery is not. And in some places, delivery is only available via your staff vs. being able to leverage a third-party provider for last-mile services.”

“First, are you already participating in e-commerce in any capacity? Are you delivering some subset of your food through other marketplaces or your own native channel? Or is alcohol e-commerce brand-new?” Grinna said. “I would look at what my inventory set looks like, who the potential partners are I can work with and within alcohol, treat each market separately.”

Unfortunately, most states do not have one easy location to find these answers. State websites can provide some insights, Grinna said, but probably not all of them. He recommends retailers contact their local division of alcohol beverage control. The good news, however, is that the more time passes, the more information there is about alcohol delivery.

A second must for any c-store retailer considering a foray into alcohol delivery is to know the regulatory landscape; namely, being

“There is no single resource that is going to give you everything you need, but information available is becoming more and more up to date,” he said. “Five to


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seven years ago, it was a little less clear. There was ambiguity at the state level. That is getting cleaned up pretty quickly.”

What to Offer for Delivery Once regulatory concerns are solved, c-store retailers can focus on what to offer customers via on-demand alcohol delivery. According to data compiled by The Boston Beer Co., maker of Samuel Adams, Dogfish Head, Truly Hard Seltzer and Twisted Tea, wine accounts for 42 percent of online sales via retail channels, followed by beer at 38 percent and spirits at 20 percent. Zeroing in on the beer category, hard seltzer is the biggest segment, comprising one quarter of total sales. However, premixed cocktails experienced the most growth in this category in 2021, rising 115 percent compared to the prior year, Nielsen research revealed. DoorDash, a provider of last-mile logistics for many c-stores, including alcohol delivery, stated in its recent Grocery Online

Ordering Trends Report that all alcohol types, including hard cider, alcohol, wine and beer, saw more than 100-percent growth on its platform when comparing orders from January to June 2021 to orders during the same period in 2020. “As retailers expand their alcohol and non-ABV beverage offerings, they should take note of what customers in their area are particularly drawn to and curate their stock or menu based on that,” advised Caitlin Macnamara, director of alcohol strategy and operations at DoorDash. If operations and staffing allow, she recommends matching the in-store selection to the delivery menu. “If a retailer is constrained to a subset of items, they should consider featuring top sellers and a variety of brands and sizes. For example, offering both large pack sizes for consumers hosting a party and ready-to-drink options for consumers enjoying a drink with their purchase allows retailers to appeal to a variety of audiences,” she explained. C-store retailers should not overlook opportunities for add-on sales, too. “Complementary items can also sell well. Think about cups, ice and items that are considered mixers,” Grinna noted. “Those are extra add-ons to round out the cart. Snacks are another thing you can offer.” As opposed to food delivery, though, alcohol delivery is a bit more complex, he cautioned.

“We believe customer behavior will permanently shift now that alcohol is available for delivery.” — Caitlin Macnamara, DoorDash

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“With alcohol, there is a little more nuance. People want to know what product they are getting. For wine, they want to know what vintage it is,” Grinna said. “That is why data integrity within inventory management becomes really important. Retailers should be thinking about how they can best create an extension of their storefront.” Delivery fees is another factor all c-store retailers must consider. While consumers who purchase alcohol online may be expecting a fee for the convenience of delivery, knowing just how much of a fee to charge can be challenging. A positive is that retailers can adjust their fees in real-time, and operators of multiple stores can test different pricing for different stores to ensure a good margin, according to Grinna. “There is no one-size-fits-all plan. It is market dependent, store dependent, and will evolve as the marketplace evolves,” he said. The Drizly executive added there is one caveat. “There are some states where pricing in-store and online need to match,” Grinna said. “So, that is another place where you must do your due diligence beforehand to find out what is permissible and what is not.”

Incremental Sales or Cannibalization? When all is said and done, the decision to offer on-demand alcohol delivery boils down to whether the service enables c-store retailers to gain more sales overall, or if it is simply shifting in-store sales to online. Both DoorDash and Drizly have conducted research on this topic. “What we found is that it is overwhelmingly, delivery customers are not walking through the store’s doors,” Grinna stated. “Customers are finding new stores. They are shopping at stores where they have not entered the physical storefront. That is of great value to a retailer.” DoorDash research released in the summer of 2021 cited that alcohol purchases on its platform may increase merchant sales subtotals by up to 30 percent. Macnamara also pointed to a recent Nielsen report that concluded “alcohol is the fastestgrowing e-commerce vertical across all consumer packaged goods, and many retailers and restaurants on DoorDash see increased sales due to the reach and visibility of the DoorDash Marketplace.”

“What we found is that it is overwhelmingly, delivery customers are not walking through the store’s doors. Customers are finding new stores. They are shopping at stores where they have not entered the physical storefront.” — Blaine Grinna, Drizly Boston Beer data revealed that the number of c-store customers using e-commerce grew 300 percent in the 52-week period ended July 25, 2021, compared to 2019, Justin Carney, manager of e-commerce sales strategy at Boston Beer, told Convenience Store News. Customers who purchase beer both in-store and online spend $113 per year, 55 percent more than in-store-only shoppers. Hence, customers that shop both in-store and online are most valuable to retailers, so c-store operators should try to “meet shoppers in both locations,” Carney said.

The Post-Pandemic Outlook Clearly, alcohol delivery can boost a c-store operator’s bottom line. But this leaves one question: Can the trend continue in a post-pandemic environment? “We believe customer behavior will permanently shift now that alcohol is available for delivery. It’s a win-win-win for customers, merchants and Dashers (DoorDash drivers) who experience more selection of their favorite beverages, increased sales by merchants, and increased earnings opportunities for Dashers,” Macnamara said. “We’re committed to providing new earning opportunities for merchants and Dashers; a safe, high-quality experience for customers; and being a responsible leader in compliant alcohol delivery.” Alcohol delivery has plenty of staying power in a postpandemic period, Grinna agrees. “Look at what has happened on the regulatory front in the past 12 to 18 months. Alcohol delivery went from a question of can you do it to now, where Drizly is operating in 31 states, one Canadian province and Washington, D.C. There are additional states that have adopted regulations, allowing for e-commerce, where we are actively pursuing to enter,” he said. Specifically for c-store retailers, the future also looks positive as more operators are entering the space with a hybrid in-store/ online model. “I think there is a ton of momentum right now that is only going to make alcohol delivery more and more prominent,” Grinna added. The Drizly executive said the next step is personalization. “People will be able to go to a marketplace like Drizly, open the app and it will know their purchasing behavior. When new items are starting to be stocked within those categories, it will show customers items that will be highly applicable to their tastes,” he said. “As this continues to progress, the online alcohol shopping experience is going to get even better. It will go from being transactional to a real experience.” CSN


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The Wonders of Workforce Management Today’s technology enables convenience stores to do more with less store-level staff By Tammy Mastroberte THE LABOR SHORTAGE that plagued

retailers in 2021 is continuing in 2022, and it’s unclear when the situation will begin to improve. Many retailers are responding by altering their recruitment, hiring, training and employee-retention processes and procedures. Some large retailers, such as Walmart, Amazon, Costco and CVS, have raised their minimum wages, and both Target and Walmart have begun offering to pay their employees’ college tuitions. “The labor issue is not a temporary situation,” Sanish Mondkar, founder

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of Legion, a workforce management (WFM) technology provider based in Redwood City, Calif., told Convenience Store News. “This is something that is going to last and everyone in the industry has to raise the bar to provide a better experience for employees.” Many retailers are turning to technology — specifically, WFM technology — to not only do more with less store-level staff, but also retain the staff they do have. What was once thought of as simply time and attendance technology now offers innovative solutions to help retailers do more with less and keep their current staff satisfied. “Workforce management technology has evolved so much over the past six years and in the past two years, it’s evolved again,” said Will Eadie, chief revenue officer at WorkJam, a digital workplace provider based in Montreal. “It used to be thought of as time and



Beyond Time and Attendance CSN sits down with Michael Spataro, Legion Technologies’Chief Delivery Offi er, to dis uss how traditional retail workforce management (WFM) te hnology solutions have evolved and what that evolution means for c-stores as well as other types of retailers. CSN: How and why has retail workforce management technology changed? Michael Spataro: Retailers face increasing challenges in attra ting and retaining hourly workers. These hallenges have be ome espe ially pronoun ed in the “great resignation” that’s followed the pandemic. Optimizing labor effi ien ies is also a hallenge. So, WFM technology has moved beyond time and attendan e to in lude labor fore asting/planning and employee empowerment/ ommuni ation. It has also expanded to enable gig-like flexibility—for example, allowing employees to pi k up extra shifts at different store locations. CSN: WFM solutions enabled by artifi ial intelligen e (AI) are becoming increasingly popular with retailers of all kinds, including c-stores. What advantages do they offer? Michael Spataro: These solutions let retailers use AI and advan ed ma hine learning algorithms to a urately forecast demand and create optimal labor plans based on store traffi patterns, omplian e fa tors, and budget onstraints, not guesswork. The more s hedules mat h requirements, the more likely retailers will have the right number of employees in-store at the right time. This helps to avoid legal issues—like s heduling underage employees for late-night shifts —and ontrols labor osts. With AI-enabled WFM solutions, retailers an automati ally generate fully ompliant s hedules that mat h business needs with employee preferen es, making workfor e sharing easier. They an empower hourly employees by giving them better a ess to and input on their s hedules, plus the flexibility to pi k up additional shifts, swap shifts, laim open shifts, and update s heduling preferen es anytime with an easy-to-use mobile app. The higher the employee empowerment level, the higher the level of employee engagement and retention.

Additionally, AI-powered WFM technology engenders employee finan ial well-being by giving workers immediate a ess to their pay. And it redu es the amount of time managers need to reate and maintain s hedules, freeing them up for other important tasks, like training. CSN: Modern WFM solutions also offer a platform for communication between employers and employees. What are its benefits? Michael Spataro: This type of platform lets retailers improve ommuni ation with employees while building and supporting a ompany ulture. Better ommuni ation is important: A Legion Te hnologies study revealed that other than pay, poor ommuni ation with the employer is one of the top reasons hourly workers quit their jobs—at 39%. Through su h a platform, employers an deliver engaging content that resembles the content employees see on their so ial media feeds and ontrol, further reinfor ing ompany ulture and employer/employee onne tions, while also controlling when and how employees receive messages. This preserves the work/ life balance employees want and prevents employers from being perceived as sending messages at inappropriate times. Finally, employers can be sure their messages will be seen be ause they’re delivered in the same platform hourly employees use to view their s hedules. CSN: What sets Legion’s WFM platform apart from other offerings? Michael Spataro: Legion WFM simultaneously optimizes labor effi ien y and enhan es the employee experien e. It harnesses mature data s ien e, with 2.5 million ma hine learning models trained each week; sparks employee participation w TCO with a three-month go-live. o A Forrester Consulting study of a omposite retail organization with 10k employees moving from a legacy WFM solution showed that Legion WFM yielded a ROI of 1,345% and $13.35M in net present value after three years; saved nearly $6.1M from improved s heduling optimization over three years; afforded 95% labor fore ast a ura y, redu ed employee turnover rates by 5%. .


To learn more, visit https://legion.co.

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attendance, but in the past two years, retailers started realizing they needed to communicate with employees, let them have tools to change their schedule, and also manage employee tasks to make sure they get done and stay consistent from store to store.” Today, WFM technology falls under the broader category of Human Capital Management and in many cases, includes safety-related technology, forecasting technology, employee self-service, task management and training. Not only do these tools benefit the retailer, but they also empower the employees, which leads to higher job satisfaction and retainment. The COVID-19 pandemic fueled many c-store operators to speed up the rollout of WFM technology as both employer and employee needs began rapidly changing. This included the need to communicate with employees across the chain, as well as give them access to swap schedules to ensure shifts were covered. And the pandemic highlighted the need to monitor compliance with new policies and procedures across an entire organization. “With so many pandemic-fueled changes and regulations experienced over the last two years, combined with a dramatic shift in labor force and the employer-employee

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dynamic, organizations and their people increasingly relied on workforce management technology to do more than ever before,” said Rob Klitsch, director of the retail, hospitality and foodservice practice at UKG, a Weston, Fla.based provider of human resources and WFM solutions. Enhancing safety in the workplace, giving employees more flexibility and control over their schedules, and offering earned-wage access as “attractive recruiting and retention benefits” are just a few examples of how retailers are currently using WFM technology, he noted.

Doing More With Less Labor While employee time and attendance remain a part of workforce management, today’s technology offers “an abundance of tools that sit on top of it,” Eadie explained, pointing out that not only can employees swap shifts on their own, but they can also have access to training videos

“The systems today can take a vast amount of data, process it, and push out recommendations that help managers schedule much better to eliminate both under- and overstaffing.” — Suresh Menon, Zebra Technologies

so that they can take on a shift with a task that might be new to them. “If someone works the cash register, but there is a shift available to work the forecourt, they can watch a 10-minute training video to get up to speed and then pick up that shift,” he said. “It will show in their profile they have been trained for it.” If specific stores are short on labor, sharing the workforce with nearby locations can be very helpful, and employee self-service technology (ESS) can make this process easier. With ESS, employees can pick up shifts right from their mobile phones without having to go through any long manual process involving managers. “In the past, a manager would have to call the store down the street and post a notice on a board, which would give payroll people the headache of figuring it all out,” Eadie said. “[ESS] takes the burden off the manager — allowing them to spend more time in the store — and stretches the staff a chain already has in place.” Now, employees have the flexibility to choose not only when they work, but also where they want to work, and c-stores automatically gain access to a larger talent pool to optimize labor and meet consumer demand, noted Klitsch. Today’s WFM technology also utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning so that stores can create optimized schedules based on the demand at a specific location. This way, they are not overstaffed or understaffed. At a location where there are always three people, demand might show they can get away with two people for a certain day or week, Mondkar advised. “The advanced technology can bring in external data such as weather forecasts, or if a c-store is next to a football stadium and there is a game this week that will impact traffic, and apply machine learning to help with labor optimization based on demand,” he added. With AI and machine learning, many WFM systems access this outside data, including social data, to look for patterns and intent that a human could not possibly process. “The systems today can take a vast amount of data, process it, and push out recommendations that help managers schedule much better to eliminate both under- and overstaffing,” said Suresh

Breaking Down Workforce Management Technology While workforce management technology has traditionally been viewed as a time, attendance and scheduling tool, it has become so much more in recent years. Here is a look at some of the most popular options available today under this category: TASK MANAGEMENT — This enables a chain of stores to deploy step-by-step digital instructions for tasks, assign them to specific locations and people, and monitor compliance throughout the chain. SCHEDULING/TIME & ATTENDANCE — This digitizes employees’ schedules and makes it easier to make changes, and also tracks their hours worked. FORECASTING — With forecasting technology, often powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, c-stores can consider outside data such as weather, local events and holidays, and combine it with historical data to create optimized labor schedules at the store level. EMPLOYEE SELF-SERVICE — Employees feel more in control and empowered when they can not only have access to their schedules, but also have the authority to swap schedules digitally and with ease from their mobile phones. This also includes pay visibility. PERFORMANCE & TRAINING — Learning management systems and training can be part of a workforce management system, and can be tracked by the employee so any certificates earned will be visible when it comes to swapping shifts or taking on new responsibilities. EARNED-WAGE ACCESS — Also known as “same-day pay,” this allows employees on-demand access to their earned pay based on the hours they worked, rather than having to wait one or two weeks for a paycheck.


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Menon, senior vice president and general manager for software solutions at Zebra Technologies, an enterprise asset intelligence provider based in Lincolnshire, Ill. While AI has been around for nearly five years, and there were a few early adopters, the pandemic changed the adoption curve with more c-store operators and other retailers now realizing the power of this technology to help them solve labor problems, Menon shared. “A lot of organizations realized what humans knew and what they can process in terms of data is not working in this new world,” he said.

“A lot of employers are realizing communication equals respect and employees want respect.” — Will Eadie, WorkJam

Attracting & Retaining Employees Turnover in the convenience store industry has always been an issue but, in a labor shortage, attracting and retaining employees is more important than ever. WFM technology can empower employees and give them the tools they want and need to increase job satisfaction — whether it’s control of their schedule, communication throughout the organization, or control over their paycheck. “I’m impressed by the trend of not just optimizing labor and reducing cost, but prioritizing the employee’s wellbeing and their experience with the company — and you will actually save money if you retain workers,” said Mondkar. The No. 1 driver of employee satisfaction is giving them a say over how, when and even where they want to work within a company, he said, noting that the communication and messaging piece is also important to today’s workforce and something technology makes easier. “A lot of employers are realizing communication equals respect and employees want respect,” Eadie echoed. “Communication is everything, and a schedule is a form of communication.” In today’s world, c-stores are not only competing against other c-stores for employees, but there’s also a new range of job options with Uber and DoorDash where employees have total control over their schedules and can turn their availability on and off through their mobile phone.

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“Providing employees access to their schedule and the flexibility to change it is an expectation that will only continue to increase in the future,” Mondkar said, noting that research studies conducted by Legion show nearly 60 percent of employees leave a job because they don’t like their schedule or have no control over it. Additionally, there are more young adults entering the workforce now and they have an expectation of being able to control how, when and where they work. Allowing them to participate in determining their schedules makes the employee self-service aspect of workforce management technology a key component in satisfaction, according to Menon. Young adults are also more likely to want the ability to change their schedule or swap shifts through their mobile phone. “Also, offering some type of gamification or points rewards to employees can help with satisfaction,” Menon said. “I can see there is a Friday morning shift and if I go and bid for the shift, I might get a certain number of points, and a manager can reward points based on performance that can be redeemed for different options [in] a company catalog, for example.” Another aspect for employers to consider is not just increasing hourly rates, but also giving employees more flexibility over their paychecks. Some companies are offering earned-wage access or same-day pay, where employees can be paid at the end of a shift and the funds automatically go to their bank or debit card, according to Klitsch, explaining that organizations are seeing this as “an additional attractive benefit and retention tool.” “Offering instant pay for shift workers is available and another expectation set by Uber and other companies who are paying employees this way, so they can get paid every day if that is what they choose,” said Mondkar. “Many employees live paycheck to paycheck and are stressed, so if you can take care of that and give them access to the money for the work they did, that is a plus.” CSN


Same Mission, New Name Network of Executive Women is now NextUp AFTER 20 YEARS, Network of Executive Women is now NextUp.

We are women and allies. We are today’s mentors and tomorrow’s rising stars. We are business leaders driving change. And we know that workplace equity can’t wait. By Sarah Alter, President & CEO, NextUp

Our members and partners are a collective force for progress, eliminating barriers for women in the workplace, championing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives — and transforming our organizations. As the world continues to change, our solutions and benefits have adapted to promote allyship, better support the

needs of women of color, and transform corporate cultures. We are committed to diversifying our community across gender identity, ethnicity, age and industry to ensure that everyone feels they belong with NextUp. Our new name encapsulates the experience and solutions that we bring to life for women at all stages of their careers. NextUp is here for you — for your now and for what

Convenience Store News is pleased to continue this series of educational columns by NextUp, coinciding with the annual CSNews Top Women in Convenience awards given out each fall. Seventy-four female managers, executives and directors who work in the convenience store industry were honored in our 2021 program. In addition to being a presentation sponsor for the Top Women in Convenience program, NextUp and CSNews have partnered to develop this series of columns directed at helping corporate leaders drive more inclusive company cultures. 2022 SPONSORS Founding & Presenting Sponsor:

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comes next in your career. Prepare for your next great challenge with leadership development, support from a network of peers, and nonprofit board experience. Our time is now, and we are what’s next. Together, we can knock down the obstacles to equality. Together, we can get to a better future, faster. During this exciting time, our mission remains the same: to advance all women in business. You’ll still be able to enjoy all the things you loved about NEW.

We are committed to diversifying our community across gender identity, ethnicity, age and industry to ensure that everyone feels they belong with NextUp. We can all reach our goals when our workplaces are diverse, involved and empowered. We are leaders. We are learners. We are mentors. We are achievers. We are NextUp. CSN

Sarah Alter is president and CEO of NextUp. She has expanded the scope of NextUp’s mission to include Advancing All Women, and has grown NextUp to be the largest nonprofit of its type, with 14,000-plus members representing more than 900 organizations, 21 regions, and over 300 national and regional corporate partners. Learn more at nextupisnow.org. Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.

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Built for High Traffic QuikTrip’s new remote travel center concept targets geographies with strong truck traffic By Renée M. Covino

QUIKTRIP CORP. (QT) is trucking along its in development of a new network of remote travel centers designed specifically for highly trafficked areas of the country.

At a Glance QuikTrip Remote Travel Center Location: Montgomery, Texas Opened: January 2022 Size: 8,200 square feet Unique features: A much larger store footprint than the chain’s traditional c-stores; a bigger lot with room to service 20 cars for gas, as well as six diesel bays for trucks; an expanded QT Kitchens concept offering fresh food and premium beverages

The first location debuted in Joplin, Mo., in June 2020 and since then, QT has rapidly expanded the network to now include a dozen locations. Its latest remote travel center opened in Montgomery, Texas, in January 2022. The most obvious distinction between a traditional QT convenience store and a remote travel center is the size. While the chain’s traditional c-stores range from 4,100 to 5,700 square feet, the travel center stores average approximately 8,000 square feet. They are also surrounded by a larger lot with room to service about 20 cars for gas, as well as six diesel bays for trucks, depending on the location, according to Aisha Jefferson-Smith, corporate communications manager for the Tulsa, Okla.-based chain that currently operates more than 900 stores in 14 states. Fresh food is a focal point within the new remote travel centers. They feature an expanded QT Kitchens concept, offering made-fresh-to-order food, premium specialty drinks, tasty frozen

treat selections, and more. The new travel center model is created specifically for highly traveled areas of the country that are also within a reasonable proximity to a QT Distribution Center for access to fresh food and drink items, Jefferson-Smith explained. Customers at the remote travel centers will find freshly crafted made-to-order sandwiches, salads and wraps, as well as fresh doughnuts and pastries. In the area of beverages, the selection encompasses freshly brewed coffee, cold brew coffee, freshly brewed QTea, as well as premium specialty drinks. QT Kitchens customer favorites include soft pretzels, extra-large pizzas, mac & cheese, custom breakfast tacos, hardwood smoked BBQ sandwiches, and the QuikShake.

A Consistent Culture The design of the remote travel centers is intentionally the same as a traditional QT convenience store — a design that has been honed over 62 years in business. “We are striving to ensure our ‘QT culture’ is consistent with our service and brand that so many customers have come to love,” Jefferson-Smith stated.


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“We are striving to ensure our ‘QT culture’ is consistent with our service and brand that so many customers have come to love.” — Aisha Jefferson-Smith, QuikTrip Corp.

Fresh food and specialty drinks are a focal point within the new remote travel centers.

At the same time, the convenience retailer is targeting new truck traffic and new local customers with its remote travel centers. “Our goal is to create meaningful connections with our new local customers in the Remote Store Network, but also serve travelers in the busy parts of the country,” she noted. QuikTrip intends to keep up the rapid expansion of this new network. The retailer plans to open “a bunch more” travel centers in 2022, even adding a new territory to the QT map. “We hope to have 10 additional remote travel centers by year-end [and] we will enter Alabama,” Jefferson-Smith told Convenience Store News, giving a nod to the QT Store Development Team for an “outstanding job” in site selection and rollout. While the concept is still a bit too new for any tweaks or adjustments just yet, Jefferson-Smith said the retailer plans to “learn as much as we can as we continue to build.” CSN


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POS/Equipment Supplies

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Air Vacs

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OTP Products


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Help Wanted


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POS/ Equipment

ADINDEX Wholesale Refrigeration Altria Group Distribution.................2

King & Prince Seafood Corp...........25

Anheuser-Busch LLC.........................39

Krispy Krunchy Chicken...................19

BelGioioso Cheese, Inc.....................55

Legion Technologies.........................69

BIC USA Inc.........................................7

Liggett Vector Brands......................21

Buzzballz LLC.....................................9

National Confectioners Association..........................................58

Calico Brands, Inc..............................33 Curaleaf................................................15 Cookies United...................................27 Core-Mark International...................51 E&J Gallo Winery...............................47 E-Alternative Solutions....................37 Federal Industries..............................61 Forte Products....................................60 Freezing Point LLC Frazil...............1 GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health Care..........................................5, 31 Hostess Foods....................................43

8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631 Phone 773-992-4450 Fax 773-992-4455 www.ensembleiq.com

Island Lifestyle Importers/ Frontier Cigar.....................................17

Premier Manufacturing.....................11 SEB Professional................................53 Swedish Match North America LLC........................................13, 100 Swisher International, Inc................49 The Coca-Cola Company.................45 The Hershey Company.....................41 Tyson Foods........................................59 United Sign Co...................................Outsert Universal Merchant Services...........Outsert Visual Marketing Inc..........................63

J&J Snack Foods Corp.....................23


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Prairie City Bakery.............................57


Convenience Store News


3/1/2022 6:38:59 PM


Finding Balance in Beverages Consumers seek moderation as they celebrate the simple pleasures of life The long-term effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic are driving a focus on celebrating life’s simple pleasures while striving for balance. Consumers are still embracing indulgent food and beverage experiences, but with some slight modifications. According to several recently released beverage industry reports, 2022 will bring the following developments:

Boozier Isn’t Always Better Consumers are increasingly trying no- and low-ABV drinks as they focus more on health and moderation, making the low-ABV movement a trend to watch.

“Going low- or no-alcohol is a lifestyle choice that some consumers are rallying behind as a way to achieve holistic health goals. This trend has fueled explosive growth in non-alcoholic spirits and ready-to-drink mocktails — as well as lower-ABV wine-based cocktails — that we expect to continue into the new year.” — Katie Clark, Flavorman

Offering a variety of no- and low-ABV beverages also caters to the sober-curious movement, which includes consumers who choose to mindfully reduce their alcohol intake or periodically take breaks from drinking.

Expect Bold Flavors & New Formats DRINKS WITH SUBTLE DISPLAYS OF FLAVOR HAVE PREVIOUSLY TAKEN CENTER STAGE. But as the hard seltzer market begins to saturate, beverage makers are seeking ways to differentiate themselves from the competition, which means opting for bigger and bolder flavor profiles.

While hard seltzer sales don’t show any signs of slowing down, expect to see consumer demand grow for a greater variety of non-traditional hard drinks in 2022. Watch for new spiked beverages such as hard kombucha, hard iced tea, and more. 98 Convenience Store News CSNEWS.com

“If it’s a drinkable liquid, expect a hard version of it on shelves soon.” — DoorDash 2022 Alcohol Trends Report




The convenience store industry has been transforming itself, using technology to better satisfy the needs of customers. Convenience Store News’ Technology Academy is an educational platform dedicated to advancing technological expertise in the convenience store industry. Through a menu of videos, research articles, and live events, convenience store technology workers and leaders will achieve certified expertise in critical technology areas to make their companies more successful and better serve their customers.


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10/28/21 3:27 PM




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