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Convenience Store News April 2021




Volume 57, Number 4


Local, State and Federal tobacco taxes and restrictions on the sale of tobacco products can hurt your business. Governments often pass new laws quickly, so you need to stay informed about what is happening in your area. You and your business matter and making your voice heard is crucial to our success in fighting for fair tobacco policies.

Take this survey to learn more about how you can get involved


Provided on behalf of Philip Morris USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., John Middleton, and Helix Innovations. ©2021 Altria Group Distribution Company | For Trade Purposes Only


Solving the Post-Pandemic Foodservice Riddle CFX will explore how c-stores are rebuilding their prepared foods business operations were one of the hardest-hit areas of the store as the nation reeled from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


According to an exclusive c-store shopper study conducted by Convenience Store News late last year, consumers said they were shopping at c-stores less than they had before the pandemic. In the early days of the health crisis, many convenience retailers either opted to, or were forced to, shut down their fresh food and dispensed beverage programs. While most of these programs have come back online now, it’s proving to be a slow climb to get the foodservice category back to where it was before COVID-19. The lingering impact of the pandemic can be seen in the recent cancellations of both the 2021 National Restaurant Association Show and the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association Show — both important events for convenience foodservice executives looking for new products, partnerships and equipment. The pandemic is also likely to have a lasting impact on American consumers’ tastes and desires, as well as their expectations and comfort level for purchasing food at convenience stores. In short, everything has changed for the nation’s convenience foodservice retailers.

CSNews is offering one of the few opportunities this year for retailers and their supplier partners to get together in person to discuss these market changes. We will conduct our annual Convenience Foodservice Exchange (CFX) in Charlotte, N.C., on Nov. 9-10. Of course, we’ll be monitoring the evolving developments around the pandemic and will make appropriate changes as required to ensure everyone’s health and safety, as we did in 2020 when we pivoted to a virtual conference. As more Americans get vaccinated, we are hopeful that we will be able to meet in person for two full days of education, collaboration, networking and problemsolving as we explore the ways retailers are reviving their foodservice sales in the new normal. Our multi-experiential and educational agenda will include exclusive proprietary research into both consumers’ and retailers’ mindsets, store tours, expert presentations, interactive discussions, and firstclass dining. Attendance to CFX is open to retailers by invitation only, and to sponsors. If you’re interested in attending, please email me at dlongo@ensembleiq.com. If you’re interested in attending as a sponsor, please contact our Brand Director Paula Lashinsky at plashinsky@ensembleiq.com. For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director, at (201) 855-7606 or dlongo@ensembleiq.com.


EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Brett Atherton Bolla Management

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

Rick Crawford Green Valley Grocery

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

Edward Davidson ER Davidson & Associates (7-Eleven Inc., retired)

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

2013 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Bronze, Best Editorial/Commentary, July 2012

Jim Hachtel Eby-Brown Co.

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

Chris Hartman Rutter’s

2013 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2012

Ray Johnson Speedee Mart

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

Laura Aufleger OnCue Express

Jack Lewis GPM Midwest

Joe Lewis ExtraMile Convenience Stores Ruth Ann Lilly GPM Investments Danielle Mattiussi Maverik Inc. Vito Maurici McLane Co. Inc. Matt Paduano Lakeport Markets Jonathan Polonsky Plaid Pantries Inc. Greg Scriver Kwik Trip Inc. Bill Stein Core-Mark Roy Strasburger StrasGlobal

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


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Convenience Store News 3




32 68





36 Viewing C-stores Through a Pandemic Lens Shoppers have become more forgiving in some areas, but more discerning in others.

3 Solving the Post-Pandemic Foodservice Riddle CFX will explore how c-stores are rebuilding their prepared foods business.


68 Freedom of Expression Anabi Oil debuts a new standard for its Rebel c-store brand, for now and in the future.



28 New Products SMALL OPERATOR

32 Marketing Must-Dos for Small Operators Thoughtful, consistent marketing doesn’t have to require a massive budget. TWIC TRAILBLAZERS

65 Making a Difference Together Couche-Tard is moving in many ways toward a more inclusive and diverse culture.

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

86 Luring Fuel Customers Into the Store Since the onset of the pandemic, fewer c-store shoppers are making the transition.



Phone: 888-824-3256 | www.cbprices.com www.hempbombs.com | www.naturesscript.com




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



12 Couche-Tard to Sell 350-Plus Circle K Stores Following Strategic Review


16 Wawa Reaches $9M Settlement Over Data Breach 18 Visa & Mastercard Delay Swipe Fee Boost to 2022

50 Getting Salty An unexpected pop of salty or savory flavors can provide the wow factor. TOBACCO

Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com

Managing Editor (201) 855-7604

Danielle Romano dromano@ensembleiq.com

Contributing Editor (303) 741-3377

Renée M. Covino reneek@aol.com

Contributing Editor (201) 280-2614

Tammy Mastroberte tmastroberte@gmail.com

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

Rachel McGaffigan rmcgaffigan@ensembleiq.com

Associate Brand Director & Western Sales Manager (330) 840-9557

Ron Lowy rlowy@ensembleiq.com

20 Fast Facts

52 The Fight Over Flavors As more flavor-ban legislation arises, so does argument that these moves backfire.

22 Retailer Tidbits



56 Embracing the Fourth Daypart Accelerated by the pandemic, snacking is a frequent daily occurrence and an even greater c-store industry opportunity.

Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several (860) 830-8321 eseveral@ensembleiq.com

20 Eye on Growth

24 Supplier Tidbits HOW TO 46 Capitalize on the Rise of Contactless Shopping COVID-19 sparked increased demand for curbside pickup, delivery, contactless payment and other no-touch options. TECHNOLOGY 60 A Seamless Strategy A c-store retailer’s mobile plan should cover all bases: online ordering, payment and loyalty.


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

MeritDirect Marie Briganti

Subscriber Services/Customer Care TOLL-FREE: (877) 687-7321 FAX: (888) 520-3608


PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART Vice President, Production (877) 687-7321 Creative Director (973) 607-1320

Derek Estey destey@ensembleiq.com Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com

Advertising/Production Manager (773) 992-4418

Ed Ward eward@ensembleiq.com

Art Director (973) 607-1321

Lauren DiMeo ldimeo@ensembleiq.com

CORPORATE OFFICERS Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Litterick Chief Financial Officer Jane Volland Chief Innovation Officer Tanner Van Dusen Chief Human Resources Officer Ann Jadown Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several Senior Vice President, Content Joe Territo


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 2021 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

Contact your local GSK C-Store representative on how to order or email Scott.F.Breisinger@gsk.com




Teamsters Call on FTC to Pause 7-Eleven’s Purchase of Speedway

In a request made on behalf of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ 1.4 million members, President James Hoffa asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to put its review on hold until either “legislation introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chairwoman on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights, has been enacted; or the FTC is able to ensure that the legal and economic staffs have meaningfully taken into account the lack of efficiencies and the full range of competitive harms that the transaction may cause.”


Ten C-store Programs Recognized Among America’s Best Loyalty Programs


GPM Investments to Acquire 61-Store Express Stop Banner


TravelCenters of America Agrees to Sell Quaker Steak & Lube

Ten convenience store loyalty programs were named to Newsweek magazine’s America’s Best Loyalty Programs 2021 list, which was compiled in partnership with global data research firm Statista. Holiday Rewards received the highest score for a c-store chain at 9.63.

GPM Investments is boosting its presence in the Midwest. The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Arko Corp., inked an agreement to acquire 61 Express Stop convenience stores in Michigan and Ohio. The deal will complement GPM’s existing 165 stores in Michigan and nine stores in Ohio.

TravelCenters of America Inc. (TA) is divesting Quaker Steak & Lube, five years after it acquired the standalone restaurant chain. TA reached an agreement to sell the business, which includes 42 standalone restaurants, for approximately $5 million.



7-Eleven Collaborates With PG&E to Install Electric Vehicle Chargers at California C-store

7-Eleven introduced electric vehicle (EV) fast chargers to a West Sacramento, Calif., convenience store in collaboration with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E). Four new advanced 125kWcapable EV fast chargers were installed through PG&E’s EV Fast Charge program. 7-Eleven and PG&E are working to install fast chargers at additional locations.


Giving Convenience Stores an ‘Edge’ 2020 was a defining year for convenience stores as they’ve proved their essential role throughout the pandemic, writes Nick East, co-founder and CEO of Zynstra, an NCR company. From rolling out new payment options like pay at the pump, contactless or self-serve payment technology, to partnering with third-party delivery services like DoorDash and Instacart, c-stores quickly realized that without agile technology capabilities, they would quickly fall behind the competition and shopper demands. C-stores that were able to make rapid headway during this period had a technological “edge.” They got ahead of the game by creating an agile environment for their IT infrastructure at the edge — in the store — to give them more flexibility to pivot and make decisions in the face of unprecedented change. 8 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

C-store Traffic Remains Low, But Convenience Is Still King The return of normal levels of customer foot traffic to convenience stores is directly correlated to the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines, according to Eric Dzwoncyk, global co-leader of the restaurants, leisure and hospitality practice at AlixPartners business consultancy. In a new survey of 1,001 adult U.S. consumers, AlixPartners found convenience store visits continue to be very low as 29 percent of respondents said they didn’t make even one visit to a c-store in the past week. Even looking ahead to the next six months, 26 percent said they will stay away from c-stores, while 20 percent said they will visit three to four times a week, and just 15 percent said they will visit at least daily. The highest percentage — 39 percent — said they will make one to two visits per week. For more exclusive stories, visit the Special Features section of csnews.com.


Kraft Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese Kraft expands its iconic blue box offering with Kraft Gluten Free Macaroni & Cheese. The product is made with brown rice and corn pasta. It contains 260 calories, four grams of fat, 10 milligrams of cholesterol, 560 milligrams of sodium, 50 grams of total carbohydrates, and six grams of protein. It’s just as smooth and deliciously cheesy as the original variety fans know and love, while meeting Food and Drug Administration gluten-free standards, according to the company. The Kraft Heinz Co. Chicago kraftheinzcompany.com




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BIC LIGHTS THE WAY A Q&A with Jason Rice, VP of Commercial Strategy and Convenience Sales, BIC Convenience Store News: The lighter industry seems to pose some unique safety challenges for manufacturers. Can you tell us why BIC is so committed to product safety? Jason Rice: BIC’s commitment to the highest safety standards has allowed us to build an immense trust with consumers around the world. Customer loyalty is directly tied to the quality and dependability of our products. CSN: How does BIC top the competition when it comes to product safety? JR: We hold our lighters to the standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM). While only voluntary in the US, ASTM requirements go well beyond the requirements of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and US Department of Transportation (DOT). The CPSC regulates how resistant a lighter must be to operation by certain children. The DOT regulates the amount of fuel inside the lighter to ensure safe transportation. ASTM is broader — protecting consumers against failures to extinguish and unacceptable flame heights, and ensuring warnings and instructions are appropriate. All BIC lighters meet or exceed every ASTM, CPSC and DOT requirement because we recognize the importance of safety in our industry, particularly for parents and their children. CSN: Have you found that consumers are well-educated on lighter safety? JR: In fact, we’ve found that there’s lots of work to be done in that area. The Harris Poll conducted a national survey in 2019 that revealed 81% of respondents did not realize many lighters aren’t tested for safety, while 77% did not know lighters sold in the US aren’t required to meet any safety restrictions aside from the mandated child-resistant feature. Our own Lighter

Safety Report expands on these findings, noting how much we need to educate parents in particular on safety issues. While BIC holds its products to the highest standards, no lighter is completely childproof — so our safety experts have issued a list of recommendations on lighter safety for individuals and families. Education is vital to our corporate mission. CSN: How do BIC lighters incorporate the recommendations made by the ASTM International Standards? JR: ASTM testing targets issues that are most closely related to accidental fires and injuries — issues like flame-extinguishing time, flame height, spitting and sputtering, flaring, drop impact and continuous-burn resistance. Many low-quality, generic lighters fail at least one of the tests. BIC lighters meet or exceed all the voluntary standards. As we’re always telling our retail partners and our customers, BIC is safety you can count on. CSN: With this continued emphasis on safety, have BIC lighter sales continued to hold strong, even throughout the pandemic? JR: Our sales remain strong. We are seeing households grow and have had incredible consumer response to our EZ Reach Lighter launch, which has further accelerated our share. Our partnership with Convenience is healthier than ever. Retailers can rest assured that our product safety efforts will continue to benefit their shoppers and create customer loyalty for decades to come. To order, contact your BIC sales rep today.

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Couche-Tard to Sell 350-Plus Circle K Stores Following Strategic Review Casey’s General Stores Inc. is picking up 49 of the sites in Oklahoma for $39 million HUNDREDS OF CIRCLE K convenience

stores are hitting the market. Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., parent company of the global c-store brand, tapped NRC Realty & Capital Advisors LLC to coordinate and manage the sale of 269 sites across 25 states in the United States, and 37 sites across six provinces in Canada. Of the 306 sites being managed by NRC, 122 are fee-owned and 184 are leased, while 238 of the properties sell fuel and 68 are convenience only. The stores average roughly 2,600 square feet and sit on an average lot size of 29,500 square feet. In addition to these planned divestures, Couche-Tard reached an agreement to sell 49 locations in Oklahoma to Casey’s General Stores Inc. The $39-million transaction includes 46 leased properties and three owned properties. These stores will be supplied by Casey’s new distribution center in Joplin, Mo., according to the Ankeny, Iowa-based retailer. Matrix Capital Markets Group Inc. acted

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

as financial advisor to Couche-Tard on the Casey’s transaction, which is expected to close by July 31. “The decision to divest select stores fits within the company’s network optimization strategy and follows a comprehensive and uniform network planning process that began in the fall of 2020,” explained Couche-Tard President and CEO Brian Hannasch. “Through this process, we have identified sites that no longer fit our strategic objectives, either from a brand perspective or from a regional scale perspective. “Concurrently, we have identified many opportunities to expand our footprint through new store builds and will continue to allocate capital to upgrade the size and scale of our locations, improve store layouts, and allow for the best utilization of our Fresh Food, Fast program, as well as other initiatives which improve the customer journey,” he added. Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard operates in 26 countries and territories, with more than 14,200 stores.




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Wawa Reaches $9M Settlement Over Data Breach The convenience retailer will also spend $35 million to upgrade its cybersecurity A LITTLE MORE THAN a year after detecting a data breach, Wawa Inc. has agreed to a settlement with its customers. Under the class-action settlement, the convenience retailer will pay affected customers $9 million, and spend $35 million to upgrade its cybersecurity.

Malware affected payment card information used at potentially all Wawa locations beginning at different points in time after March 4, 2019 and until it was contained on Dec. 12, 2019, as Convenience Store News previously reported. The proposed settlement was filed in federal court on Feb. 19. It provides for relief in the form of Wawa gift cards capped at $8 million in aggregate, cash reimbursements of out-of-pocket costs capped at $1 million in aggregate, as well as significant data security enhancements to Wawa’s systems, according to an announcement from Haverford, Pa.-based law firm Chimicles Schwartz Kriner & Donaldson-Smith LLP. Wawa customers who used credit or debit cards at the retailer’s stores or fuel pumps between March 4, 2019 and Dec. 12, 2019 are eligible for relief. The amount varies

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

depending on how individual customers were affected. Under the plan, the convenience store retailer will pay an additional $3.2 million to cover administration costs, and pay attorney fees and expenses, among other costs. Pennsylvania-based Wawa operates 920 convenience stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Florida and Washington, D.C.


W MEN IN CONVENIENCE OCTOBER 6, 2021 | CHICAGO The 2021 Convenience Store News’ Top Women in Convenience awards program recognizes the integral role women play in convenience retailing. Women will be honored from the retailer, wholesaler and supplier communities in four different categories: AWARD CATEGORIES* • • • •

Women of the Year Senior Level Leaders Rising Stars Mentors






Vice President and Brand Director 917.446.4117 plashinsky@ensembleIQ.com Associate Brand Director/West Coast 330.840.9557 rlowy@ensembleIQ.com

Associate Brand Director/Northeast 774.212.6455 rmcgaffigan@ensembleIQ.com Associate Publisher/Midwest 847.894.8134 kfischer@ensembleIQ.com


Account Executive/ Classified Advertising 201.855.7615 tkanganis@ensembleIQ.com


Visa & Mastercard Delay Swipe Fee Boost to 2022 Retail groups applaud the decision, but call for changes to the interchange fee system VISA INC. AND MASTERCARD INC. are pushing back their plans to raise swipe fees to April 2022.

The decision followed a plea by U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) to the CEOs of Visa and Mastercard to not to raise interchange fee rates during the pandemic. It is the second consecutive year the financial companies agreed to a delay. The plan, which was set to take effect this April, included higher fees for the card networks’ most prominent programs and for many online transactions, with estimated increases of $768 million a year for Visa and $383 million for Mastercard, according to payments consulting firm CMSPI. The networks’ decision was welcomed by multiple groups. The Merchants Payments Coalition (MPC) — which represents retailers, supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations and e-commerce providers — said Visa and Mastercard “did the right thing” in delaying the increase. However, the group is still calling on Congress and enforcement agencies to investigate how the credit card companies set their fees. “The fact remains that credit card swipe fees paid by U.S. merchants are among the highest in the world. The

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

way these fees are set shows how Visa and Mastercard’s market power allows them to charge more than any free and open market would bear,” MPC Counsel Doug Kantor said. “Rather than just delaying an increase, they need to lower these fees and encourage the banks that issue their cards to embrace competition and transparency. Since they haven’t shown any sign of doing that voluntarily, it’s time for Congress and enforcement agencies to take action.” The National Retail Federation agrees that while “the last thing retailers needed in the middle of a pandemic was higher credit card swipe fees,” the increase should be canceled altogether. Convenience stores paid about $11.8 billion in credit card swipe fees in 2019, making it the second-highest operating cost after labor, according to NACS State of the Industry data. “Convenience and fuel retailers welcome the news that Visa and Mastercard are taking into account the impact that their swipe-fee increases will have on essential businesses that have stayed open throughout the pandemic,” said Lyle Beckwith, NACS’ senior vice president of government relations. “With Americans already paying the highest swipe fees in the world, it is time for Visa and Mastercard to step back and let banks set their own prices.”

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Eye on Growth

Family Express Corp. is adding six Freedom Oil LLC stores to its Indiana network. The retailer will roll out NCR/ Optic technology to the forecourts of the Freedom Oil locations when the deal closes this spring.

The retailer made its East Coast debut in March with two Washington, D.C., convenience stores.

Foxtrot Market plans to double its store count by the end of 2021 after securing a $42 million Series B growth investment. The round was led by Almanac Insights and Monogram Capital Partners.

Global Partners LP reached agreements to add retail assets in the greater Philadelphia market. The 27 retail sites complement its wholesale unbranded business.

Big Red Stores’ plans for 2021 include construction of four new sites and the remodeling of two existing stores in Arkansas. The retailer will partner with Dairy Queen Restaurants at two of these locations.

EG Group is picking up nine convenience stores from Mercury Fuel Service Inc. Upon closing, the company-operated Mercury sites will be rebranded to Cumberland Farms. Parker’s ventured into the spirits industry with Parker’s Spirits, a new liquor-focused banner. The first store is adjacent to an existing Parker’s convenience store in Pooler, Ga.


Top priorities for shoppers in the post-pandemic world will be product availability (60 percent), low prices (52 percent) and customer safety (42 percent). — Acosta

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

Parkland USA reached a pact to acquire Conrad & Bischoff Inc. and its related companies. Through this transaction, Parkland will establish a fourth U.S. Regional Operating Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

73% Sales of hard alternatives skew younger than overall beer sales — more than 73 percent of hard alternatives consumers are under the age of 42. — BevAlc Insights by Drizly

U.S. drivers have logged 20 billion miles on the road using E15 fuel, known at the pump as Unleaded 88. — Growth Energy


Retailer Tidbits

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores offered its Oklahoma-based store and corporate employees COVID-19 vaccinations for free. Team members were able to get vaccinated between March 19 and 23 at the retailer’s corporate offices. Kwik Trip Inc. completed the installation of more than 1,000 Philips Androidpowered digital signage displays inside its 700 convenience stores. The rollout came through a partnership with PPDS.

The pact calls for deployment of fast charging points for EVs throughout North America by 2030.

ARKO Corp. signed a strategic memorandum of understanding with Chakratec, a developer of electric vehicle (EV) charging technology. The companies will conduct a preliminary pilot in the United States in 2022.

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

Wawa Inc. launched five “Wawa Your Way” menus chainwide. The new menus include Balanced Fare, Gluten Conscious, Lower Sodium, Meatless, and Power. BP Products North America Inc. finalized a joint venture with Clean Energy Fuels Corp. to develop, own and operate renewable natural gas projects at dairies and other agriculture facilities. Each company will have 50 percent voting control. MAPCO is offering an incentive to its employees to get fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Hourly team members will get eight hours of pay, and salaried team members will get eight hours added to their paid time off. Sheetz Inc. will build a $2-million distribution truck transfer station at Burr Industrial Park in Kearneysville, W.Va. The facility will support its distribution centers in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. Rutter’s debuted the Philly Cheesesteak Traveller on menus chainwide in March. It is the second product launched in partnership with Australia’s Patties Foods Group.

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Supplier Tidbits Nestlé S.A. agreed to sell its North American water business to One Rock Capital Partners in partnership with Metropoulos & Co. for $4.3 billion. Nestlé’s international premium brands are not part of the deal.

The transaction includes most products sold under the Planters brand, as well as Corn Nuts branded products.


Hormel Foods Corp. is buying The Kraft Heinz Co.’s nuts business for $3.35 billion. The purchase includes production facilities in Fresno, Calif.; Fort Smith, Ark.; and Suffolk, Va. NCR is acquiring all outstanding shares of Cardtronics. The roughly $2.5-billion acquisition is expected to bring $100 million to $120 million in run-rate operating cost synergies by the end of 2022.

We all know someone who has had cancer or who is fighting cancer. Raising money not only helps fight this insidious disease, but it’s our way of supporting those who truly need it. The American Cancer Society has been doing tremendous work for decades; it’s a privilege to be its partner.

McLane Co. Inc. unveiled McLane Edge, a digital platform that offers marketing and merchandising insights, sales-building programs, services, promotions, category trends, and new products.

-EG America President, George Fournier

With help from partners like EG America and their C-Store brands, the American Cancer Society can continue to fund the organization's life-saving mission through Point of Sale campaigns.

To find out more or to set-up you own life-saving campaign, visit cancerdoesnotstop.org/csnposcampaign

Core-Mark International added four new brands to its Core-Mark Curated program. They include Love Corn, Popsalot, OmniBev, and Riverside Natural Foods. Altria Group Inc. received a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2021 Corporate Equality Index. This marks the fourth year in a row that the company has received a perfect score.

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1. Pro2Go On-TheGo Protein Line

2. Monster Energy Ultra Gold

The Pro2Go On-The-Go Protein Line marries traditional whole breast chicken skewers with on-the-go convenience. Each singleserve skewers package touts 21 grams of protein for the 4-ounce serving. The line includes three varieties: Sweet Sriracha Style, Chipotle Style, and Rotisserie Style. The skewers are packaged in a microwaveable container for easy heat access, and feature a detachable sauce tray. The suggested retail price is $3.99.

Monster Energy Ultra Gold offers a refreshingly light flavor that tastes like biting into a ripe, golden pineapple. At just 10 calories and 150 milligrams of caffeine per can, Ultra Gold is a tasty pick-me-up to help increase productivity and encourage consumers to push past everyday barriers to become the best version of themselves, according to the maker. The Ultra family of products — a portfolio of zero sugar, full flavor beverages — includes 11 different varieties suited for consumers looking to make the most out of every day while striving for healthier lifestyles.

Pro2Go Foods Montreal pro2gofoods.com

Monster Energy Corona, Calif. monsterenergy.com

3. Rush NonTobacco Oral Nicotine Pouches Rush non-tobacco oral nicotine pouches are loaded with impactful wintergreen, mint, citrus and cinnamon flavors, which are perfectly balanced with just the right levels of 3-milligram or 7-milligram non-tobacco nicotine to give adults just what they are looking for in a modern oral nicotine pouch product, according to the maker. The Rush brand is manufactured using only ingredients that are not made or derived from tobacco — the nicotine is from a non-tobacco source, none of the flavors have tobacco extracts, and the product uses absolutely no tobacco leaf, scrap or dust in the blend. Rushnic Dallas (214) 351-1509 info@crowndis.com rushnic.com

5. DN Series EASY Self-Service Solutions Diebold Nixdorf’s DN Series EASY is a family of self-service solutions designed to improve store efficiency, enhance consumers’ shopping experience and drive down costs. The DN Series EASY portfolio offers highly modular and open selfservice solutions that feature a platform-based approach with one core technology platform for the entire range. Retailers can add different modules to suit various use cases, retail needs and environments. Diebold Nixdorf Inc. North Canton, Ohio dieboldnixdorf.com/en-us

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

4. Whozeewhatzit Bar


The Whozeewhatzit bar, the Whatchamacallit brand’s first new bar in a decade, takes crunchy and chewy to a new level. The Whozeewhatzit bar has an added peanut butter crème layer and chocolate rice crisps, all covered in a chocolatey candy. The new product comes in two sizes: the 1.5-ounce standard size has a suggested retail price of $1.11, while the 3-ounce king size has a suggested price of $1.66. The Hershey Co. Hershey, Pa. thehersheycompany.com/ en_us/home.html

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6. Heineken Original Slim Cans Heineken USA is entering the fast-growing slim can market by updating the style of Heineken Original while retaining the fanfavorite taste. Initially launched in Florida in March, Heineken Original Slim Cans will replace the current 12-ounce cans onshelf. They will be available in six-packs, 12-packs, 18-packs and 24-packs. The company is supporting the launch through digital and social media, out-of-home advertising and local radio endorsements, as well as in-store visibility and pointof-sale materials. A national launch is being considered for 2022. Heineken USA Inc. White Plains, N.Y. heinekenusa.com


7. Herr’s Fire Ridged Potato Chips & Cheese Curls

8. Tres Picosos Authentic Mexican Burritos

Herr’s is bringing the heat with the launch of two new fiery snacks that deliver big flavor: Herr’s Fire Ridged Potato Chips and Herr’s Fire Cheese Curls. Both products deliver a fiery sensation that is balanced by savory and sweet notes. Herr’s Fire Ridged Potato Chips have a suggested retail price of 50 cents for a 1-ounce bag, $1.89 for a 2.75-ounce bag, and $4.29 for a 9-ounce bag. Herr’s Fire Cheese Curls have a suggested price of 50 cents for a 1-ounce bag, $1.89 for a 3-ounce bag, and $3.69 for a 7.5-ounce bag.

Tres Picosos authentic Mexican burritos added three new varieties to its existing line of grab-andgo offerings. The new varieties are Picadillo Beef, with ground beef, diced potatoes, green chiles and cheddar; Pork Carnitas, with slow-cooked pork shoulder, cilantro lime rice, seasoned pinto beans verde, tomatillo salsa and Monterey Jack cheese; and Western Breakfast, with scrambled eggs, pork sausage, hash browns, green chiles and cheddar. Each comes wrapped in new colorfully labeled brown-paper packaging that’s designed to grab the attention of the hurried convenience store customer.

Herr Foods Inc. Nottingham, Pa. herrs.com

9. AriZona Fruit Snacks AriZona Beverages adds two of its most iconic beverage flavors — Green Tea and Arnold Palmer — to its fruit snacks lineup. These mark the second and third additions to the brand’s fruit snacks line, which already includes Mixed Fruit. Arnold Palmer is a legendary flavor combination of half iced tea and half lemonade, known for its refreshing taste and ability to revive the senses after a competitive round of golf, while AriZona Green Tea is America’s bestselling green tea offering, according to the company. Both new fruit snack varieties are available in 5-ounce packages. AriZona Beverages USA Cincinnati drinkarizona.com

Tres Picosos Denver trespicosos.com

10. Ovention MiSA-a12 Rapid Cook Oven Ovention introduces the MiSA-a12 (microwave speed assist) rapid cook oven, which has the ability to cook up to 10 times faster than a conventional oven. The newest addition to Ovention’s ventless countertop oven line is designed for high-efficiency airflow in the cavity, and features a nonstick interior with removable tray for easy cleaning. Any oven-safe pan can be used in the MiSA-a12. The 12.9-inch by 13.5-inch cavity can fit a quarter-size sheet pan or a 12-inch pizza. The unit requires less than 16 inches of counter space. It offers the highest footprint to cavity ratio of any oven in its class, according to the company. Ovention Milwaukee oventionovens.com

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


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Marketing Must-Dos for Small Operators Thoughtful, consistent marketing doesn’t have to require a massive budget By Danielle Romano IN REAL ESTATE,

the name of the game is location, location, location. The success of a convenience store, however, takes more than the right location. The c-store industry’s single-store and small operators may not have the big marketing budgets or multi-person marketing teams that the larger c-store retailers do, but they still have the capability to draw in new customers and get more spend from existing customers through thoughtful, consistent marketing. “To count on a great location to deliver a steady flow of customers can be a costly mistake,” GrahamComm’s John Graham, a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer, told Convenience Store News. “The difference is having customers and drop-ins who develop an emotional attachment to a store. This is the marketing task — one that never ends.” Even without a branded loyalty program or app, the convenience channel’s small operators — those operating 20 stores or less — can create loyal shoppers. It just takes a marketing strategy that works for their brand and for their shoppers, and that strategy doesn’t have to require a massive budget. CSNews tapped marketing consultants and solution providers for their insights on what the best marketing tactics are for

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

small operators specifically. Here’s what they had to say:

Take the Time to Plan Small operators should plan, and expect to spend dedicated time marketing their store. The key is to operationalize marketing activities, according to Gray Cat Enterprises Inc. President and CEO John Matthews, whose retail consulting firm focuses on multiunit operations, interim divisional or general management leadership, consumer marketing for companies launching products in the retail sector, and strategic project management. “What I mean by that is just like how operators set aside time during the week to do inventory or clean, operators should also block out time to market their locations through local store marketing,” Matthews said. “This can be as little as one hour a day, but success is generally determined if it is a scheduled activity like other operational items. The more marketing becomes a task to be completed, the more it will no longer be an afterthought.” He suggests creating a quarterly strategy that focuses on selling more to current customers and attracting new customers from within a three-mile radius of the store(s). To reach the existing customer base, the Gray Cat executive recommends creating a suggestive sales incentive for employees; instituting bundles of products in combo kits to drive up the average ticket; and communicating proactively with clientele. As for drawing in new customers, he said small operators can create a grand reopening on the store’s anniversary.

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Additionally, they can develop a group sales program that targets their three-mile trade area, and sample products in this area on a regular basis.

Low-Maintenance Approaches While small operators may not have the financial means to initiate large-scale marketing campaigns, there are some easy, low-maintenance, low-cost tactics they can implement. Koupon, a digital coupon platform that enables brands, agencies and retailers to deliver single-use mobile offers to consumers, recommends that small operators utilize SMS. “Promoting text-in campaigns through in-store signage is one of the easiest ways to reach and engage shoppers,” said Melissa Jordan, vice president of client success for Koupon. “This provides retailers who don’t have an app an opportunity to build a database of contacts and send offers.” Another effective approach for small operators to deliver value and build loyalty is taking advantage of CPG dollars in the marketplace. For example, putting a CPG offer at the pump can encourage fuel customers to make a trip inside the store, Jordan pointed out.

Optimizing Your Online Presence A strong online presence is key for convenience store operators of all sizes. An easy and impactful place for small operators to start is by claiming their Google My Business listing, according to Jordan. “This is a great way to be front and center with consumers looking for gas and convenience items,” she said. “Update your business category, add your business hours, a few photos and a phone number to get started. There are so many other business directories across the web. Pick the ones that are right for your area to help boost in-store traffic.” Aside from these listings, an online presence is also not complete without social media. “Social is a great place to showcase offers and promotions to a group of consumers interested in your store,” the Koupon executive noted. “Then, once customers are in-store, using your physical space for marketing can help drive higher basket sizes. Add some signage at the pump and at the register to encourage purchases.”

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

Create a Community Connection One of the biggest advantages a small operator has over a larger c-store retailer is their local connection. Graham stresses that without question, the small operator is the marketer, and their goal should be to create a community center. One way to do this, he says, is by creating a “What’s Happening in the Neighborhood” bulletin board for posting notices. “It is simple, but essential,” he said. Other community-focused tactics that the marketing and sales consultant recommends are supporting local/neighborhood causes; allocating store space to community efforts like food drives and bake sales; and running weekly ads in group-specific publications. “They should also establish a neighborhood council with six to eight members of various ages and backgrounds to serve as your eyes and ears and be your ambassadors to give you advice and spread the word,” Graham added. Koupon’s Jordan also believes in integrating that sense of community into marketing tactics. One way to incorporate a personal touch is to match the neighborhood’s personality by featuring actual customers and store associates in marketing materials. This creates a brand, and reminds shoppers that they’re supporting local, she explained. “Also, while larger operators may have the big budgets, they are typically spending marketing dollars across a large geographic target area. If you choose to invest in digital ads, either on social or elsewhere, you can be very precise with your geotargeting, allowing you to saturate your market better than some of the larger operators,” she pointed out.

Final Pointers Jordan offered up three final pieces of marketing advice for small operators: 1. Start small. “Start with tactics that allow you to begin building a brand online and establish a base of loyal and engaged customers. Start with the free or low-cost marketing tactics like claiming your listings, building a social media presence, and using CPG offers to engage your customers via signage, SMS or email.” 2. Test out new marketing strategies. “Don’t be afraid to try something new. Measure results and pivot as needed. Use every marketing tactic as an opportunity to learn more about your customers, and tweak your tactics based on your findings.” 3. You don’t have to do everything on your own. “There are experts ready to help you drive visits, build a loyal customer base, and ultimately increase sales in-store. You have plenty of tasks on your plate; bring in a partner to help you execute on your marketing strategy or, better yet, craft one for you.” CSN


Viewing C-stores Through a Pandemic Lens BY ANGELA HANSON

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

Shoppers have become more forgiving in some areas, but more discerning in others

SINCE THE BEGINNING of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. retail industry has seen thousands of job losses due to safety restrictions and massive shifts in consumer behavior. More than a year into the pandemic now, with initial responses to the crisis months in the past and vaccines rolling out across the country, how has the convenience store industry fared? An initial look at the 2021 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle Study, our annual benchmark study of U.S. c-store shoppers, paints a deceptively rosy picture. Consumers say they are still making regular trips to c-stores, with a majority of them doing so around the same rate as before the pandemic, and convenience store chains still receive good ratings on their speed, friendliness, cleanliness and general convenience. At the same time, however, examining the year-overyear numbers makes it clear that despite an overall solid performance, the c-store industry has seen notable declines in areas such as weekly shoppers, customer ratings on store attributes, and more. Do these numbers reflect the state of an industry that has taken significant hits but continues to do its best to serve its communities, or are they warning signs that c-stores are underperforming compared to their full potential? Should retailers be pleased that the channel is holding up as well as it is, or should they act now to correct course? Is the glass half full or half empty?

The answers to these questions may change depending on who is asking the question and how they view today's retail landscape, but the findings from our 12th annual Realities of the Aisle Study, which surveyed more than 1,500 c-store shoppers across the United States, provide some key insights on how retailers can better plan for an uncertain future.

Changing Shopper Habits Despite major shifts in their regular routines, consumers are still making a habit of visiting c-stores. Nearly two-thirds of the shoppers surveyed (65 percent) report visiting a c-store at least once per week, while one in five shoppers (20 percent) make daily visits. Among other store types, only grocery stores see a higher percentage of weekly shoppers, at 71 percent. Regular c-store customers trend younger as Generation Z, millennials and Generation X are more likely to be weekly or monthly shoppers than baby boomers or members of the mature/silent generation. The reliability of c-store customers is evident when comparing their current visit frequency to that of less-troubled times. Sixty-two percent say they shop at c-stores at "about the same" frequency as they did before the pandemic, with 14 percent saying they visit c-stores more often. Shoppers who have stepped up

Shopping Frequency by Store Type Shop once/week or more

Grocery store Mass/supercenter


shop at a convenience store once/week or more -10 POINTS YOY

Dollar Online stores Drug

Never shop

71% +1*

6% +2

59% -11

2% +1

47% -10

7% +5 14% +3

35% -8 31% -9

6% +2

Discount supermarket

25% -16 27% +11


20% -6 29% +8 16% -12

Specialty/natural store

37% +10

* Year over year comparisons AP RIL

20 21

Convenience Store News 37


their visit frequency are more likely to be younger, as 25 percent of Gen Z and 23 percent of millennials report doing so. Still, while it's good news that the majority of c-store customers still make weekly c-store visits, this year’s study results show that this figure has dropped 10 percentage points from 2020, when 75 percent of shoppers said they visited a c-store once a week or more. This is almost certainly due to consumers cutting back on shopping trips in general, as other competitive channels — including mass/supercenters, dollar stores, discount supermarkets and specialty/natural stores — have also seen a double-digit percentage point decline in weekly shoppers.

The percentage of shoppers who visit c-stores while traveling to or from work or school dropped significantly from 45% last year to 30% this year.

Shopping Frequency by Store Type Today vs. Pre-Pandemic MORE


Online store

The ebb and flow of foot traffic is also changing. These days, c-store trips increase throughout the day, peaking at 4 p.m. to 6:59 p.m., during which time millennials (47 percent) and Gen X (45 percent) are more likely to visit than baby boomers (36 percent). When asked what time(s) of day they typically visit a c-store, shoppers list multiple dayparts at lower rates than they did one year ago. Forty-two percent say they typically visit from 4 p.m. to 6:59 p.m., down from 49 percent in 2020. They are also

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












Grocery store




Discount supermarket




Convenience store








Specialty/natural store








Types of Convenience Store Visits DAILY



By this metric, c-stores are not performing worse than most competitor channels, and are likely being more successful at retaining regular customers than certain store types that have experienced both a decrease in weekly customers and an increase in the number of customers avoiding them entirely. For instance, the percentage of consumers who say they never visit discount supermarkets or specialty/natural stores rose 10 points and 11 points, respectively, compared to a year ago.








4% 12% 3%

Gasoline only -12 POINTS YOY





6% 3%

In-store only -14 POINTS YOY



Both * Year over year comparisons


7% 10% 4%





Time of Day When Typically Shop at Convenience Stores 42% 33%



24% 19%


6 a.m. to

9 a.m. to

11 a.m. to

2 p.m. to

4 p.m. to

7 p.m. to

10 p.m.

8:59 a.m.

10:59 a.m.

1:59 p.m.

3:59 p.m.

6:59 p.m.

9:59 p.m.

or later

less likely to list 6 a.m. to 8:59 a.m. (19 percent this year vs. 25 percent in 2020), 7 p.m. to 9:59 p.m. (24 percent vs. 34 percent in 2020), and 10 p.m. or later (10 percent vs. 15 percent in 2020). Lunchtime and the dayparts before and after lunch either saw no change or a slight increase.

Aspects That Influence a Visit to a Convenience Store 25%

Loyalty program


Gas price app


None of the above

When they do visit a c-store, 59 percent of shoppers do so while running other errands, while Coupon 45 percent will make a special trip from home. The percentage of shoppers who visit c-stores Word of mouth while traveling to or from work or school dropped significantly from 45 percent last year to 30 Availability of contactless shopping percent this year, almost certainly due to the pandemic altering their daily schedules.

20% 18% 15% 14%

Mobile app offer

On average, in-store-only customers are the most likely to shop once a week or more — at 65 percent, down from 77 percent in 2020. Fiftyfour percent of consumers in search of both in-store merchandise and fuel shop at least once a week, down from 68 percent in 2020. Fuel-only customers are in the middle when it comes to frequency, but saw the greatest year-over-year drop (18 percentage points), with 60 percent reporting that they visit at least once a week, down from 78 percent in 2020.

The Meaning of Convenience Over the last year, consumers have grown more forgiving when it comes to the overall in-store experience. The percentage of c-store shoppers who consider the “shopping experience” to be important or very important when they choose which stores or retailers to visit fell by 15 percentage points to 46 percent. Still,

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


Availability of drive-thru Availability of curbside pickup


Radio or TV ad


Mobile ordering


Social media promotion




Print circular


Text message Billboard

7% 6%

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retailers should strive to put their best foot forward as more than half of millennials and Gen Xers consider the shopping experience to be important. Additionally, 32 percent of overall c-store shoppers consider the experience to be moderately important, while just 21 percent consider it slightly important/not important. Consumers located in the Northeast and in the South are more likely to consider the shopping experience important. Conversely, men are more likely than women to say they consider the shopping experience unimportant or just slightly important. What makes for a positive shopping experience? The price of products remains the No. 1 factor, cited by 54 percent of c-store shoppers. Other top factors include products being in stock (cited by 45 percent), variety of products offered (28 percent) and store cleanliness (28 percent) — all obvious benefits to shoppers who are trying to get as much as possible out of every trip. Different demographic groups rank the various factors differently. For example: • Price of products matters more to Gen X (58 percent), baby boomers (61 percent) and mature/silents (62 percent) than it does to Gen Z (44 percent) or millennials (43 percent). • Quality of prepared food is more important to Gen Z (15 percent), millennials (18 percent) and Gen X (16 percent) than it is to baby boomers (6 percent) or mature/silents (6 percent), reflecting the growing interest in c-store food among younger generations. • More men than women rate general convenience (28 percent vs. 22 percent, respectively) and employee helpfulness (17 percent vs. 12 percent) as important, while women care more about loyalty programs (21 percent vs. 12 percent of men) and availability of contactless options (10 percent vs. 7 percent). • Gen Z (27 percent) cares about employee friendliness more than any other generation. • Millennials (22 percent) and Gen X (17 percent) are more likely to factor in a store's loyalty program than baby boomers (12 percent) or mature/silents (8 percent.) Consumers also want convenience, which today they define as a speedy, in-and-out trip (cited by 37 percent), as well as general ease of shopping (27 percent) and proximity to their home (16 percent). "I don't like long lines or having to go hunting for what I need," remarked one study participant. "If

Importance of "Experience" When Choosing Where to Shop

Very important/important 46%


Moderately important 32%


Slightly/not important 21%


* Year over year comparisons

Factors That Describe a Positive Shopping Experience 54%

Price of products


Products I need are in-stock Store cleanliness


Variety of products offered

28% 25%

General convenience


Employee friendliness Loyalty program


Speed of shopping trip


Employee helpfulness


Store organization

14% 12%

Quality of prepared food Fun to shop


Availability of contactless options


Store look/feel


Embraces cutting-edge tech


20 21


Convenience Store News



I ask an employee a question about a product, I expect them to be able to help me or know EXACTLY who can." Once they identify a store that meets their needs, c-store customers tend to stick with it. More than three-quarters of shoppers (77 percent) say they typically visit the same location every time, a three-point increase over last year.

Areas that shoppers feel could use improvement are price of products, embracing cuttingedge technology, and availability of contactless shopping options. When asked to rate their usual c-store on a variety of attributes, shoppers give general convenience the highest marks, with 69 percent rating their usual store as excellent or very good in this area. Other attributes for which c-stores are generally well regarded include speed of shopping (65 percent rate it excellent/very good), employee friendliness (62 percent) and store cleanliness (60 percent). Areas that shoppers feel could use improvement are price of products, embracing cutting-edge technology, and availability of contactless shopping options. Troublingly, customer ratings dropped across the board compared to one year ago, even in areas that still perform well overall. Looking at all the attributes that were rated in both 2020 and 2021, the percentage of shoppers who gave their usual store excellent or very good ratings fell, with nearly all attributes seeing a decline of at least 10 percentage points. The biggest ratings declines are in store organization (down 17 points year over year) and variety of products, fun to shop and price of products, all down 14 points year over year. While this is a significant drop, these attributes 44 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

saw only a small increase in growth among the lowest ratings (fair/poor). This suggests that while shoppers haven't developed a highly negative view of convenience stores, they do perceive that c-stores are not performing up to their full potential — perhaps to be expected during the ongoing pandemic.

What Motivates Shoppers to Visit Interestingly, when asked to identify particular elements that influenced their decision to visit a c-store, shoppers rated nearly all possible answers lower than they did in 2020. In fact, it seems that the pandemic has prompted consumers to feel less swayed in general, as the only answer that grew year over year was "none of the above" at 21 percent, up 7 points. Loyalty programs remain the top motivator to visit a c-store — cited by 25 percent of shoppers, but down 8 percentage points year over year. Gas price apps claim the No. 2 spot — cited by 22 percent of shoppers, the same percentage as last year. The biggest declines in influence are seen in word of mouth (18 percent this year vs. 31 percent in 2020), social media promotion (9 percent vs. 22 percent in 2020), and radio/TV ads (10 percent vs. 19 percent in 2020). Of the low-contact or no-contact options that have surged in availability since the beginning of the pandemic, 15 percent of shoppers say contactless shopping is a motivator, while 12 percent cite drive-thru and 11 percent cite availability of curbside pickup as motivators. When it comes to enticing fuel customers to enter the c-store, consumers again this year appear to be less swayable in general. When asked which elements influenced their decision to shop for in-store products during a recent c-store trip to purchase gasoline, "none of the above" was the top-selected response at 30 percent, up from 20 percent last year. The most influential elements for getting fuel customers to enter the store — which were all cited less frequently this year than they were in 2020 — are loyalty programs, mobile app promotions/deals, promotional signage, and banners/window signs. Nearly six in 10 c-store shoppers (59 percent) report using at least one of the expanded services available at c-stores today. However, this is another metric that has fallen since the start of the pandemic, as 68 percent of shoppers reported using at least one service a year ago. The most popular services are the ATM (29 percent usage, down from 42 percent in 2020) and the car wash (15 percent usage, down from 20 percent). Usage of contactless services has not yet become widespread. Fourteen percent of c-store shoppers report regularly using self-checkout, 12 percent regularly use mobile payment, 11 percent regularly use drive-thru, and 9 percent regularly use mobile ordering. These numbers may rise over the next year as retailers continue to invest in shopping alternatives. CSN

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Capitalize on the Rise of Contactless Shopping COVID-19 sparked increased demand for curbside pickup, delivery, contactless payment and other no-touch options By Tammy Mastroberte

WHEN THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC started in March 2020, the demand for contactless shopping experiences increased quickly throughout both the retail and restaurant industries. Consumers wanted access to merchandise and fresh food, and they wanted the ability to pay for it all without coming into contact with other people. Whether it was curbside pickup of items purchased online or by phone, delivery straight to a customer’s home or contactless payment, many retailers immediately responded to meet the increasing demand, including convenience stores.

In April 2020, Casey’s General Stores Inc., based in Ankeny, Iowa, and operating 2,193 c-stores in 16 states, announced the availability of contactless delivery for online, phone or app orders, as well as pay-ahead carryout for pizza orders. EG America added curbside pickup for pizza at its Cumberland Farms and Fastrac c-stores last fall, and hopes to expand it to more locations soon, David Heilbronner, director of brand strategy for the company operating 1,600 c-stores, told Convenience Store News. 7-Eleven Inc. expanded its roster of on-demand delivery partners in April 2020 to include third-party delivery platforms such as Postmates, DoorDash and Google. Then, in July, the company started offering at-store pickup options through its 7NOW app. This allows customers to browse and purchase items, and track when their order is ready for pickup. Another c-store chain, Alltown Fresh, owned and operated by Global Partners LP based in Waltham, Mass., launched four different contactless options

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

in May 2020, including curbside pickup and thirdparty delivery. “We know that now more than ever our guests want options, and we view contactless shopping as well as curbside and home delivery as important choices we can deliver our guests,” said Mark Cosenza, senior vice president of Global Partners, the operator of nearly 300 Alltown and Alltown Fresh convenience stores. “We’re also finding some of our guests want an ability to purchase groceries, meals and goods that they used to get at a bigger supermarket, but at a location closer to their home or work, and smaller in size.” Last year, Alltown “pivoted” and introduced curbside pickup, where customers could call ahead to order menu items such as bean-to-cup organic coffee, fresh smoothies, sandwiches, salads and traditional convenience items, and have them brought to the car, according to Cosenza. The retailer also started offering delivery through the third-party service Grubhub, and added fresh, healthy meals and meal kits that feed a minimum of four people as an option, as well as crates of fresh grocery from its Alltown Fresh locations. “We’ve put a lot of focus on listening to our guests and communicating with them,” Cosenza noted. “Our focus is on offering the goods and services and items they want, in the method they want them. It’s also important to provide options around how to complete the transaction, which is why we’ve focused on contactless payment, delivery and curbside pickup.” Ever since Amazon debuted its Amazon Go store concept, artificial intelligence (AI) powered shopping

and payment has been another contactless option growing in popularity. One company, Standard Cognition, is working with c-stores and other retailers to offer a completely contactless shopping experience through the use of AI-powered cameras in the store. This technology is being tested by Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. in its Circle K stores. “It offers the ability for a customer to walk into the store, grab what they want, and walk out,” said Standard Cognition CEO Jordan Fisher, explaining that from the retailer’s perspective, there is no downtime as the cameras simply need to be installed overhead in an existing store. “It uses cameras and an app, so there are no shelving units, which allows it to be easier and more cost-effective.”

Creating a Contactless Environment for Employees

Contactless Payment Options

While many convenience store retailers moved into high gear to make their stores contactless from the customer perspective, it has also been important to implement measures to offer a more contactless environment for employees as well.

While contactless payment options are not new, there has been a huge increase in demand and implementation of them since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many c-store operators and cross-channel retailers who had rollouts on the backburner moved up their timelines to get solutions implemented or expanded in their locations.

“Employees expect their employer to create and sustain a safe and healthy working environment,” said Amanda Nichols, senior manager of the retail, hospitality and foodservice practice at UKG, based in Lowell, Mass., and offering workforce management solutions. “Fail to do so and employees will look elsewhere for work.”

“We think COVID accelerated a trend that was already underway,” Cosenza explained. “We are pleased that we were positioned to speed up our strategy and related rollouts, and provide choices to our guests.” The latest State of Retail Payments study, conducted on behalf of the National Retail Federation every other year by Forrester, found that 67 percent of retailers surveyed now accept some form of no-touch payment. This includes 58 percent who accept contactless cards that can be waved past or tapped onto a reader — up from 40 percent last year. Additionally, 56 percent accept digital wallet payment on mobile phones, which is up from 44 percent. And from January 2020 to August 2020, no-touch payments increased among 69 percent of the retailers surveyed, while 19 percent reported no-touch accounted for more than half of their in-store transactions, according to the study. “Customer usage of contactless payment at Love’s has nearly doubled since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Ginny Webb, chief information officer and vice president of technology at Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc., based in Oklahoma City and operating more than 530 locations in 41 states. Love’s expanded its contactless payment options last year both in-store and on the forecourt. The retailer now accepts Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Pay; tap and go credit cards, such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover; and new smart terminals that combine with Love’s credit processing software to cut checkout time in half. “We also have our own app called Love’s Connect,

There are a variety of ways to make a convenience store contactless from the viewpoint of the employee. To reduce contact between one another, a high-touch area for employers to look at is the punch-in and punch-out system for shift changes. This can be moved to a mobile app, rather than a shared time clock, Nichols shared. She also noted that one of the most vital technologies for c-stores today is task management. “By digitizing checklists and tasks, not only does management have greater visibility to verify the accurate completion of these tasks and to standardize compliance across a chain, but you’ve also eliminated unnecessary contact between employees who might otherwise use a shared clipboard or notepad,” she explained.

which offers — among other features — Mobile Shower Check In, which allows customers to sign in and pay for showers as a contactless option,” Webb shared. “Love’s Connect has been very popular with commercial drivers, and our contactless ability on our gas dispensers has gained the most traction with our four-wheel customers.” Alltown also offers contactless payment through its Alltown Insider app both at the pump and in-store, and the ability for customers to pay via their car with a technology called PaybyCar will soon be available at all 30 Alltown locations in Massachusetts, Cosenza reported. “Many of our legacy sites accept Near Field Communication (NRC) as a touchless payment option, and we will have a new app that will be announced soon,” he said, explaining that PaybyCar will allow customers to pay for gas and other goods directly from their mobile


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Contact Don Longo to request your exclusive invitation. dlongo@ensembleiq.com


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device. “The technology will soon be available for other kinds of transactions, such as paying at convenience stores, car washes, drive-thrus, parking lots and restaurants, in 2021.” At EG, the company has expanded its use of PDI Payments through its SmartPay Rewards program to now encompass nearly 1,700 convenience stores across North America. While the program has been contactless since its inception eight years ago, the retailer began emphasizing the use of SmartPay Rewards in-store when the pandemic began last spring. “Guests will expect contactless payment, and we want to be able to accommodate them. In addition to convenience, during the pandemic, contactless payment offered a safe way for guests to pay,” Heilbronner noted. Another company that’s accelerated the rollout of contactless options is Exxon Mobil Corp., which began expanding its offerings in the fall of 2020. Contactless payment had been available at its locations since 1997, when Mobil introduced Speedpass as a keychain device for electronic payment. In 2015, the company released the Speedpass+ app, which was then updated to include rewards in 2019. The newest options introduced last year include NFC, QR codes, and voice technology. “While the advancements, such as QR codes and voice payment, were already in our planning pipeline, COVID-19 gave new significance to the value of contactless payment,” said Eric Carmichael, retail fuels sales and marketing manager for ExxonMobil. Customers can now pay using NFC or QR codes at more than 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations across the United States; they can “point and pay” using their smartphones, or tap or scan a QR code. This authorizes payment using Apple Pay, Google Pay or the Exxon Mobil Rewards+ app and selects the fuel grade, Carmichael noted. For those using the Exxon Mobil Rewards+ app, scanning intuitively opens the app for secure payment. The voice payment is powered by “Alexa, Pay for Gas,” which is available with a car’s Alexaenabled device, such as Echo Auto or the Alexa app. Using that voice command at an Exxon or Mobil location activates the pump and “payment is processed securely through Amazon Pay, with no additional sign-up or separate account required,” said Carmichael. “We’ve found that all options are popular to certain consumer segments at certain times, which is why we offer so many options,” he explained. “At first, [contactless] was primarily out of safety concerns, but now we believe consumers are additionally enjoying the simplicity of contactless payment. Quickly tapping and paying, instead of fumbling

ExxonMobil offers multiple forms of contactless payment, as the company has found that each option is popular with different consumer segments.

with wallets or credit cards at the pump or in our store, has busy consumers in and out faster.” The company also recently partnered with navigation app Waze to add yet another payment option for customers. The Waze app will automatically display a prompt for contactless payment through the Exxon Mobil Rewards+ app upon arrival at a participating station. “Waze is a leading navigation app for millions of drivers. Teaming up with a company that already has relationships with these drivers is just the latest move in ExxonMobil’s quest to keep drivers moving safely and easily through their day,” Carmichael said. “Anyone who already enjoys Waze’s traffic monitoring, route planning and real-time alerts can take advantage of the seamless integration with the Exxon Mobil Rewards+ app.”

Best Practices Revealed When trying to implement new contactless shopping or contactless payment options into a store, it all starts with proper planning and making sure the right tools and support are available prior to the rollout, according to Cosenza. “Good planning and investing in the right technology and IT support. It’s also important to set expectations, goals and benchmarks as a way to measure success,” he advised. For contactless payment in particular, giving consumers multiple options is key because there are a variety of ways to execute and each meets different needs, according to Carmichael. Once contactless payment options are available at a store, retailers must be sure to promote the offerings at both the pump and at payment terminals as a reminder to consumers. “Ensure station staff are educated on the payment terminals and how consumers can tap to pay or use [an app] for fuel,” Carmichael added. “Not everyone is an expert or frequent user, so a quick demo or instruction will go a long way.” CSN


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Getting Salty An unexpected pop of salty or savory flavors can provide the wow factor “WHEN IT RAINS, IT POURS” was the adage created by the Morton Salt company more than 100 years ago to advertise its products’ pourability even in wet, rainy weather. In this season of springtime showers, consider the role of salt, as well as its savory flavor, in less obvious applications.

After all, according to Datassential’s C-Store Foodservice Keynote report, 90 percent of convenience store consumers are either excited by food, or consider themselves outright “foodies.” An unexpected pop of salty or savory flavors in an indulgent dessert or drink items can provide that wow factor consumers are looking for.

Salt in Desserts Datassential’s MenuTrends database found that salt has grown 66 percent on dessert menus at American restaurants over the past four years. In upscale applications, a sprinkle of salt punches up panna cotta or boosts the flavor of chocolate mousse. It can also be as simple as adding sea salt to a chocolate chip cookie, like Blaze Pizza did with the introduction of its Chocolate Chip Cookie Sprinkled with Sea Salt several years ago.

Salted Caramel Salted caramel is a well-known flavor, according to Datassential’s FLAVOR database, with 91 percent of consumers knowing it. And sea salt caramel is trending in consumers’ minds, with rapidly increasing awareness and a 5 percent increase in consumers loving it compared to two years ago. These flavors apply readily to ice cream, shakes, doughnuts, cookies, and more. In fact, both Krispy Kreme’s Salted Double Caramel Crunch Doughnut limited-time offer (LTO) and Carvel’s Salted Caramel Soft Serve LTO were rated highly for consumer purchase intent and uniqueness, according to Datassential’s SCORES platform. Salted caramel is growing on beverage menus, too — in the form of lattes, hot chocolate, milkshakes, and even cold-brew coffee.

A Savory Twist Blaze Pizza’s dessert menu showcases another way to attract consumers: through unexpected savory elements. Its chocolate brownie is brushed with olive oil, making this classic dessert item even more indulgent and interesting. The usual surprise (to use an oxymoron) savory addition in desserts is bacon, but the possibilities are expanding, as menu data shows. Both olive oil and matcha have grown on dessert menus, and so has the term “spicy.” CSN

OPERATOR: Krispy Kreme DATE: November 2020 PRICE: $1.99 ITEM TYPE: Limited-Time Offer DESCRIPTION: A caramel glazed doughnut dipped in decadent caramel icing and topped with salted caramel crunch.



definitely or probably would buy

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excellent or good value for the dollar





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Datassential, a Chicago-based food and beverage industry research and consulting firm, brings clients real-world insights on flavor trends, foodservice and consumer packaged goods, globally. Learn more at datassential.com.

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


The Fight Over Flavors As more flavor-ban legislation arises, so does argument that these moves backfire By Renée M. Covino

by policymakers at all levels of government to ban flavored tobacco products are being met by equal opposition, as the latest battleground in the tobacco arena heats up.


In January 2021, a coalition of 23 attorneys general penned a letter urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ban menthol cigarettes. The attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin called on the agency to complete a rulemaking banning menthol cigarettes immediately. They cited that even though cigarette use has decreased over the years, menthol flavored cigarettes continue to attract and addict new smokers. New York is currently one of five states — along with Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and California — where state lawmakers have enacted tobacco flavor bans in some form. It is one of 10 states — along with California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island —

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where there are restrictions on flavored tobacco at the city and county levels. The New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) recently released a study conducted by Regional Economic Models Inc. that warns of the negative fiscal and economic consequences of banning flavored tobacco products in the state. Legislation has been introduced in the state’s Senate and Assembly that would bar New York’s 21,000 licensed tobacco outlets from selling flavored tobacco products to age-verified customers. A law that took effect last year already prohibits them from selling flavored vapor products. According to the study, the state would lose $3.4 billion in tax revenue over a 10-year period; tobacco retailers would lose more than $450 million a year in sales revenue; 1,200 jobs would be eliminated (mostly in retail); and the move would drive some flavored tobacco users to border states in an already-thriving black market. “As convenience stores struggle to keep the doors open to serve local communities, some elected officials want to further impair the economic viability of these essential small businesses,” stated NYACS President Jim Calvin. The senselessness is magnified “when such a ban would slash tax revenue by hundreds of millions of dollars a year, cause job losses, and intensify an already nation-leading illegal tobacco trade,” he added.


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Patrick Gleason, vice president of state affairs at Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington, D.C.based advocacy and policy research organization, couldn’t agree more with Calvin’s sentiments, citing Massachusetts’ flavored tobacco and vape ban as a “cautionary tale for the nation” in a recent Forbes article. He wrote that early results show such bans “deprive adults of less harmful alternatives to cigarettes, crush small businesses, depress tax collections as commerce shifts across state lines, and fail to curb smoking.” Gleason went on to explain that since June 1, 2020, when Massachusetts’ ban on flavored e-liquids and tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes, was put in place, “there is no indication that smoking has been mitigated, but there is evidence that Massachusetts has lost millions in tax revenue to neighboring states as consumers have taken their business to stores in New Hampshire and Rhode Island, where the flavored tobacco products demanded by many law-abiding adults are still available for sale.” The New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association (NECSEMA) reports that excise tax losses from menthol cigarettes continue to mount at a rate of more than $10 million per month since the legislation went into effect. “With every month that passes, the state’s ban on flavored tobacco becomes increasingly absurd,” said Jonathan Shaer, executive director of NECSEMA. “All anyone needs to do is look at the excise tax stamp numbers from June through November to understand how ineffective and ridiculous this ban is.”

Rhode Island and New Hampshire combined have sold 18.9 million more stamps than they did over the same period in 2019, while Massachusetts has sold 17.7 million fewer.

The Retailer Perspective Convenience store retailers not yet faced with flavor bans have an advantage, especially those with stores that border flavor-ban states. Family-run Energy North Group, based in Lawrence, Mass., which operates more than 65 c-stores throughout New England and New York, is one retailer in this position, and its 2021 tobacco forecast reflects the opportunity it sees. “The non-Massachusetts states that we market in do not seem to have an appetite to ban mint and menthol — and they were not part of the 23 attorneys general that passed similar legislation,” Jonathan Ketchum, Energy North Group’s vice president of retail, told Convenience Store News. “So, I believe we will continue to see smokeless thrive and an e-cigarette resurgence this year.” Based in Greenville, S.C., and operating 82 c-stores and 45 car washes throughout South Carolina, The Spinx Co. is not currently faced with any additional flavor bans other than the ones imposed on vapor that came out of the Trump administration. Chris Dillard, Spinx’s category manager for tobacco, reports a “very large percentage increase” in the new modern oral pouch segment, which has not been specifically addressed by the legislation in states where flavors are banned. “I definitely think the flavor bans are a component of [the huge pouch success], even for us,” he said, noting that savvy consumers know that pouch flavors are not in contention with any current legislation.

State lawmakers in five states — Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and California — have enacted tobacco flavor bans in some form.

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Flavored Tobacco vs. Marijuana In other states, c-store owners and their allies have argued on record that it is hypocritical for lawmakers to ban flavored tobacco products in the same year they allow for the recreational use of marijuana. They believe the same logic for bringing marijuana “above ground” — where it is tightly regulated with restrictions that allow access to only adults who choose it — should be applied to flavored tobacco, too.

The Current State of Flavored Tobacco “Those who support blanket prohibitions of popular substances are wishing on a star that somehow the substance will magically disappear,” wrote Art Way, a national drug policy advocate and former director of the Colorado Drug Policy Alliance, commenting on a MinnPost article regarding Minnesota’s recent bills on marijuana policy reform and tobacco harm reduction.

As part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA) of 2009, cigarettes with specific flavors, other than menthol, were prohibited in the United States. These are the states that have implemented additional sales restrictions on menthol cigarettes and/ or flavored non-cigarette tobacco products:

“Did alcohol and marijuana magically disappear during their prohibitions? The advocates of the [marijuana bill] know this, yet the advocates of the flavored tobacco bans are choosing to ignore this clear causality,” Way continued, noting that the support for both bills is “incredibly inconsistent.”

New Jersey: Prior to enactment of the TCA, New Jersey had already restricted the sale of flavored cigarettes, excluding menthol and clove flavors. In 2020, New Jersey enacted a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes, which went into effect last April.

Unintended consequences of these flavor wars could entirely undermine the bans, driving growth in aftermarket flavor production and sales, according to Brad Rodu, professor of medicine at the University of Louisville in Kentucky and senior scientist at its James Graham Brown Cancer Center. His research focuses on tobacco harm reduction. Citing examples, Rodu notes that various renowned scientists have published “easy-to-follow mentholation instructions” for making menthol cigarettes. He also calls attention to a number of YouTube videos that show how to make flavored tobacco products using essential oils and soda. To sum it up, the war against tobacco flavors will fail, Rodu asserts. “Imagine if during Prohibition, alcohol opponents had banned flavors only. Beer, wine and other flavored spirits would have been eliminated, leaving only pure alcohol on retail shelves,” he explained. “That policy would have been an abject failure, as would any similar ban on tobacco.” CSN


Massachusetts: In November 2019, Massachusetts became the first state to restrict the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes; this went into effect for e-cigarettes in 2019 and for all other products in June 2020.

New York: In May 2020, New York enacted a ban on the sale of flavored vapor products; the measure went into effect July 1. Rhode Island: Like New Jersey and New York, Rhode Island enacted a ban on the sale of flavored e-cigarettes; it went into effect in March 2020. California: In 2020, lawmakers approved a ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products, including flavored vaping cartridges, but a referendum by the tobacco industry put that on hold until 2022 when voters will be able to overturn or uphold the law.


Connecticut: Announced this February, Connecticut legislators are considering a full ban on flavored tobacco and electronic cigarette products, including menthol cigarettes. Maryland: Lawmakers are considering Senate Bill 177, legislation that would impose a ban on flavored tobacco and e-liquids. Kansas: This state is also considering a bill to ban flavored tobacco and e-liquids. Washington State: This state is likewise considering a bill to ban flavored tobacco and e-liquids.


As of February 2021, at least 300 localities in 10 states had passed restrictions on the sale of flavored tobacco products, with the laws differing in their application to specific products and store types, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. The 10 states are: California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. At least 120 of the 300 localities restrict the sale of menthol cigarettes, in addition to other flavored tobacco products.


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Embracing the Fourth Daypart Accelerated by the pandemic, snacking is a frequent daily occurrence and an even greater c-store industry opportunity By Renée M. Covino

were short on snack attacks before the COVID-19 pandemic; in fact, the snacking category was already on the rise prior to the pandemic. But now, the “fourth daypart” — as snacks have become known to convenience stores — is an even bigger focus, tightly woven into the altered fabric of consumers’ daily lives.


“The pandemic has accelerated snack food consumption, in large part [due] to the overnight shift in eating behavior, primarily at home, that occurred during the pandemic,” said Carlos Castelán, managing director of The Navio Group in Minneapolis, a retail and consumer goods business consulting firm. During the pandemic, it became clear that consumers turn to snacking to reduce stress and find comfort, he added. With consumer activities remaining close to home, meal occasions have become less ritualized than they once were, noted Linda Dupree, CEO of New York-

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based NCSolutions (NCS), which tracks advertising effectiveness in the CPG industry. “As many Americans juggle remote work, schooling or entertainment, and as the days blend together, grabbing a quick snack from the kitchen may be easier than preparing a full meal,” she said. “Additionally, snacking has become a way to relieve some of the pandemic boredom.”

Hyper-Snacking Frito-Lay’s latest U.S. Snack Index showed that more than 40 percent of Americans are snacking more than they did last year. “This increase in snacking is a result of the familiarity and comfort that Americans find in their favorite foods, which has a greater importance during a time of uncertainty,” Mike Del Pozzo, chief customer officer at Frito-Lay North America, based in Plano, Texas, told Convenience Store News. As consumer routines have changed, the dayparts are not as defined as before the pandemic, so the opportunity for snacking has become even more prevalent, echoed Alyssa Barrett, customer marketing manager, convenience, for the foodservice division at

Rich Products in Buffalo, N.Y. “A mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up, in between meals or even a late-night bite, are all occasions that c-store operators can leverage by offering snack items all day long,” she said. To promote all-day snacking, c-stores are running advertising at the pump, through apps and via loyalty programs, Barrett observed. “They’re creating bundled offerings to entice customers, like a free bakery item with the purchase of a cup of coffee,” she said. Virtually any food can be a snack, and snacking can occur at almost any time — it’s the all-day daypart, Datassential reported in its Snacking Keynote Report, which also revealed that 96 percent of consumers had at least one snack in the past day, with most averaging between three and four snack foods throughout the day. Snacking multiple times during the day corresponds with the shifting of mealtime occasions, with consumers replacing traditional meals with snacks; and enjoying “the meal-like attributes of snack offerings that have a focus on health and wellness,” according to Andrew Moberly, director of category solutions for Stamford, Conn.-based private-brand consultancy Daymon.

From Wow Factors to Now Factors According to experts, snacks with the most consumer appeal right now are: • Immunity boosting • Plant based • Fermented • Functional • Whole food based • High protein • Diet endorsed, such as gluten free, keto, paleo, vegan, etc. • Allergen free • Transparent, derived from clean ingredients or recognizable ingredients • Portion controlled • Safely packaged/individually wrapped • Portable • Hybrid, in both flavor combination (i.e., salty-sweet) and in form (cake cookies, muffin cake, dessert candy, etc.) • Premium decorated • Nostalgic

Healthier, With a Side of Immunity In the drugstore channel, a recent survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of CVS Pharmacy found that two-thirds of American adults (66 percent) are snacking at home more, and nearly three in five (59 percent) are choosing better-for-you snacks and meal solutions more often than they would have prior to the pandemic. More than two-thirds (70 percent) said they wished it were easier to find better-for-you food options while on the go. Experts believe a focus on healthier snacks could work well in the convenience channel, too, particularly when targeting the younger generations. “The GenZennial consumers snack upwards of four times a day, and they influence the trends that are influencing the snacking world,” noted Russell Barnett, managing director and chief marketing officer of My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream, based in Los Angeles. “They are looking for healthier options, which include products that are dairy free, gluten free, plant based, and do not contain GMOs. They are also looking for texture and play in a snackable moment.” Amy Shapiro, founder and director of Real Nutrition, a private practice in New York City dedicated to overall wellness, points out that today’s trends show that people are more interested now in their immunity and in staying healthy. “So, I think snacking will remain, but the focus will change, along with the frequency, as we start spending less time at home,” she told CSNews. In addition to an immunity-boosting focus, Shapiro advises c-store operators to follow the functional food, stress management and weight management trends when choosing snack-food items for their stores. “These items should be readily available to all income levels, especially now that the weight management category also extends to products targeted toward kids,” she said. “Studies show that obesity rates have risen further with the pandemic. It’s now more important than ever to make sure kids eat more fruits and vegetables as snacks and snack ingredients.” NCSolutions has taken note of the produce trend. Produce snacks increased 109 percent year over year since the pandemic began, and 138 percent year over year as of January 2021, according to NCS. In addition, fresh fruit and vegetables increased 28 percent and 22 percent year over year, respectively. “We’ve seen a craving for healthy snacks since the onset of the pandemic. For example, produce snacks are a smaller category in terms of sales, but the category has still seen tremendous growth in the past year,” stated Dupree. With 77 percent of consumers looking to lead a healthier life post-pandemic, interest for better-foryou snacks is here to stay, according to Daymon’s Moberly. He cited plant-based trends extending to shelf-stable snacks, with vegetables such as sweet


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potato, beets and kale blending with ingredients such as avocado or lentils to create new, healthier chip options in a variety of flavors including sea salt, cheddar, and spicy mixes. To sum it up, the rapid growth of health, wellness and lifestyle product preferences in the general food aisles are influencing snack innovation and category management, said Tim Whiting, vice president of marketing at Chicago-based Label Insight, which partners with retailers and suppliers to improve product information and transparency. “Leading food trends such as organic, plant based, gluten free and vegan have already found their way broadly into the snack aisle. Longer-tail, emerging trends related to dietary preferences or lifestyles are now also entering the snack aisle,” he added. Whiting encourages c-stores to capitalize on health, wellness and lifestyle trends by creating merchandising programs that focus on shopper need states. Additionally, c-stores need to “direct their consumers to these products” through e-commerce search and filter capabilities, as well as in-store shelf tag programs, he advised. “GoPuff is a wonderful example of a digital convenience store experience that provides a curated selection of health, wellness and lifestyle products through their ‘Better For You’ store.”

Nostalgic Indulgence On the other side of the health coin is the comfort food trend, which has seen many consumers continuing to indulge more heavily in comfort foods and nostalgic snacks — even a year after the pandemic first hit. People are looking for comfort from food, and many have resorted back to childhood favorites, according to Shapiro. NCS research shows that toaster pastries experienced a 17 percent year-over-year increase in sales, salty snacks a 15 percent increase, cookies 11 percent, snack cakes 11 percent, and chocolate candy 7 percent. Barrett at Rich Products sees opportunity in taking comfort foods to the next level, such as putting a spin on a classic doughnut with a unique topping, or offering cookie flavors that have a nostalgic flair like s’mores. At Otis Spunkmeyer, the company launched its firstever edible cookie dough earlier this year, made with its popular chocolate chip cookie dough. The product comes ready to eat and is available in a resealable pouch. “Chocolate chip cookies are our staple, so it’s important to offer consumers these kinds of classics that they grew up on, while introducing new diversions to the market,” said Daniele Bianchini, director of marketing for Otis Spunkmeyer, based in San Leandro, Calif.

Packaging Matters Packaging innovation is at the forefront of snacking trends, too, these days. Individually wrapped foods

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Health & Flavor Snack Trends Chicago-based Label Insight, which partners with retailers and suppliers to improve product information and transparency, recently released some specific snack trends centered on health and flavor, which convenience stores should consider: • Low-calorie and plant-based snack bars are growing in popularity. Snack bar searches for flavor profiles around “peanut ingredients/ flavors” and “vanilla ingredients/flavors” are also growing. • Easy-to-grab and -consume snack bars continue to trend high, with searches for healthier/cleaner options such as vegan and dairy free on the rise. • Protein bar options that qualify as “ketogenic,” “sport” or “raw” are steadily emerging. They have high consumer search volume, especially nutritional and post-workout bars, reported Tim Whiting, vice president of marketing at Label Insight. • Dried fruit like raisins, apricots and cranberries are trending in consumer searches, probably due to the high level of antioxidants they offer, said Whiting. • Veggie chips, veggie straws, kale chips and seaweed chips have shown good growth over the past two quarters, according to Label Insight data. • Beverages sweetened with sugar alternatives like stevia or monk fruit, or beverages that are free from all sweeteners, are worthy of c-store attention. High-sugar beverages are an area of concern for health-conscious shoppers.

are in higher demand now, driven by the coronavirus pandemic. “Sharing food is becoming less desirable, so taking extra precautions to ensure that germs aren’t being spread is important. Consumers will look to brands that make that shift, which is a core focus of ours,” Bianchini said, noting that over the last year, Otis Spunkmeyer and many other companies have shifted strategy as to how they package foods, increasing safety protocols to ensure that food is not being tampered with from production to on-shelf. Smaller packaging and snack-sized/bite-sized portions are also part of this movement. “Gone are the days when blowing out the candles on a birthday cake is normal,” Bianchini relayed. “I think we’ll see individually packaged desserts as a new way to celebrate moving forward, whether it’s an ooeygooey chocolate chip cookie, a fluffy blueberry muffin, or a loaf cake.” Barnett believes “packaging is the new fresh.” Singleserve packaging is the new norm for products that were once in loose containers or open-air vestibules, he said. Additionally, consumers want to purchase snacks from makers that care about their products’ impact on the environment and society, according to David Gray, CEO of GreenSeed Contract Packaging, a packaging provider based in Atlanta. “To appeal to today’s consumers, everything from the brand message to the logo and color of packaging must convey what makes them different,” Gray said.

“A mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up, in between meals or even a late-night bite, are all occasions that c-store operators can leverage by offering snack items all day long.” — Alyssa Barrett, Rich Products

Along the same lines, finding ways to go from the master case to the shelf with a minimum amount of packaging will continue to lead the way, said Jeff Canner, partner at CRG, a food and beverage consulting company based in Andover, Mass. Plastic alternatives are next in line, Canner told CSNews. “I think the alternatives still have a way to go in development, but we will soon see changes where the packaging can decompose at a faster rate of time,” he said. Especially for c-stores with limited space, snacking manufacturers must continue to find ways to reduce linear shelf space, while still getting the message across to the consumer, he continued. Labeling is another piece in the packaging evolution. Providing consumers access to comprehensive product information about the snacks they are purchasing is an important factor today, according to Whiting of Label Insight. “Oftentimes, this deeper product information is not practical to include on physical packages or displays, so digital labeling solutions accessible via mobile device are an excellent complement to physical packaging,” he relayed.

Next Up Snack ideas for the convenience channel are evolving quickly. One way for c-stores to continue winning business with customers that are not shopping as often is to surprise them with “larger packs of snacks a la Costco,” advised Castelán. In addition, he said ensuring that snacking options are available for customers who choose to order digitally, through services such as curbside pickup, will be critical. On both counts, Del Pozzo at Frito-Lay couldn’t agree more. “With more consumers shopping online or differently than they did before the pandemic, there is an opportunity to continue to look at ways to offer services that we are seeing with grocery stores, such as curbside, click and collect, or pure play e-commerce that offers delivery options to consumers’ homes,” he said. Regarding large pack sizes, Del Pozzo reported that Frito-Lay’s take-home/large bag business has “thrived in convenience stores” during the pandemic. He believes there is an opportunity for c-stores to come out of the pandemic with consumers looking to them for snack offerings and pack sizes they didn’t previously stock. Meanwhile, the most unique products Daymon is seeing are forms of private-brand portable charcuterie boards and on-the-go bento-style boxes, said Moberly. “These offerings include high-protein traditional and plant-based selections that offer a combination of fruits, cheeses and veggies, and offer a premiumization aspect to snacks that consumers will be looking for as they return to their on-the-go lifestyles,” he said. CSN


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ExxonMobil has been actively rolling out new mobile solutions to the motoring public.

A Seamless Strategy A c-store retailer's mobile plan should cover all bases: online ordering, payment and loyalty By Melissa Kress WITH THE INCREASING number

of smartphone users around the world, mobile devices have become almost another body part for consumers. Statista, a global market and consumer data firm, puts the number of smartphone users worldwide at roughly 3.5 billion in 2020 — an increase from 1 billion in 2016. Data presented at various retail technology conferences and webcasts indicates that nearly all members of Generation Z have a smartphone, and millennials are not far behind. So, what does that mean for convenience store retailers? Essentially, it means that if a retailer doesn't have a mobile strategy — or is not formulating one now — they are more than likely losing customers to their competition. In general, a mobile strategy can cover everything from marketing and social media to loyalty programs, ordering and payment. In the past 12 months, it's become even more critical for retailers to meet consumers where they live — on their smartphones. As COVID-19 hit the United States, convenience retailers of all sizes began offering value-added services such as online ordering, delivery, and curbside pickup. This would have been nearly impossible — if not, impossible — to do without a mobile strategy. "I think it's critically important for a retailer to engage with their guests on mobile and have a clear strategy on how they are going to do

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

it," said Jeff Hoover, data insights strategist for convenience store brands at Newton, Mass.-based Paytronix Inc. "The mobile device has emerged as the key touchpoint for most customers, especially in the last year. Customers are simply used to interacting with the world through their phones."

Mobile 101 & Beyond For retailers wondering where to begin, Hoover suggests they first look at their website. "At minimum, you should have a mobile-optimized website since that's where most customers will be interacting with your brand,” he advised. “Ideally, you would focus on a mobile app, but this can be a much larger investment, although there are many good white-label app providers out there today that can at least get you in the game." SMS should be considered as well, though text can be much more effective as another messaging layer to mobile apps and push/pull communication capabilities, noted Hoover. Retailers also should beware of the pitfalls of a less-than-ideal mobile experience. "A poorly designed mobile app could be worse than not having one at all, so make sure you find a good partner to match your budget," Hoover said. "This list is endless, but a good mobile development partner will be able to help you think through all the pitfalls." With mobile, retailers can cover many bases —

from online ordering to payment to rewards — and moving beyond the basics can score points with consumers. "People include things like mobile payment, the ability to order ahead, curbside delivery, the ability to use the mobile phone to pay at the pump or at the car wash," said Punchh CEO Shyam Rao. "To me, this is just table stakes. What drives the next level of differentiation is how the brand voice translates to the personalization that consumers experience through the data you collect once you create a basic infrastructure." Punchh, a San Mateo, Calif.-based technology company is a loyalty, offers and engagement platform that originally launched in the restaurant vertical and then saw the opportunity to enter the convenience channel in 2020. Casey's General Stores Inc. was the first retailer in the convenience industry to sign onto the platform. Punchh now works with Good2Go, Huck's, MacEwen and RaceTrac as well. "Punchh's capabilities have contributed to Casey's growing its loyalty membership to over three million in our first year, as well as consistent increases in reward redemption," Art Sebastian, Casey's vice president of digital experience, stated in a release. "Punchh seamlessly integrates with our point of sale, fuel pump system, commerce platform and messaging hub, allowing us access to critical customer data across all of our in-person and online touchpoints. With this data, we are able to elevate all areas of our business — pizza, grocery and fuel — to deliver a more meaningful experience for our guests across our over 2,200 stores." Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey's has been on fire when it comes to ramping up its digital presence, something that’s a key piece of the strategic plan it embarked on in early 2020. For the retailer, the investment in digital and mobile is paying off, according to President and CEO Darren Rebelez. "The improvements we've made to our digital guest engagement capabilities should enable us to retain guests that were drawn to our whole pizza pie business," Rebelez noted during the company's third-quarter fiscal 2021 earnings call on March 9. "We will also be ready to deploy effective promotions through our rewards program to drive business when regular commuter traffic returns from work and school."

As part of its mission to reinvent the guest experience, the retailer launched its first loyalty program, Casey's Rewards, in January 2020. Today, there are more than 3 million members. "Our Casey's Rewards program just celebrated its oneyear anniversary. The program is very popular with our guests and we now exceed 3.3 million members," Rebelez said. "We've recently completed customized promotional campaigns to targeted cohorts based on their purchasing history. We're excited for what the future holds for this effective digital guest engagement, and we're confident we can have an impact on guest behavior moving forward."

From Discounts to Retention Zeroing in on keeping loyalty members, and not just building the ranks, is important. "Modern loyalty is no longer about points and discounts. That ship has sailed and is antiquated," Rao said. To that end, Punchh focuses on customer lifecycle loyalty — converting people from that first anonymous transaction all the way through to making them super fans. "If you have 10 million consumers, you need to have 10 million loyalty programs today. They need to be personalized," Rao stressed. He believes what consumers want from the brands they interact with can be drilled down to three very clear things: • Consumers want convenience, value and during COVID, they want safety; • Consumers want personalized experiences; and • Consumers want the same experience no matter the touchpoint. "The advantage marketplaces like DoorDash or Amazon have is that they thought through these issues very well. The challenge for retailers is they really need to replicate those consumer experiences that marketplaces provide through their owned channels," he noted. "If you are transacting through Casey's website or Casey's mobile app, it needs to be on par or better than the Amazon experience." From a loyalty perspective, Paytronix has found that the most valuable and frequently visiting guests engage at a much higher rate with mobile. It is also where retailers can interact with customers in a more dynamic and personalized manner that allows for targeted, profitenhancing messaging and offers that don't subsidize existing behavior, according to Hoover. "You could target customers at the pump with a personalized offer via push from a mobile app that would take into account their purchase history. This can only be possible when you have a clear mobile strategy," he said.

The Consumer Experience When it comes to getting its brand message across to consumers, Spring, Texas-based ExxonMobil embraces the importance of mobile and directs its focus toward its integrated loyalty program and payment app, Exxon


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Mobil Rewards+. Through this app, customers can fuel up from the driver's seat, earn rewards, track their rewards, and redeem their rewards.

Not Just for Large Chains

More mobile initiatives are on the agenda, according to the company. While executives declined to share details, they did tell Convenience Store News that the timeline spans from quick-turn incentive offers to longer-term experience updates.

Punchh works with major chains in both the convenience and restaurant industries and admittedly, Rao said they more likely have the infrastructure in place to launch a full-out mobile attack. That doesn't mean, however, that small operators have to sit on the sidelines.

ExxonMobil has been actively rolling out new mobile solutions to the motoring public. For example, late last summer, it brought “Alexa, Pay for Gas” to more than 11,500 Exxon and Mobil locations, along with Apple Pay and Google Pay. "As leading innovators in the category, we aim to deliver solutions aligned with our consumers’ needs and preferences. Our focus is predominately on the consumer experience, which includes their mobile payment usage," the company told CSNews. "We want to meet our consumers where they already are, using what they are already familiar with. So, if a different industry is using methods that our customers find convenient and safe, then we do consider how it could translate to us," ExxonMobil executives added. That being said, the motoring public is not the only focal point for ExxonMobil. The company also considers its employees and branded wholesalers when thinking mobile. For example, its EMconnect app communicates directly to team members working at Exxon and Mobil branded retail sites. The app provides current, relevant information on promotions, training, marketing programs, and site experience expectations. Casey's digital guest engagement capabilities give the retailer access to critical customer data across all of its in-person and online touchpoints.

Of the 150,274 convenience stores operating in the United States, 61.4 percent are single-store operators, who have differing means than the industry’s large chains.

"Unfortunately, crawl, walk, run has just suppressed with COVID. Before you could have started with the in-store piece, launched a mobile app in steps, or had a robust digital piece. Today, it's about being able to do this quickly and all together. That's where we specialize," he said. There are several steps single-store owners and small operators (those with 20 stores or less) can take rather quickly: work with technology players to launch a website; partner with marketplaces; and implement or invest in an in-store infrastructure that supports integration with technology platforms. "It's definitely challenging for single-unit operators because scale allows you to afford solutions like ours, but there are solutions that give you a one-stop-shop digital experience," Rao explained, pointing to the Square point-of-sale system that doesn't work at the gas pump, but does integrate loyalty in-store. "Once you have a little bit of scale, let's say even 15 locations, then it's about having a robust mobile and consumer engagement strategy. You have the ability to work with vendors to create integrated commerce — the ability to order ahead, pick up at the store or get it delivered, redeem offers, pay and earn loyalty from one seamless scan of the mobile app," he said. "With a bit of scale, you can create a very robust consumer engagement strategy that mirrors the Amazon experience. That's what will win the hearts and minds of consumers in the long run."

In a Word: Seamless Convenience store retailers need only look at what else consumers are doing on their smartphones and other mobile devices to know how important the right mobile strategy is. "Today's consumers are using Instagram. They are on Uber. If they can't get those seamless, easy experiences from brands, they will actually shift their shopping behavior," said Rao. And while some shopping behaviors will return to postCOVID patterns, others are here to stay. "People are social animals and it will go back to normal at some point, but some of the convenience elements of digital I don't believe are going to go away," he predicts. "Curbside is awesome. Delivery is very convenient. Having an integrated experience is not going to go away. But people will go back the store experience; that's not going to diminish in value." CSN


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Making a Difference Together Couche-Tard is moving in many ways toward a more inclusive and diverse culture By Linda Lisanti NOW IN ITS EIGHTH YEAR, the Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards program has recognized more than 300 of the best and brightest women making a positive impact on not only the companies they work for, but also the entire convenience retail channel.

TWIC is the only program that recognizes exceptional female leaders, rising stars and mentors among retailer, supplier and distributor firms in the convenience store industry, from the C-suite to the store level to the independent entrepreneur.

inclusion (D&I) within the workplace. Couche-Tard became the first c-store retailer to join the initiative. To go along with this pledge, the retailer launched an internal global campaign, titled “Together we make a difference,” where all employees had an opportunity to join Hannasch and make their own personal “I ACT On” pledge. Couche-Tard also recently marked the two-year anniversary of the formation of its ACT Women’s Council, a business resource group with the mission of creating winning conditions for women within the corporation. The Women’s Council is part of the board of directors’ commitment to diversity and inclusion, and to taking measurable actions that promote a workplace where a broad spectrum of perspectives and experiences are welcomed and respected. CSNews recently chatted with Elisa Goria, advisor to Couche-Tard’s D&I Executive Committee and a 2017 TWIC Woman of the Year, about the retailer’s ongoing work in diversity and inclusion.

Couche-Tard was the first c-store retailer to join the CEO Action Pledge initiative.

CSNEWS: Why, as an organization, does Alimentation Couche-Tard feel it is important to improve diversity and inclusion? GORIA: Our people are our foundation, creating a culture where everyone is valued and can bring their whole authentic self to work every day. This makes for more engaged teams and allows us to maximize our internal talent’s potential. Our inclusive culture brings various perspectives, driving innovation and increasing better decisions that move the business forward and strengthen our growth.

In our TWIC Trailblazers quarterly feature, we spotlight a c-store industry retailer, supplier or distributor company that is leading the way in championing gender parity. This month’s subject is Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (ACT), the parent company of Circle K convenience stores. Last March, Laval, Quebec-based CoucheTard announced that its President and CEO Brian Hannasch had joined the CEO Action Pledge, a coalition of CEOs committed to advancing diversity and

We are proud of the significant progress we have made on our journey. We stay committed to leveraging our people’s voices and continue to make a meaningful impact on our global workforce to become a more diverse and inclusive workplace. CSNEWS: What drove the creation of the Women’s Council? What is the group’s ultimate goal? What kinds of programs and activities does the Council organize? GORIA: Following the November 2018


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The ACT Women’s Council helped launch a global campaign, “Together, we make a difference,” that celebrates the diversity in the company’s culture.

adoption of the board of directors’ diversity policy, the company formed the ACT Women’s Council, the first diversity business resource group (BRG). Since its inception, the ACT Women’s Council has worked hard to engage, educate and empower to create winning conditions for women at ACT. The council consists of both women and men from all organization levels representing our diverse geography across our global network. Their work to identify and eliminate biases by developing internal training programs in conscious inclusion paved the way for a broader agenda within diversity and inclusion. With over 60 percent of our workforce female, but only 20-30 percent of females in senior leadership roles, we recognized the need to create a program within the organization that professionally develops women through mentors, sponsors and educational opportunities to help advance their careers, prepare for future leadership positions, and strengthen our business and better serve our customers. Today, the ACT Women’s Council has grown throughout the globe — we’ve successfully expanded the network within the organization as individual Business Units have created individual Women’s Council Chapters. Annually, the company recognizes top women within the organization and provides a leadership workshop, which consists of a collaborative discussion of their ideas, while sharing experiences through their personal stories. CSNEWS: Please share recent achievements and highlights of the work being done by the Women’s Council. GORIA: In 2019, the Women’s Council was named the global winner of ACT’s Sustainability Award for their work to promote inclusivity and reduce biases.

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

As we continue our efforts toward a more inclusive and diverse culture, we know this can be achieved with open hearts and minds. In the spring of 2020, our CEO, Brian Hannasch, signed the CEO Action Pledge, making ACT the first convenience store to participate in the worldwide pledge. The Women’s Council reinforced this commitment as they kicked off our annual global campaign, “Together, we make a difference,” which highlights International Women’s Day and celebrates the diversity in our culture. In the summer of 2020, the Women’s Council introduced an educational pillar: a companywide initiative on Unconscious Bias Training. This training was designed to increase understanding and ensure training occurs to provide team members with the tools and resources to adjust automatic thinking patterns that lead to discriminatory behaviors. This year, as we proudly celebrated International Women’s Day, we shared a series of inspirational stories and highlights from our amazing women who have transformed not only the company, but also our industry — our very own ACT Trailblazer Women. Please share recent achievements and highlights of the work being done by CoucheTard to further diversity and inclusion. GORIA: Over the last year, with the support of the Women’s Council, we paved the way for the formation of five new business resource groups: Race; Culture & Ethnicity; Disability; Inclusion; and LGBTQ+. We have appointed executive sponsors for each BRG, as well as an executive CSNEWS:

D&I Council for overarching leadership. When social unrest broke out in the U.S. and the rest of the world, being one of the founding members and co-chairs of the Women’s Council, I accepted the challenge from Ina Strand, our Chief People Officer, to help support other business resource groups. We are looking to these BRGs to help make us a more inclusive company, and ask them to hold leadership accountable for our commitment to meaningful action. The BRGs quickly acted, engaging in courageous conversations through focus groups and pulse surveys, looking to gain insight and understand any potential barriers. Based on that feedback, we increased our training and development efforts for underrepresented groups and doubled our [number of] NACS Leadership Program participants. We have increased our courageous conversations through Diversity & Inclusion Town Halls, where team members across the globe can watch and listen in to gain insight into the company’s commitment to strengthen the culture. Proudly, we have increased our executive leadership team to over 30 percent women. We reached our goal to [have] 40 percent of women in market manager positions in our operations team, and with the support of the executive team’s commitment, we are developing plans for all parts of the business by this summer. Does Couche-Tard have any other new initiatives planned for 2021 or beyond around diversity and inclusion? GORIA: We recently introduced REAL Talk, a combination of sharing personal stories and hosting courageous conversations across our global networks. We have created a D&I activation calendar for the year spotlighting specific business resource groups.

Convenience Store News is pleased to continue this series of educational columns by the Network of Executive Women (NEW), coinciding with the annual CSNews Top Women in Convenience awards given out each fall. Fifty-two female managers, executives and directors who work in the convenience store industry were honored in our 2020 program. In addition to being a presentation sponsor for the Top Women in Convenience program, NEW and CSNews have partnered to develop this series of columns directed at helping corporate leaders drive more inclusive company cultures. 2021 SPONSORS Founding & Presenting Sponsor:

Platinum Sponsor:


Gold Sponsors:

Currently, our Learning Development Team is producing a global launch of a comprehensive mentoring program that will deploy later this year, and we continue to have collaborative discussions with NACS to strengthen our industry by making an impact beyond ACT. As we continue our efforts toward a more inclusive and diverse culture, we know this can be achieved with open hearts and minds. We are listening, learning, and will continue to engage in making a meaningful impact. CSN

Silver Sponsors:


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Freedom of Expression Anabi Oil debuts a new standard for its Rebel c-store brand, for now and in the future By Danielle Romano

At a Glance Rebel Location: 630 W. Bonita Ave., San Dimas, Calif. Size: 4,000 square feet Unique features: A modern and inviting store concept highlighting new Rebel brand standards; madeto-order pizza and taco bars; Rebel private-label products; a Rebel-branded mobile app tied into a rewards program; mobile checkout; delivery; Amazon Lockers

to the convenience channel. The family-owned and -operated company opened its first convenience store/gas station in 1991 in Baldwin Park, Calif. Over the course of three decades, the retailer has grown to more than 400 sites across the country, with several locations throughout the state of California.


In 2015, Anabi Oil acquired the Rebel brand, a Las Vegas-based operator of 60 c-stores, which created a natural extension of the company’s operating footprint. Fast forward roughly five years and Anabi Oil is now showcasing a new side of Rebel with a fresh store concept. The new Rebel store prototype made its debut with the opening of a San Dimas, Calif., location. The 4,000-square-foot store introduces new brand standards while remaining community centered, value oriented and, most importantly, steadfast in serving its customers just as they are, no more, no less, Anabi Oil Vice President Rene Anabi told Convenience Store News. “We didn’t set out to create just another convenience store when we built the San Dimas Rebel,” she said. “The name Rebel fulfills our mission in that we embody spontaneity, growth and the freedom to express your true self. This is what we are committed to doing in all of the

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

communities we serve.”

New Look, New Offers As a member of the San Dimas community for more than 25 years, Anabi Oil made the decision to first introduce the new Rebel brand in this city because the location fit the bill for the company’s expansion plans for the brand in the state of California. Anabi Oil worked with design firm Paragon Solutions to come up with a modern and inviting store concept that showcases the retailer’s fresh food offers. Among the highlights are: • Made-to-order pizza and taco bars; • Better-for-you products with a dedicated organic aisle; • A full coffee bar that includes cold brew and nitro cold brew on draft, as well as made-to-go drip hot and iced coffee; • Customizable made-to-order milkshakes in more than 10 flavors; • A craft beer fridge stocked with products from local breweries; • A walk-in fridge with high-end wines, champagnes and cases of beer; and • Rebel private-label products. As part of the new Rebel brand standards, Anabi Oil will introduce a mobile app, as well as a rewards program. From the Rebel-branded mobile app, customers

will be able to locate stores, place mobile orders for pickup or delivery, and receive Rebel Rewards deals and notifications. The company is also working on a suggestions page that the merchandising team can monitor for item requests by customers. The Rebel Rewards program will be points-based and enable members to earn points for every $1 spent in-store or through the Rebel mobile app. In addition to these offers, the San Dimas Rebel store offers a myriad of amenities, including: • A car wash; • Indoor and outdoor seating; • Mobile checkout, including Apple Pay; • Delivery via Postmates, Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats; • Shell fuel with contactless fueling via the Shell FRN application; • Full-service gas days; • Amazon Lockers; and • EV charging stations.

“Our long-term goal is to become a one-stop shop for the communities we serve with conveniently located stores, better-for-you options, and fresh foods made to order.” — Rene Anabi, Anabi Oil “Our long-term goal is to become a one-stop shop for the communities we serve with conveniently located stores, better-for-you options, and fresh foods made to order,” Anabi said. The retailer plans to remodel all of its Las Vegas locations to reflect the new store prototype. Additionally, Anabi Oil anticipates rebranding 22 of its existing locations in California to the new Rebel brand by the second quarter of 2021. A second Golden State store featuring the new brand standards is already open in San Bernardino, Calif. “The customer response has been great so far!” Anabi told CSNews, adding that Anabi Oil also expects to expand via acquisitions and by way of new builds in the future. CSN

The mission of Rebel is to embody spontaneity, growth and the freedom to express your true self.


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Refrigeration Services

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ADINDEX Altria Group Distribution...2

Liggett Vector Brands........51

American Cancer Society....................................24

Living Essentials LLC..........19

Wholesale Refrigeration

McLane Company................ Back Cover BIC USA Inc...........................10–11 Mondelez International.......22 CB Distributors Inc..............5 Premier Manufacturing.......39 Flair Products....................... Front Cover Forte Products......................45

Swedish Match North Amer. LLC.............................. 9, 29, 35, 41

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health Care............................7, 31

Swisher International Inc................... 14–15, 33, 53

Hemp Fusion, Inc.................13

The Hershey Company.......26–27

Imageworks Display & Marketing Group..................21

Uline........................................45 Universal Merchants............ Outsert

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Luring Fuel Customers Into the Store Since the onset of the pandemic, fewer c-store shoppers are making the transition Last February, before COVID-19 began spreading rapidly across the United States, 46 percent of convenience store shoppers said they purchased in-store merchandise and/or foodservice every time or almost every time they stopped for fuel at a c-store. Fast forward a year, and that number has dropped to 33 percent, a decline of 13 percentage points, according to the findings of the 2021 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle Study, which surveyed 1,500-plus consumers who shop a c-store at least once a month. Other key insights from the study include:

How often do you purchase any in-store merchandise and/or foodservice when you stop for fuel at a convenience store? Despite a year-over-year negative impact due to the pandemic, only 16% percent of shoppers


say they rarely or never buy any in-store mer-

Every time

chandise and/or foodservice when fueling up.


Almost every time



Some of the time





Generation X:



Which of the following had some influence on your decision to shop for in-store products during a recent trip to purchase fuel at a convenience store? Loyalty programs, mobile deals and promotional signage rank the highest in terms of encouraging trips into the store. 30%

None of the above


Frequent buyer/loyalty programs

19% 19%

Mobile app promotions/deals Promotional signage


Banners/window signs


Ability to order at the pump


Nozzle display ads


Car wash promotions

12% 12% 12%

Ability to order by mobile Video displays on pump Pump toppers


Coupons dispensed at pump Audio feed with messages Other

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

8% 7%

Total Shoppers:





of shoppers were not influenced by any of the marketing elements presented —

a rise of 10 points year over year. C-store shoppers in the South appear



to be the most impenetrable, with

selecting none of the above, vs. 23% in the Northeast.

Caetlyn Roberts Giant Food

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Advancing all women. It’s just good business.

Introducing McLANE cLANE EDGE M L f

M L EDGE is a fresh, innovative approach to delivering the latest planograms, services, promotions, category trends, new products, and more. Its valuable information can help grow your business in a fast-paced, constantly changing retail environment. Plus, customers can order special offers and featured items directly off the site! This engaging, easy-to-navigate online solution contains: • Featured Items • Special Offers • Planograms • Resources • Services • News T



• Foodservice Programs • Category Information • And more!


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