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W H AT ’ S N E X T I N C O N V E N I E N C E A N D F U E L R E TA I L I N G

A BORN

LEADER Retailer Executive of the Year Joe Sheetz embraces his responsibility to the family business and the convenience store industry.

MEET THE FUTURE LEADERS IN CONVENIENCE

NOVEMBER 2018 CSNEWS.COM


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VIEWPOINT

Experiencing Convenience The 2018 NACS Show revealed an evolving industry powered by new products, new consumer demands and tastes, and new technologies AT THE ANNUAL NACS SHOW, held last month in Las Vegas, our team of editors not only got the opportunity to talk to retailers and suppliers about their respective businesses, but we also heard from scores of experts on the most impactful trends shaping the future of this industry.

A few of the key trends that we uncovered: • New products are still paramount for driving business. A record number of scans were recorded in the show’s Cool New Products Preview Room. Hussmann Corp.’s Pastry Case with Warmer and Kellogg’s joyböl Smoothie Bowl with Rice Krispies were the top two new products scanned. • Changes are coming, as the definition of convenience shifts from a physical store to a concept of convenience as an experience. However, this is not the first time the channel has experienced change, according to Kim James, senior director, Global Center of Excellence, Merchandising and Marketing at Circle K. She pointed out that in the past, change centered on product innovation, but today it’s all about the evolving customer experience. • C-store operators that have successfully built foodservice programs must continue to innovate. Consumers are interested in functional foods and care about the

positive aspects of food, rather than what negative aspects they want to avoid, said Mark DiDomenico, director of client solutions at Datassential. Today, this includes protein, antioxidants and “superfoods.” Local is also a key food trend. Steven Turner, director of food programs at RaceTrac Petroleum, said his company has begun looking at locally-sourced vegetables and free-range chicken as functional food ingredients. • Technology and marketing are linked like never before. Speaking at Convenience Store News’ Technology Leadership Roundtable & Awards Dinner, Rutter’s CEO Scott Hartman said consumer-facing technology should be the main focus of a retailer’s technology development. There was also a lot of talk about Amazon’s brick-and-mortar moves. Hartman, for one, is skeptical of Amazon’s plans to open thousands of Amazon Go stores, but he embraced the company’s “just walk out” technology. “Amazon might be better off licensing the technology instead of going all in on their brick-and-mortar concept,” he said. (Although, we did hear buzz at the show that Amazon is currently recruiting for a c-store operations executive.) For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director, at (201) 855-7606 or dlongo@ensembleiq.com.

EDITORIAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS (2013-2018)

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

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD

2018 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Website Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2017 Business to Business, Editorial Use of Data, June 2017 2017 Eddie Awards, Folio: magazine Winner, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, May 2017 Honorable Mention, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, June 2016 2016 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2015 Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, August 2015 2015 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2014

Brett Atherton Bolla Management

Vito Maurici McLane Co. Inc.

Jon Bratta Core-Mark International Inc.

Jack Lewis GPM Midwest

Rick Crawford Green Valley Grocery Edward Davidson ER Davidson & Associates (7-Eleven Inc., retired)

Danielle Mattiussi Maverik Inc. Richard Mione GPM Southeast Jonathan Polonsky Plaid Pantries Inc. Greg Scriver Kwik Trip Inc.

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

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

Jim Hachtel Eby-Brown Co.

Roy Strasburger Strasburger Retail

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

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

Ray Johnson Speedee Mart

Frank White Yesway

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

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

2016 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Silver, Front Cover Illustration, June 2015


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CONTENTS NOV 18

VO LU M E 54 N UMB ER 11

86 30

34 FEATURES

DEPARTMENTS

COVER STORY

VIEWPOINT

STORE SPOTLIGHT

34 A Born Leader Retailer Executive of the Year Joe Sheetz embraces his responsibility to the family business and the convenience store industry.

4 Experiencing Convenience The 2018 NACS Show revealed an evolving industry powered by new products, new consumer demands and tastes, and new tetchnologies.

86 An Express Lane to the Future New TA Express sites fill the need for smaller travel centers on secondary highways.

42 Convenience’s Next Generation of Leaders Eight up-and-coming young professionals comprise the inaugural class of Convenience Store News Future Leaders in Convenience.

NEW HORIZONS

10 CSNews Online OUT & ABOUT

56 Small, Bold & Better-for-You Carry the Day Convenience Store News’ 22nd annual Best New Products Awards recognize 27 new-to-market items that best meet consumers’ evolving needs. 76 On the Move More consolidation and increased foodservice sales headline a strong year for the nation’s top convenience distributors. 82 It’s All About Customer Experience The 2018 NACS Show drove home the importance of delivering a compelling shopping experience.

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

24 A Duo of Debuts McLane Co.’s 2018 National Trade Show introduced new technology and foodservice offerings. 26 New Products SMALL OPERATOR

30 Turning Adversity Into Opportunity Shree’s Truck Stop celebrates generosity and provides professional drivers and commuters a unique experience on the Washington interstate.

88 Advancing All Women White women and women of color have different workplace experiences — a single approach doesn’t fit all. GETTING TO THE CORE

102 Does Displaying Calories Change Purchase Behaviors? A menu simulation finds one gender does buy differently when faced with calorie counts.


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CONTENTS NOV 18

VO LU M E 54 N UMB ER 11

8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631 (773) 992-4450 Fax: (773) 992-4455 www.csnews.com Direct Mailing Address for Convenience Store News: 11-43 Raymond Plaza West, 16th floor, Newark, NJ 07102 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

14 INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Senior News Editor (201) 855-7618

16 Fast Facts 16 Ricker’s Opts to Sell

CATEGORY MANAGEMENT

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

68 What’s Hot on C-store Menus? Holiday’s Asiago Breakfast Bagel Sandwich hits the mark with consumers in quality and price.

Associate Brand Director & Northeast Sales Manager (508) 385-2524

Rachel McGaffigan rmcgaffigan@ensembleiq.com

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

Ron Lowy rlowy@ensembleiq.com

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

TOBACCO

18 Retailer Tidbits 20 Supplier Tidbits

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

22 Legislative Corner

Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com

Associate Managing Editor (201) 855-7604

70 Strategically Speaking Exclusive brands, loyalty programs are helping c-store retailers gain an edge in tobacco.

18 Eye on Growth

Melissa Kress mkress@ensembleiq.com

Associate Editor (201) 855-7619

FOODSERVICE

14 This Year’s Largest M&A Deal Closes

Linda Lisanti llisanti@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 EVENTS

74 Five Reasons to Celebrate ‘Fifth Season’ Novelty and seasonal items are not just about the four major holidays anymore.

Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several (860) 830-8321 eseveral@ensembleiq.com AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT Director of Audience Engagement Gail Reboletti (224) 632-8214 greboletti@ensembleiq.com Audience Engagement Manager (215) 301-0593

Shelly Patton spatton@ensembleiq.com

List Rental (847) 492-1350 ext.318

MeritDirect Elizabeth Jackson

Subscriber Services/Single-Copy Purchases (978) 671-0449 EnsembleIQ@e-circ.net PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART Vice President, Production (877) 687-7321 Creative Director (973) 607-1320 Advertising/Production Manager (773) 992-4418 Art Director (224) 632-8245

Derek Estey destey@ensembleiq.com Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com Ed Ward eward@ensembleiq.com Michael Escobedo mescobedo@ensembleiq.com

CORPORATE OFFICERS Executive Chairman Alan Glass Chief Executive Officer David Shanker Chief Operating Officer & Chief Financial Officer Rich Rivera President, Path to Purchase Institute Terese Herbig Chief Digital Officer Joel Hughes Chief Human Resources Officer Jennifer Turner Chief Innovation Officer Tanner Van Dusenw

74

CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS AFFILIATIONS Premier Trade Press Exhibitor

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. Copyright © 2018 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. Subscriptions: One year, $93; two years, $152. One year, Canada, $110; two years, Canada, $175. One year, foreign, $150. Payable in advance with a bank draft drawn on a U.S. bank in U.S. funds. Single copies, $10, except foreign, where postage will be added. Printed in U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at Chicago, IL, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Convenience Store News, P.O. Box 1842, Lowell, MA 01853.

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


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CSNEWS ONLINE

TOP 5 DAILY NEWS HEADLINES

1

Marijuana Could Be the Next Emerging Category for C-stores

There is a hot new category that could usher in huge opportunities for convenience stores. The bad news: It is not legal in all states and certainly not legal at the federal level. That being said, marijuana has the potential to turn the convenience channel from the traditional ‘gas, smokes and cokes’ to ‘gas, smokes and tokes,’” said Melissa Vonder Harr, marketing director of iSEE Store Innovations and moderator of the “Marijuana: Capitalizing on a Budding Opportunity” education session at the 2018 NACS Show.

2

Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes Vet Matt Paduano Opens His Own C-store

Among the myriad of things Matt Paduano knows are upstate New York and convenience retailing. Combining the two, the industry veteran recently opened Lakeport Market on State Route 31 in Lakeport, N.Y., and he enlisted his family to join him. Located halfway between Syracuse and Utica, Lakeport Market is nestled across from the south shore of the 22-mile Oneida Lake.

3

Should C-stores Dive Into Delivery?

With Amazon pioneering same-day delivery on a variety of items, and third-party delivery services partnering with restaurants and other retailers, consumer expectation of delivery is making its way into every market. And retailers — including convenience stores — are responding.

4

Six Technologies That Will Disrupt the C-store Industry

“Disruption” is a term getting tossed around a lot these days in the retail industry. As technology continues to advance in all aspects of daily life and consumers get savvier using it, they are expecting the same level of sophistication in their shopping experiences. From no-touch commerce to touchpoints everywhere, emerging technologies are changing the game for convenience and fuel retailers, with even more transformation to come.

5

Marathon Converts SuperAmerica Locations to Speedway

Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) is putting its stamp on the convenience store assets it recently acquired as part of the Andeavor transaction. Roughly two weeks after closing the deal, MPC announced it is rebranding the SuperAmerica properties to Speedway.

EXPERT VIEWPOINT: M&A and the Challenge of Modernization Mergers and acquisitions in the convenience and gas (C&G) sector have continued their long run in 2018 — and it’s not only giant companies like 7-Eleven Inc. or Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. that are building their portfolios and expanding their footprints, according to Capital One’s Richard L. Amador and Michael Quinn. Middle-market retailers are taking part in the consolidation that slowly, but certainly, is transforming the industry. Multiple factors are driving acquisitions by middle-market C&G retailers. In many cases, retailers are using an acquisition to eliminate a competitor or fill in market gaps. Other retailers are following the adage that the best defense is a good offense and bulking up, positioning themselves to remain competitive against better-capitalized chains.

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

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

PHOTO GALLERY: The Design Behind the First-Ever Shell Select Convenience Store When Shell began plans to open its first Shell-branded convenience store in the United States, it wanted a concept that reflected its commitment to supporting its wholesale network in the country through a strong, competitive retail format. To help with that vision, the company turned to New Yorkbased Bona Design Lab, a global retail design and consulting firm. The first Shell Select store opened Sept. 5 in Louisville, Ky. The city was chosen for the concept’s debut because of its vibrant local culture and reputation for unique food and beverage offers. For more exclusive stories, visit the Special Features section of www.csnews.com.

MOST VIEWED NEW PRODUCT

Gene Simmons’ MoneyBag Sodas KISS co-founder Gene Simmons launched a premium soda line, MoneyBag Sodas, in cooperation with Rock Steady Sodas Inc. The line is made with all-natural flavors and colors, sweetened with 100 percent pure cane sugar, and packaged in eco-friendly glass bottles. The MoneyBag Sodas line initially includes cola, diet cola, root beer and ginger ale. Additional flavors are in the works, along with a line of premium fountain sodas. Packaged in glass bottles with detailed painted labels, MoneyBag Sodas are bundled in vintage-style four-packs with custom crowns. Rock Steady Sodas Inc. Niagara Falls, N.Y. www.rocksteadysodas.com


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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

This Year’s Largest M&A Deal Closes Marathon and Andeavor combine to become a new national retail powerhouse ONE WEEK AFTER GETTING THE GREEN LIGHT

from shareholders, Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) and Andeavor closed on their $23.3-billion merger. The two companies became one national retail powerhouse officially on Oct. 1. Under the terms of the transaction, Findlaybased MPC acquired all of the outstanding shares of San Antonio-based Andeavor. The companies first announced the deal April 30. “This transformative transaction is a significant milestone in our company’s more than 130-year history,” said MPC Chairman and CEO Gary R. Heminger. “MPC is now the leading refining, midstream and marketing company in the U.S., and is wellpositioned for long-term growth and shareholder value creation.” Upon closing, Andeavor ceased to be publicly traded and its common stock discontinued trading on the New York Stock Exchange. “We are excited to begin unlocking the extraordinary potential across our new platform, including approximately $1 billion of tangible annual run-rate synergies we

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

expect within the first three years,” Heminger added. “We look forward to sharing more details around our plans at our upcoming December Investor Day.” This merger expands Marathon’s operations across key markets nationwide, combining the strong position it has historically enjoyed east of the Mississippi with the western United States presence that Andeavor has built over time.  In refining, Andeavor’s facilities in California, the Mid-Continent and the Pacific Northwest complement MPC’s existing Gulf Coast and Midwest footprint, and will make the combined company the No. 1 U.S. refiner by capacity and a top five refiner globally, with throughput capacity of more than 3 million barrels per day. Pro forma, MPC now has a nationwide retail and marketing business of approximately 4,000 companyowned and -operated locations and approximately 7,800 branded locations. Soon after the deal closed, MPC began converting and rebranding Andeavor’s SuperAmerica convenience stores to its Speedway network. MPC will keep its headquarters in Findlay, with an office in San Antonio. Heminger remains at the helm of the newly combined company. Former Andeavor Chairman and CEO Greg Goff joins MPC as executive vice chairman. In this new role, he will provide leadership and be integrally involved in the strategy for the combined company. 


INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

FAST FACTS

43

%

Canned sparkling water is performing well in 2018, up 43 percent from last year and reaching sales of more than $803 million. — Nielsen

Optimism among convenience store retailers is high, as nearly three-quarters report that their instore sales increased over the first nine months of 2018. — NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing

C-store retailers are increasingly bullish on their outlook for overall beverage category growth, with 2018 category sales expected to increase 5.9 percent year over year. — Wells Fargo Securities LLC’s Q3 Beverage Buzz Survey

Ricker’s Opts to Sell The 56-store Indiana convenience store chain is joining the Giant Eagle family Giant Eagle Inc. is buying Ricker Oil Co., the Anderson, Ind.-based owner of the 56-store Ricker’s convenience store chain. In late September, Ricker’s Chairman Jay Ricker announced that a purchase agreement for his 39-year-old company was in place. Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed. Giant Eagle is a Pittsburgh-based retailer with 410 stores across five states. Its portfolio is almost evenly split between supermarkets and convenience stores. Its c-stores operate under the GetGo banner. According to Ricker, the new owner plans to keep all 850 Ricker’s employees. He noted that the two companies share similar family-owned cultures and he expects the transition to be “fairly seamless.” Once the change in ownership is completed, Ricker’s President and CEO Quinn Ricker will join Giant Eagle to oversee operation of the Indiana properties. Ricker’s is

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

scheduled to open its 57th store this fall. Giant Eagle approached Ricker about a possible deal. With retirement in mind, he said the offer “made too much sense to turn down.” Giant Eagle has no immediate plans to change the name of Ricker’s stores. “We are thrilled to partner with such a strong company, brand and talented group of Ricker’s employees,” said Laura Karet, Giant Eagle president and CEO. “We look forward to building on the great history that Ricker’s has in Indiana, and carrying forward many of the amazing offerings and services Ricker’s customers have come to expect.” Jay Ricker is the 2018 retailer inductee into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame. He will be honored at a gala banquet on Nov. 15 at the Omni Severin Hotel in Indianapolis.


INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Eye on Growth

Northern Tier Retail LLC completed its purchase of 13 convenience stores from Croix Oil Co. All of the stores were previously company-operated locations.

hat events to mark the move, and followed it up by kicking off its first Wawa Bus Tour in the market. Par Mar Stores commemorated its 51st anniversary with the opening of its 99th and 100th locations. The new stores make 18 locations that Par Mar added in 2018.

Maverik Inc. purchased the Best Stop convenience store chain. Two of the stores are in Logan, Utah; one is in North Logan, Utah; and the fourth is in Franklin, Idaho. Family Express Corp. plans to open five stores in 2018, which includes expanding to a new market: suburban Indianapolis. The retailer is on schedule to deliver two stores that are currently under construction before Christmas.

Family Express has dubbed this expansion the most ambitious development schedule in its 20-year history.

Wawa Inc. began construction on its first locations in Miami. The retailer hosted a triple-header of hard-

7-Eleven Inc. opened a convenience store at Texas Motor Speedway. It operates 24 hours a day during race weeks, beginning at 8 a.m. on the Saturday before the race and ending the following Monday at 4 p.m. QuikTrip Corp. welcomed customers to its first convenience store in San Antonio on Oct. 4. The company expects to open around 60 c-stores in San Antonio and 40 in Austin. Enmarket purchased Handy Dan’s in Ridgeland, S.C. The retailer plans to remodel the site to feature hot and cold grab-and-go freshly prepared foods.

Royal Dutch Shell plc will pilot a new Shell TapUp app-based program in Houston, where it will take fueling trucks to customers to fill their tanks. Shell is also poised to launch an electric charging pilot program in California.

Retailer Tidbits Casey’s General Stores Inc. is expanding its E15 fuel offering to more than 500 stores. The move comes through a partnership with Prime the Pump, a Growth Energy partner and nonprofit organization. Jiffy Trip is implementing frictionless checkout across its 28 convenience stores in central and northwest Oklahoma. It’s partnering with Skip for the rollout. Hucks Convenience Stores is expanding the Godfather’s Pizza Express program to 17 more stores. Hucks first partnered with Godfather’s Pizza 25 years ago.

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

Kwik Trip was the first convenience retailer to sign a commitment with PHA in 2014.

Kwik Trip Inc. signed its third three-year deal with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). The new commitment brings PHA’s fruit and vegetable initiative to all of the retailer’s Wisconsin c-stores.

Enmarket is adding mobile payments at all of its locations with the rollout of the NCR Mobile Payments solution for fuel retailers. The retailer also will be able to deliver personalized offers via a mobile app.


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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Supplier Tidbits

Keurig Dr Pepper entered into a definitive agreement to acquire CORE Nutrition LLC, a premium-enhanced beverage company. The deal is valued at $525 million. McLane Co. Inc. will open a new distribution center, McLane North Texas, in March. The 625,000-square-foot facility will be in Fort Worth. Kraft Heinz is launching Evolv Ventures, a venture fund that will invest in emerging technology companies that are transforming the food industry. It’s committed up to $100 million to the fund. Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc. introduced an Advanced Ordering Solution. The orderreplenishment solution combines retailers’ sales data with an algorithm, coupled with visibility and edit capabilities, allowing retailers to customize to their specific needs.

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

The Coca-Cola Co. will acquire Moxie from Coca-Cola of Northern New England, an independent bottling partner. The sale is expected to close during the fourth quarter.

A favorite soda brand in New England, Moxie is also the official state beverage of Maine.

Mondelez International Inc. committed to make all its packaging recyclable by 2025. As part of the commitment, packaging will also provide recycling information. Gilbarco Veeder-Root is making a minority investment in Australia-based Tritium, a privately held electric vehicle charging manufacturer. Gilbarco will sell all Tritium solutions. Utz Quality Foods, a corporate partner of the University of North Carolina Athletics and Carolina Basketball, inked a threeyear extension of its sponsorship. The pact includes multimedia and promotional vehicles, such as radio advertising and social media.


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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Legislative Corner C-store Industry Raises Objections to New Swipe-Fee Settlement The $6.2-billion agreement does not address changing network rules ANOTHER CHAPTER in

the years-long saga over swipe fees closed in mid-September, but the retail industry does not think a new settlement deal goes far enough. Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc. and several other financial institutions reached a $6.2-billion settlement to address monetary claims in ongoing litigation with the retail industry. Absent from the agreement are any steps to change network rules. The agreement is the latest development in an antitrust lawsuit over swipe fees between retailers and financial institutions dating back to 2005. The settlement is an amendment to the financial terms of the 2012 class settlement agreement and will be filed with the court for approval. NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, called the settlement “inadequate.” “The broken swipe fee system will not be fixed simply by

R E VO L U T I O N Proud member of:

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

Visa and Mastercard throwing some money to merchants,” said Lyle Beckwith, NACS’ senior vice president of government relations. “These cases must bring real reform to make a difference. We are pleased to see that some of the merchants’ lawyers and representatives refused to sign onto this flawed settlement and are continuing to press for the changes that antitrust law calls for and merchants and their customers deserve.” According to NACS, the antitrust case will continue as merchants that opted out of the 2012 settlement keep pursuing lawsuits and legal claims.


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OUT & ABOUT

A Duo of Debuts McLane Co.’s 2018 National Trade Show introduced new technology and foodservice offerings By Angela Hanson The show previewed a variety of fresh initiatives and new products.

to help busy retailers and private label pizza were highlights of McLane Co. Inc.’s 2018 National Trade Show, held Sept. 5-6 at Orlando’s Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel. The 1,200-plus attendees previewed a variety of fresh initiatives and new products at the convenience distributor’s event, which centered on the theme of “Sun, Sand & Sales.”

TECHNOLOGY UPDATES

The show marked the debut of McLane’s Mobile Virtual Trade Show (VTS), an application designed to make the ordering process easier for retailers. Mobile VTS lets retailers scroll through products and review detailed listings; provides easy-to-order summaries; and adds new items that are part of the best deals offered to the retail community on a weekly basis. Accessible with a McLane login or through social media accounts, including Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and MSN, the Mobile Virtual Trade Show also could be used at the actual trade show to place orders from the expo hall. Based on the needs of their individual stores, retailers can choose between the Quick Order process — which applies a specific item quantity to all stores and ships on the first available date — or the standard ordering method that lets them specify individual quantities. The app can be used to place orders from any Apple or Android smart device, as McLane considers itself techagnostic, rather than choosing to base itself on a particular platform, explained Deon Johnson, vice president of customer technology at McLane. Johnson noted that Mobile VTS should be particularly useful to small operators and convenience stores operating under a compliance program. “Retailers today need solutions that are flexible and allow them to address situations in real time,” he said. “Mobile VTS allows retailers to complete work when and where they choose.” Although McLane has continually added new technology features, the

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

distributor has not increased the cost to retailers in 10 years, allowing retailers to invest their money in ways that will ultimately benefit c-stores and McLane alike, according to Johnson. “Spend your money where it makes sense,” he said. McLane also debuted a new proprietary pizza brand, Fly Guys Pizza, which is being launched through its private label subsidiary, Consumer Value Products, in coordination with its McLane Kitchen foodservice-at-retail program. Fly Guys Pizza can be sold hot and fresh by the slice, or sold frozen for customers to take home and bake. Three varieties of pizza are available: Pepperoni, Five-Meat and Breakfast, which was chosen due to consumer interest and strength of the daypart. Each 12-inch pizza is made using premium toppings on a self-rising crust and can be baked in less than 15 minutes. Fly Guys Pizza branded packaging includes boxes and slice trays; equipment such as pizza ovens, serving utensils and racks; and signage in the form of posters, banners and menuboards. “We are thrilled to enter the most talked-about category in convenience with the Fly Guys Pizza program,” said Teresa Voelter, general manager of Consumer Value Products at McLane. “With retail and foodservice options, our customers will be enthusiastic about the program and its benefits to help drive their sales.” More pizza varieties and additional topping options may be added to the line in the future, a McLane spokesman told Convenience Store News at the show. The company’s primary focus for the Fly Guys Pizza launch is quality and consistency for retailers. CSN McLane’s Mobile Virtual Trade Show is designed to make the ordering process easier for retailers.


WE KNOW YOUR MISSION IS TO PROVIDE FRESH, SAFE PRODUCTS TO YOUR CUSTOMERS. SO IS OURS. As a convenience store operator, nothing is more important than ensuring fresh, safe products for your customers. That’s why we’ve invested over $1 billion in an end-to-end cold chain solution with a multi-step monitoring process that constantly validates product temperatures from the time they arrive at our distribution centers until they’re delivered to our retailers. It’s why we’re a member of IFDA and GS1— organizations dedicated to foodservice supply chain integrity and traceability. And, it’s why all of our facilities undergo independent audits by Mérieux NutriSciences, a leading certification body and auditing provider for the global supply chain. To learn more about our custom cold chain solution, visit mclaneco.com/coldchain

© 2018 McLane Company, Inc. All rights reserved.


NEW PRODUCTS

SEEN at the NACS SHOW

3

1

2 4

1. myblu Intense Nicotine Salt Liquidpods blu’s myblu Intense Nicotine Salt Liquidpods are now available nationally. These pre-filled pods for the myblu device feature the brand’s proprietary e-liquid blend with Pyrisalt nicotine salt. The myblu Intense pods are currently available in five flavors — Honeymoon, Neon Dream, Citra Zing, Melon Time and Tobacco Chill — with both 2.5 percent and 4 percent nicotine options. The product has a suggested retail price of $9.99. blu (888) 207-4588 support-us@blu.com blu.com/en/US

2. Gardetto’s Crisps At the 2018 NACS Show, General Mills Convenience debuted a fun, poppable snack that is exclusive to convenience stores. Gardetto’s Crisps are bite-size crisps seasoned with a bold flavor. Featuring a light and crispy texture, they come in a 3-ounce package and are available in two varieties: Original and Peppercorn Ranch. They have a suggested retail price of $2.39. General Mills Convenience (800) 767-5404 generalmillscf.com

3. Yerbaé Enhanced Sparkling Water

4. 3 Musketeers Birthday Cake

Yerbaé Enhanced Sparkling Water is now available in 16-ounce cans, in addition to sleek 12-ounce cans. The new 16-ounce size contains just 10 calories, 2 grams of non-GMO sugar and 125 milligrams of caffeine. Yerbaé Enhanced Sparkling Water beverages are nonGMO, kosher and gluten free. They combine Yerba Mate and white tea. Yerba Mate is an herb that boasts unique properties, naturally occurring caffeine and has many known health benefits, including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, according to the company. Yerbaé (480) 207-6650 customerservice@yerbae.com yerbae.com

3 Musketeers is giving its fans a reason to celebrate with the release of its first new flavor in six years — Birthday Cake. The new candy bar features vanillaflavored nougat and colorful sprinkles covered in rich milk chocolate. Starting in October, 3 Musketeers Birthday Cake became available at Walmart stores in a Share Size bar (2.14 ounces) and Miniatures Stand Up Pouch (8.4 ounces). The product will roll out nationally in January 2019. Mars Wrigley Confectionery (973) 691-3536 mars.com/global/brands/ confectionery

5. Tillamook Country Smoker Zero Sugar Jerky The newest jerky offering from Tillamook Country Smoker packs 14 grams of protein per serving, with no sugar or carbs. Made from 100 percent premium USA beef, Tillamook Country Smoker Zero Sugar Jerky features a real, hardwood smoke flavor. The product contains no nitrates or added proteins, and is both Paleo and Keto friendly. Tillamook Country Smoker (888) 987-4233 tcsjerky.com

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

5


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NEW PRODUCTS

SEEN at the NACS SHOW

8 6

9

7

6. High Brew Coffee 7. Chewie Fruities Triple Shot Cold Brew Countertop Display

8. TEAZZERS SmartBrew Machine

High Brew Coffee introduces Triple Shot, the brand’s line of 11-ounce cold brew cans that provide three times the natural caffeine as a regular cup of coffee, according to the maker. Made from 100 percent direct-trade Arabica beans from Colombia, the Triple Shot line is available in four varieties: Espresso, Vanilla, Black and Chocolate + Protein. All have fewer than 200 calories. High Brew Coffee Triple Shot will be rolling out in the convenience channel in early 2019 with a suggested retail price of $2.99 per can. High Brew Coffee (512) 853-9696 highbrewcoffee.com

TEAZZERS, one of the nation’s largest suppliers of fresh brewed teas, unveiled the patent-pending TEAZZERS SmartBrew machine, created in partnership with Newco. The Machine enables wireless data transmission for more effective category management. It also features sweetener storage under the urn, eliminating bagin-box (BIB) maintenance. TEAZZERS showcased the machine and unveiled a new look for the brand at the 2018 NACS Show. TEAZZERS (214) 956-0373 teazzers.com

Torie & Howard introduces a three-tier countertop display for its organic Chewie Fruities candy. The display holds 54 Chewie Fruities 2.1-ounce stick packs and includes 18 packs each of the Sour Berry, Sour Apple and California Pomegranate and Sweet Freestone Nectarine varieties. The countertop display ships as a single unit and contains three cases. It is 17.5 inches high, with a six-inch by 10-inch footprint. Chewie Fruities grab-and-go stick packs have a suggested retail price of $1.99. Fourounce Chewie Fruities also are available in peg sacks, with a suggested retail price of $3.99. The peg sacks ship six to a case and 48 to a master case. Torie & Howard (888) 826-9554 torieandhoward.com

9. Lenny & Larry’s The Complete Crunchy Cookies Lenny & Larry’s, a protein cookie pioneer, has whipped up a new line of freshly baked treats: The Complete Crunchy Cookies. Taking their best-selling Complete Cookies flavors — Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate and Cinnamon Sugar — the brand unveiled these new crunchy, protein-packed, bite-sized cookies. They have more than 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber per bag. The Complete Crunchy Cookies are also non-GMO and vegan. Lenny & Larry’s (800) 536-6952 lennylarry.com

10. ReadyCarved Flame Broiled Off-the-Cone Meats Grecian Delight showcased an assortment of tasty, trending products packed with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flare at the 2018 NACS Show. Among the new items are ReadyCarved Flame Broiled Off-the-Cone Al Pastor Pork Slices and ReadyCarved Flame Broiled Off-the-Cone Natural Halal Shawarma Slices. The meats are marinated, hand-stacked, flame-broiled, sliced right off the cone and individually quick-frozen to lock in flavor and freshness. They are conveniently sliced, enabling operators to prestage and pre-portion product during slow periods for improved portion control and cost management, according to the company. The meats can be finished at unit level on a flattop grill, in an oven or a microwave. Grecian Delight (800) 621-4387 greciandelight.com

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SMALL OPERATOR

Turning Adversity Into Opportunity Shree’s Truck Stop celebrates generosity and provides professional drivers and commuters a unique experience on the Washington interstate By Danielle Romano ANY INDEPENDENT OPERATOR KNOWS it takes determination, a differentiated offering, and leveraging all resources at your disposal to find success. Shree’s Truck Stop in George, Wash., adds another item to that list: generosity of spirit.

“Generosity of spirit is the only way to success. If you have a large heart, if you can overlook offenses, if you can diminish stress in any given situation, if you know how to minimize negativity and highlight goodness, if you always, always try to be a positive contributor to every situation, then you won’t have any shortage of success,” expressed Ekta Saini, vice president of Shree Investments Inc., operator of Shree’s Truck Stop. Located at 404 S. Frontage Road in George, Ekta and her husband purchased what would become Shree’s Truck Stop in 2011. The site had been in operation since 1996 as a gas station, but the family-run business opted to construct a truck stop with a CAT scale and added six gas pumps with a canopy to better accommodate highway travelers. Additional renovations have been made over time. Shree’s Truck Stop and its parent company are named after Saini’s daughter. The reigning 36th Miss India USA, Shree Saini is a heart patient with a pacemaker, who began a nonprofit at age 15 to raise awareness of human trafficking and bullying. Today, Shree speaks all over the United States about the value of emotional wellbeing and heart health. As a small operator, the Saini family is not exempt from the same challenges the big convenience store and truck stop chains face, like high turnover and competitive pricing. Being a small operator does mean, however, that they must leverage all available resources and make sizeable investments in their operations and their employees to excel. As a highway location, Shree’s Truck Stop faced high turnover in the past. So, starting in 2015, the Sainis began compensating their staff way above the minimum wage set by the state of Washington. Secondly, they have incorporated Shree’s success into their marketing practices. More than $1 million was invested in two digital highway signs that celebrate Shree’s accomplishment of being crowned Miss India USA 2017. “Our video-display signs have been a blessing to us, as we are the only video display on I-90. The sign was grandfathered by DOT [Department of Transportation], which doesn’t allow new video signs on the interstate anymore,” Ekta said. “Last year, we invested more than $500,000 in a highway sign and now, Shree’s picture

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Shree’s Truck Stop caters to highway travelers, local farmers, and truck, bus and RV drivers.

is there every day. We want to celebrate her victory over a difficult life and her story from being a victim to a victor with everyone.” Shree’s Truck Stop also takes advantage of its location. With no food options available 35 miles west or 30 miles east of the facility, Shree’s targets highway travelers, local farmers and truck, bus and RV drivers. The location is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Two digital highway signs celebrate Shree Saini’s accomplishment of being crowned Miss India USA.

The truck stop is constructed on 15 parcels, accommodating ample parking that Ekta says attracts thousands of concertgoers who utilize Shree’s Truck Stop to park during the “insanely busy concert season” at the Gorge Amphitheater, a 27,500-seat outdoor concert venue in George. Among the other amenities available at Shree’s Truck Stop are: • An adjoining convenience store measuring 5,200-plus square feet;


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SMALL OPERATOR

• Trucker supplies; • Hot foods, in addition to a fully stocked deli and Subway quickservice restaurant; • ATM and acceptance of CFN and Comdata fleet cards, T-Chek, EBT; • Fax and copy services; • DEF at the pump, in addition to air for truck tires and cars; and • Restrooms. Carrying the theme of generosity in-store, the Saini family has adorned the walls of Shree’s Truck Stop — particularly, the restrooms and staff areas — with signs that are meant to inspire and infuse customers and staff with joyful energy. Ekta continues to add to these framed works whenever she reads a good book, listens to a sermon or learns a valuable life lesson.

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Looking to the Future Last year, Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman recognized Shree’s Truck Stop with the 2017 Corporations for Communities Award. The annual awards program honors five for-profit companies that go to remarkable lengths to support their hometowns, from sponsoring charity fundraisers to supporting volunteer work, and other acts of employee generosity. Winners receive the National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion, the highest civic honor presented at the state level. “Our mission is to provide respect and value to our customers, and be a good steward of our customers’ money by providing them the most competitively priced diesel and gas in the entire region. Our customers have recognized our efforts by giving us their business, and we love to give back as responsible citizens of our nation,” Ekta told Convenience Store News. As for the future of Shree Investments Inc. and the Saini family, they are in the process of expanding. They were due to close on a new truck stop location in mid-November. CSN Shree’s Truck Stop aims to have the most competitive diesel and gasoline prices in the region.


COVER STORY

A BORN

LEADER

Retailer Executive of the Year Joe Sheetz embraces his responsibility to the family business and the convenience store industry By Melissa Kress

with the convenience store industry, one would think Joseph S. Sheetz was destined to join the family business, Sheetz Inc. But that was not the case.

WITH A LAST NAME SYNONYMOUS

“There was never a master plan on my part or quite frankly on the part of anybody,” the current president and CEO of Sheetz Inc. told Convenience Store News. Sheetz grew up around the c-store industry. It was hard to avoid, and he started working for the Altoona, Pa.-based company during school breaks as a teenager. First, he got his feet wet in the office and then moved on to the c-stores. School took him to The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he remained after

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graduation. Eventually, though, the road led him back to Altoona. “After college, I worked for a consulting firm in the Philadelphia area concentrating on the finance side of human resources. … Things like retirement plans, medical plans, total benefit packages. In hindsight, I learned quite a bit about business from the wide variety of clients I served across many industries … and saw good management teams and not so good management teams,” Sheetz recalled. That experience, coupled with his degree in economics with a concentration in entrepreneurial management, made him a perfect fit to lead Sheetz Inc. into the future. And what he has achieved at the chain since he joined full time in 1995 has earned him the recognition of being the Convenience Store News 2018 Retailer Executive of the Year.


NOV

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Convenience Store News

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COVER STORY

Sheetz Inc. currently operates more than 565 stores in six states.

The Family Business Sheetz Inc. is a family-owned business that traces its roots back to Pennsylvania’s dairy industry. In 1952, Joe’s uncle, Bob Sheetz, founded the c-store chain when he bought one of his father’s five dairy stores in Altoona. He began building the business slowly, opening a second store in 1963 and a third store five years later. In 1969, Steve Sheetz, who began working part time at the store level eight years earlier, joined his brother Bob in the business as general manager — and Sheetz Inc.’s march across the convenience landscape began. Today, the company operates more than 565 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina, and employs roughly 18,500 associates. Among the highlights of the company’s storied history are the introduction of selfservice gas to central Pennsylvania in 1971; the introduction of touchscreen ordering;

Sheetz convenience stores have become well-known for high-quality, freshly prepared food and beverages.

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and the launch of Sheetz Bros. Coffeez, Made-To-Go and Sheetz Bakery products. The retailer’s innovative approach to business extends beyond the store as well. Its headquarters features the “Schwellness” Fitness Center, a 17,000-square-foot facility that provides employees with health coaching, nutrition counseling, personal training, group fitness classes, and other wellness initiatives and engagement strategies. The evolution of Sheetz Inc. closely mirrors the evolution of the convenience channel — and the journey for both is ongoing. As Sheetz pointed out, the business changes every day. When he started working in the stores, the retailer had a very limited foodservice offer: hot dogs, meatball sandwiches “and whatever was in the crock pot that day,” he recalled. “Now, c-stores are seen as a legitimate


TO BUSINESS THAT’S ABOVE AND BEYOND. Congratulations to Joe Sheetz

2018 RETAIL EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

Building relationships. Building growth.


COVER STORY

Convenience retailing today is all about the customer experience, according to Sheetz.

option for just about any meal occasion,” he said. Beyond food, the other major change is the focus on service. “We have always been ‘convenience’ from a product perspective. Now, we are also about the customer experience, which leans heavily on having service-oriented people on the front line,” Sheetz explained. “People have become more important than product.” While these observations are about the overall c-store industry, they apply to Sheetz Inc. and its retail network as well, according to the chief executive.

“I think we have evolved in a very similar manner to the industry ... from corner store to c-store with gas to a total convenience retail experience,” he said. “Much like my predecessors, I simply try to remove any hurdles our people experience along that journey.”

For the Good of the Company & Industry Although he makes it sound simple, Sheetz acknowledges there is more to it than that. His name alone brings with it responsibility — for the Sheetz network and its associates, as well as for the industry at large. “Everybody in our family is very aware that every location we operate has a giant sign with our name on it. As a result, we are often our own worst critics and the hardest customers to please,” he explained. “When you invite people over to your house, you always want it to look its best and give them the best experience possible.” Leading the next generation of one of the convenience channel’s legacy family businesses also brings the collective eyes of the industry. “I do believe in the ‘rising tides raise all ships’ theory. When the industry moves forward, it helps all of us. If the industry gets a black eye, it affects all of us,” he said. “I also feel a responsibility to help others since we have benefited greatly over the years from advice we received from industry veterans.”

Time at the Helm Now, Sheetz can count himself among the industry’s veterans.

Sheetz believes people have become more important than product.

He joined Sheetz Inc. as director of compensation and benefits in 1995 and took the CEO reins from his cousin Stan Sheetz on Oct. 1, 2013. Four years later, on Oct. 20, outgoing NACS Chairman Rahim Budhwani passed the baton to Sheetz as the 2017-2018 NACS chairman. During his yearlong tenure serving NACS, the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing, he led the convenience

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COVER STORY

Sheetz wrapped up his year as NACS chairman at the 2018 NACS Show in Las Vegas.

channel as it grappled with key issues. These included government relations, education and connecting people.

means. You saw the theme of the annual show: Compete. We now compete with many channels for that convenience occasion and need to find our own sweet spot in fulfilling customers’ daily demands,” he said.

Convenience for today’s world also topped his to-do list. With the rise of e-commerce giant Amazon in the brick-and-mortar space with its new cashierless Amazon Go locations, the encroachment of other channels (particularly dollar), and the fast-paced innovation in technology, the definition and role of convenience is changing.

Moving forward, he advises the industry not to get bogged down on any one particular issue.

“We now compete with many channels for that convenience occasion and need to find our own sweet spot in fulfilling customers’ daily demands.” “Other than the very important work that is always on the NACS agenda, we tried to get people focused on what convenience really

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

“I think we can get overly concerned with particular issues. It isn’t any one thing. Instead, it is a matter of constantly reinventing ourselves as the lifestyles and needs of our customers change over time,” Sheetz said. He stepped down from his role as NACS chairman at the 2018 NACS Show last month in Las Vegas, but the experience certainly left its mark on him. “The past year was educational, motivating, rewarding and exhausting all at the same time,” he said. “I had some idea of what to expect since I am the third person in my family to hold that title. However, you really cannot appreciate the experience until you live it.”

Tapping Into His Passion When talking about the industry, he points to the people as an integral piece of the convenience puzzle. According to Sheetz, the best part of the industry is the people. “Our employees that make it happen every day, our loyal customers who visit us every day, and the people who support the entire industry, like the NACS staff,” he noted. He is also passionate about the people he holds dear outside of the industry, particularly those closest to him. “I try to spend as much of my free time as possible with my family, both immediate and extended,” he said. So, what’s next? “Stay tuned!” he says. CSN


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FEATURE

Convenience’s Next Generation of Leaders

Eight up-and-coming young professionals comprise the inaugural class of Convenience Store News Future Leaders in Convenience By Tammy Mastroberte COMMITMENT, CONFIDENCE, CREATIVITY,

focus, strong communication skills, a team player, the ability to motivate and inspire — these are just a few traits that great leaders embody. Convenience Store News’ inaugural Future Leaders in Convenience awards recognize young convenience retail leaders (aged 35 and under) who are already showing they possess the traits of great leaders and are poised to be at the forefront of the industry’s future. The goal of this new awards program is to celebrate and help develop the next generation of convenience industry leaders by recognizing the achievements of a select few emerging leaders while providing a forum for talented young business people to hone their leadership skills. Eight up-and-coming convenience retail professionals have been selected as this year’s honorees. They were chosen based on nominations from their peers that highlighted their accomplishments and achievements over the past 12 months. The 2018 Future Leaders in Convenience are:

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

• Amy DaSilva, Communications and Systems Specialist, QuickChek Corp. • Vaida Kirkilaite, Brand & Advertising Manager, Southeast Business Unit, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K • Stephanie Martone, Category Manager, OTP, Cumberland Farms Inc. • Christina Maurer, Category Manager, Packaged Beverages, BP/ampm • Kim Scully, Leader, Operations, Recruiting & Staffing, QuickChek Corp. • Aaron Smorodin, Director of North America Sourcing & Integration, Global Fuels, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K • Christopher Stewart, Senior Category Manager, Non-Alcoholic Beverages, 7-Eleven Inc. • Ian Stewart, Tobacco Category Buyer, Go Mart All of the winners will be honored at the first-ever Convenience Store News Future Leaders in Convenience conference and awards program, being held Nov. 15 in Indianapolis. Several veteran c-store industry leaders will be featured speakers at the event. Read on for profiles of convenience’s next generation of leaders.


FO UN D ING A N D PR ES E N T I N G S PO N S O R O F

CONGRATULATIONS to all of the inaugural members of Future Leaders in Convenience on behalf of the proud founding and presenting sponsor, RAI Trade Marketing Services Company.


FEATURE

Amy DaSilva, QuickChek Corp. She is transforming the way the retailer communicates to its employees AMY DASILVA’S convenience store career started with a part-time job at QuickChek Corp. the summer after she graduated from high school.

She then attended Centenary University in Hackettstown, N.J., originally pursing a degree in criminal justice, but soon realized she didn’t want to work in that field. While obtaining a degree in business with a concentration in marketing, she began working full-time for QuickChek, eventually moving into the IT department until 2016 when she made the move to human resources to take over internal communications. In her current role as communication and systems specialist for the Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based chain, which operates more than 150 stores, DaSilva handles all internal communications to store employees, the support center and the operations team. This includes the company’s internal website, magazine and newly launched QT TV, which can be found in the store’s back-office space, and is still being tested. “The TV in the back-office allows us to filter down marketing promotions and other announcements team members need to be aware of,” DaSilva told Convenience Store News. “I love being in charge of letting people know what is happening here.” She is also in charge of job postings, promotion announcements, business card orders, and working with the internal learning management system, which includes policies and training videos. Since her promotion to her current position, she has worked to transform and improve communication throughout the company on all levels. “People come up to me saying communication has never been as good as when I came into the department, and I love what I do,” she said, explaining that her favorite thing about the job is she never knows what her next task will be. “I also love the fun things I get to share with people, like new store

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openings or events.” In the future, DaSilva plans to continue growing the communications department at QuickChek, with the intent of having a bigger team so that she can increase the company’s communication platform even more. “We expand and open new stores every year, and if I can increase the size of our department and make communications even more of a focus, that would be my goal,” she noted. The 33-year-old credits her success to QuickChek’s culture of supportive team members, and the faith the company has put in her over the years. She recalls having had many leaders help and support her, share their experiences, and help her grow. She believes all companies should provide resources and training to their employees, and give them opportunities to try new things in order to grow.

“The c-store industry has so many different avenues and roles that are all equally important to contributing to a successful company.” “The district leader I had when I first started never forgot me, or any of the people he worked with, and would call me about new positions, telling me I could do it,” DaSilva explained. “We have a lot of people here who will share and support you and put their faith in you, so you can grow, and I had that.” She urges other young workers in the c-store industry to keep an open mind because you never know where you will end up or what your role will be in the future. She worked in a number of positions and departments before she found the role perfect for her. “The c-store industry has so many different avenues and roles that are all equally important to contributing to a successful company. Don’t give up. Work hard and you will find your niche,” she said.


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FEATURE

Vaida Kirkilaite,

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K She achieved several accomplishments in Europe before joining the U.S. team GROWING UP IN LITHUANIA, Vaida Kirkilaite started working full-time at age 19 while attending college because she knew the competitive work environment meant it would be hard to find a job after graduation without experience. She worked during the day in the hotel and restaurant industry, and went to school at night, receiving a bachelor’s degree in finance and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Vilnius in Lithuania.

“I worked in sales selling foods to chefs at hotels, restaurants and cafeterias,” she told Convenience Store News. “I joined Circle K in Europe as a category manager for center store categories in 2008, responsible for candy and snacks, and was promoted after a year and a half to manage foodservice categories, including coffee, food and bakery.” In Europe, foodservice accounts for more than half of the sales in convenience stores. Kirkilaite, 34, worked in this role for more than six years before moving to the United States where she joined Circle K Southeast as a project and category manager. She was originally contracted for three years, but when her time was up, the company asked her to take on a new role as advertising and brand manager. “I came to pilot the coffee concept we rolled out in Europe, but when they asked me to stay, I extended my contract for a few more years,” she recalled. She is now in charge of all in-store advertising, including digital promotions on Circle K’s mobile app and in-store screens, and external media elements such as radio, billboards and social media. She has a communications specialist who reports to her. “Circle K trusted me and gave me ownership of important projects,” she said, noting that this helped her advance in her career. “If a company shows they trust and believe in you, it gives you the power to do even better than expected. Circle K also helped me learn from mistakes, as I

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

always had managers who looked at the positive rather than the negative.”

Accomplishments & Advice One of the projects Kirkilaite is most proud of is the coffee concept rollout in Lithuania, which led her to the U.S. to help the stateside teams roll out the same concept. “That was my big victory,” she said, explaining that it took some trial and error to get the concept right for the U.S. The retailer started with the same design and espresso machines, with adjusted recipes to meet local needs, but ended up changing the machines to a more “userfriendly” system. “In the U.S., customers like to get black coffee and put different condiments into it to make their own cup. So, the look is the same as Europe, but we took out the espresso machines with built-in milk systems because we found our customers don’t really need that from us here,” she noted.

“If a company shows they trust and believe in you, it gives you the power to do even better than expected.” She is also proud of the work she did around bread products for the company’s hot dogs in Europe. They were being imported from Denmark at a huge cost, so she localized. “A local vendor agreed to buy special machines and match our volumes, and I also negotiated with Poland and other countries that would take bread from the local producer. We simplified logistics and saved millions of dollars,” she said. Her advice for other young employees in the industry is to stay true to their values, be patient and work hard. She also says they need to enjoy the work they are doing. “You have to be engaged or you won’t succeed,” she said. “You have to be happy with what you are doing, and you have to contribute and have patience.”


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FEATURE

Stephanie Martone, Cumberland Farms Inc. She manages the complexities of OTP and is growing the category for the chain STEPHANIE MARTONE DIDN’T PLAN

on making the convenience store industry her permanent home when she first started working as a temp in the planning department at Cumberland Farms. She was getting her master’s degree at Bridgewater University in Bridgewater, Mass., after earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology and criminal justice. “It just started as a temp placement,” she told Convenience Store News. “I actually interned in the probation department for the federal government, but then I got comfortable in the job I had and what I was doing.” In 2006, Framingham, Mass.based Cumberland Farms, which operates approximately 600 stores in eight states, hired her as a merchandising analyst. She then moved into the point-ofsale (POS) department as a POS specialist before taking the leap into tobacco as an analyst. Four years ago, at 31 years old, she became the category manager for other tobacco products (OTP) and has enjoyed the role ever since. “I love the nuances and complexity of tobacco and its legislation,” she said. “I’m hands-on with the legislation on a daily basis, dealing with local towns in Massachu-

setts, from flavor bans to minimum pricing.” The 35-year-old is most proud of her contributions to the company in the legislative arena, especially on the local level, as well as growing the OTP category year over year. She plans to continue her career at Cumberland Farms in the future. “I love the company. They are great toward their people and do a lot for the local towns we operate in,” she said. “I would like to stay in the company, move up the ladder, and continue to grow the OTP category as much as I can. Each year, it gets harder and harder. I don’t know of any other category that has the same complexities as this one, but I really like it.” Martone’s advice for other young people in the industry is to attend as many gatherings and shows as possible within the convenience channel and talk to as many people as they can to gain more knowledge and learn best practices. “The people working in the industry are probably your best resources,” she advised. “Pick their brains and ask what they think are best practices in your area.” She is grateful to her own manager for teaching her so much, and to the company for providing her with statistics from IRI, Nielsen and more. She believes all companies should invest in these resources to help their employees make the best decisions. “Cumberland Farms has given me every opportunity to get out and go to industry meetings, attend events and see everything firsthand,” said Martone. “They get me the data I need to run my category, and they provide the flexibility I need to stay on top of my game.”

“I love the nuances and complexity of tobacco and its legislation. I’m hands-on with the legislation on a daily basis, dealing with local towns in Massachusetts, from flavor bans to minimum pricing.”

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


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Christina Maurer, BP/ampm She’s worked her way up from an analyst position into category management WHILE ATTENDING COLLEGE and

Today, she has more than eight years of experience managing packaged beverages, and four years managing the cold dispensed beverage category as well.

pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in marketing, Christina Maurer worked as a contract employee for BP.

In her current role, she is relied upon as an in-store expert for merchandising, pricing, management and sales of the category across ampm’s more than 1,000 stores.

“I began as a category and planogram analyst, and have slowly progressed my way to category management,” she told Convenience Store News. She first moved into the role of assistant category manager for packaged beverages. Then, a short time later, she became the category manager for non-alcoholic packaged beverages.

Her favorite part of the job is that it’s always changing — the same way she says the convenience store industry is always changing and evolving. “Every day is different with unique challenges,” she said. “I never stop growing and learning.” Outside of work, Maurer is passionate about fitness and is a certified personal trainer. She coaches a workout group of women who are mothers looking to achieve their “postbaby personal transformation.”

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FEATURE

Kim Scully, QuickChek Corp. She is improving the way the company hires and onboards team members WITH THE INTENT OF BECOMING A TEACHER, Kim Scully graduated

from Penn State University in State College, Pa., with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. However, in 2009, the market crash left few job opportunities, so she started working part-time as a substitute teacher and looked for another part-time job to help pay her bills while waiting for a full-time teaching position to become available. She took an entry-level job at QuickChek Corp., where she worked 10 hours per week in the store manning the checkout or making sandwiches. Soon, she found herself picking up more hours and staying late when her manager asked. Before she knew it, she was working full-time at the store. “I thought, ‘If I’m going to make this a fulltime thing, I don’t want to be entry level anymore,’ so I got into foodservice, working as an assistant foodservice leader.” From there, she became the store’s tobacco manager, working with the category’s vendors. She was thinking her next move might be to assistant store leader, where she could eventually move up to store leader and take over her own store, but then a new opportunity popped up. “A position in human resources opened up, so I interviewed for it and got the job,” she explained. “I started doing a little bit of everything and was involved in training and benefits, and in the Affordable Healthcare Act, including revamping how we tracked employee hours.” While working in benefits, Scully received the QuickChek Team Member of the Quarter award and ultimately Team Member of the Year award. Working with the Affordable Healthcare Act is one of the projects she is most proud of. The initiative included helping

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store leaders realize the importance of having employees labeled correctly for their hours worked. The process required a lot of training and reaching out to store leaders to make the process easy for them. For the past two years, Scully has been in a recruiting role. In January of this year, the company broke out recruiting as a separate unit from training. Scully, 31, was asked to lead the team as leader of operational recruiting and staffing. In her new role, she continues to improve the way QuickChek hires and onboards team members. “I work as a liaison with our operations team, diving into our turnover rate. We’ve had a goal for the last two years of 50 percent turnover, and we are on target to make it this year, which for convenience is unheard of,” she noted. “Next year, we have a pretty aggressive goal of reducing [turnover] to 40 percent.”

Moving Forward Now that she has been working in human resources for a while, Scully realizes this is where she wants to stay, and maybe even get more involved with training in the future. She enjoys interacting with the store teams and is often in the field working directly with store leaders in her current role. “I feel like I am more connected with the field, which is really the heart of our company because they are the ones that keep us going and deal with the biggest issues — and they do it every day,” she said. “Being able to work with them hand-in-hand is what I love the most.” She also loves the work she does because each day is always different, growing and moving. She credits QuickChek for helping her advance in her career so quickly through leadership and coaching, including its official coaching and mentorship program. “If I were in any other convenience store company, I don’t think I would have stayed as long as I have with QuickChek, just based on the core values, along with the leadership and coaching,” she said. “Every single leader I’ve had always coached me and helped me grow, encouraging me to learn more and branch out.” Her advice to other up-and-comers is to remain flexible. She says she had no idea when she was making coffee nine years ago that she would be doing the work she is today, so it’s important to be able to change and do so quickly. “There are so many aspects of the job that can change or go in a different direction, and you need to be ready,” she said. “Plan as much as you can, but be ready for change at any minute.”


FEATURE

Aaron Smorodin, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K He moved into his first director role at just 25 years old GROWING UP IN SASKATCHEWAN, Canada, Aaron Smorodin’s parents owned a couple of restaurants and a drive-in movie theater, which he took over and ran, allowing him to learn the importance of customer service at a young age. He also discovered all the small and intricate details involved with offering convenience retail products — long before he ever began working in the convenience store industry.

After graduating from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, with a bachelor’s degree in commerce and international business, he started working at Imperial Oil in the retail and marketing division, before relocating to Vancouver as a retail territory manager. Today, Smorodin is back in Canada working for Alimentation Couche Tard Inc. as a fuel director in Toronto. However, he will be making his way to the United States soon. “I spent two years in the Central Canada Business Unit and then moved to the global team. I will be relocating to Charlotte, N.C., now to work in the global field office as director of North American sourcing and integration for global fuels,” Smorodin told Convenience Store News. He says Couche-Tard has helped him advance in his career by giving him opportunities. He moved into his first director role at only 25 years old. The company is very open to having conversations and valuing performance over age, he noted. “They took a chance on me, and they were not afraid to give responsibility to a younger person. That was huge,” said Smorodin. “If you don’t perform and you are not ready, they won’t put you into a new role. But if they see the performance and the experience, they will give you the opportunity.” As a fuel director, the first project he worked on was acquiring the Esso assets from Imperial Oil, which represented 2 billion liters of fuel. Prior to that acquisition,

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

“They took a chance on me, and they were not afraid to give responsibility to a younger person. That was huge.” Couche-Tard was a small player for fuel in the Canadian marketplace, operating under the Mac’s banner. The Esso assets brought the retailer into the greater Toronto area and made it a “significant player,” according to Smorodin. “I started at Couche-Tard in February 2016 and then, a month later, was informed we were going through the largest acquisition for the company at that time,” he recalled. “We went up to a team of eight and increased our volume significantly in the market, so it made us a real player. The task of positioning ourselves in the market and rolling out the Circle K brand in Ontario was my biggest accomplishment so far.” Smorodin, 28, likes that the industry is always moving, and there is always something new developing. His goals for the future are to continue growing in his current role and providing significant value to the organization. He advises other young professionals in the c-store industry to align themselves with a company that fits their values, along with a good mentor. “I’ve had a mentor both in the c-store industry and outside the c-store industry, and it’s been so important to me,” he said. “Also, take feedback and ask for feedback while talking to your manager about career aspirations. I wouldn’t be where I am today without having conversations with my manager, and my manager being open to those conversations.” No matter their role, he also advises the younger generation to remember they are there to make the customer’s day easy and improve their company’s position in the marketplace. “Stay on top of the details and when you leave a role, make sure you made it better than how you found it,” he added.

Editor’s Note Ian Stewart of Go Mart declined to participate in this report. His nominator said Stewart has a passion for the tobacco category, knows what drives growth, and is always looking for new and innovative ideas that will grow the business. Outside of work, Stewart is very involved with coaching sports for his three sons, his nominator added.


Christopher Stewart, 7-Eleven Inc. His success has come from working hard and delivering results in every role he’s served BORN AND RAISED IN AUSTRALIA, Christopher Stewart came to the United States to attend Arizona State University and play tennis. After graduating with a degree in business and psychology, he returned to Australia to work at an accounting firm. After two years, he returned to the U.S. — and started in the convenience store industry — in 2009.

A friend who worked for 7-Eleven Inc. in California recommended the company to Stewart. He interviewed for a field consultant (district manager) position and was hired. That position gave him responsibility for 10 stores. Now, almost 10 years later, he is senior category manager of non-alcoholic beverages. His favorite thing about his job is the people he interacts with each day. “Definitely, the people I get to work with on a daily basis internally at 7-Eleven, along with our external supplier partners, [are my favorite],” he told Convenience Store News, explaining that he also enjoys the people throughout the industry. “There is such a wide range of backgrounds and cultures in the industry, all coming together to serve the customer,” he added. “With our proximity to the consumer, I firmly believe convenience stores will become more relevant in a time when many larger format brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling.” After getting his start as field consultant, Stewart moved into store support at 7-Eleven’s headquarters and took on a merchandising role, where he supported approximately half of the retailer’s U.S. stores. He then moved to the service business unit, followed by the tobacco business unit. He eventually returned to operations as a market manager for stores in New Jersey and Dallas — this role included responsibility for 100 stores and about a dozen field consultants. In his current role as senior category manager

for non-alcoholic beverages for U.S. stores, Stewart, 35, manages all non-carbonated beverages, including water, isotonics, tea, coffee and juice. “From my time as market manager, it was very rewarding to have members on your team move upwards within the company and be successful,” Stewart said, describing one of the accomplishments he is proud of so far in his career. “Seeing talented and hardworking people be rewarded with opportunities and playing a role in their development was one of my favorite responsibilities, and one I took great pride in.” He is also proud of the recent sales results he’s achieved. At the end of August 2018, his business unit had its highest volume sales month in 7-Eleven history. The isotonics category was up 25 percent in sales for the month on a same-store basis, he reported. “It is a clear reflection that we had the variety and value the customer was looking for. … The turnaround of the isotonic/ sports drink category was after making some dramatic changes to our assortment earlier in the year,” he explained.

Helping Young Leaders 7-Eleven is a growing company and, as it grows, it can create more opportunities for people within the organization, according to Stewart, who credits this for helping him grow in his career. He recommends all companies provide opportunities to their employees and the right training to help them grow and advance. “The ability to be exposed to stretch roles or assignments, along with ongoing training, will provide a strong foundation for leadership growth,” he said. “With technology changing everything that we do so quickly, it will be critical that future leaders are able to adapt quickly to new situations.” Stewart has had the opportunity to watch others in the company begin at store level and move into leadership roles. This, along with key mentors, helped him advance as well. “I am extremely thankful for those people within the organization who have trusted in me and given me opportunities with growing responsibilities,” he said. His advice to young people just starting out in the c-store space is to “own your own career.” Supervisors will always play an important role in a person’s development, but one should not rely on other people to help them achieve their goals, he advised. “Work hard and deliver results in each position you are in, and the opportunities for growth will arise,” he said. CSN

NOV

20 1 8

Convenience Store News

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FEATURE

SMALL, BOLD & BETTER-FOR-YOU CARRY THE DAY Convenience Store News’ 22nd annual Best New Products Awards recognize 27 new-to-market items that best meet consumers’ evolving needs By Susan Durtschi, Past Times Marketing

SMALL BITES, PRODUCTS with bold, ethnic flavors and, of course, better-for-you snacks and beverages dominate this year’s winners list in the 2018 Convenience Store News Best New Products Awards program.

Consumers selected 27 products new to convenience store shelves in the past year for recognition. Now in its 22nd year, the Best New Products Awards competition recognizes and honors the marketers that introduced the most innovative and high-quality products that meet consumers’ evolving needs. Judging was supervised by Past Times Marketing, a New York-based consumer research and product testing firm. Entries were rated and awarded points by consumers based on the criteria of taste, value, convenience, healthfulness, ingredients, preparation requirements, appearance and packaging.

THE 2018 BEST NEW PRODUCTS AWARDS HONOREES ARE:  Alternative Snacks/Granola Bars: Nature Valley Layered Granola Nut Bars — Almond Butter Chocolate; General Mills Convenience General Mills Convenience brings a new product to the bars

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

category with a sweet treat that features simple, recognizable ingredients. Nature Valley Layered Granola Nut Bars have a triple layer of creamy nut butter coating, granola, nuts and chocolate. Layering adds to the taste experience with the almond butter addition. Our panelists called them “less boring” and “better tasting” than your average granola bar. Each 1.38-ounce bar has a suggested retail price of $1.39, which was deemed a sweet price by testers. Alternative Snacks/Protein Bars:  On Protein Crisp Salted Toffee Pretzel Bar; Glanbia Performance Nutrition If you’re trying to build muscle mass, this bar has one of the highest protein counts out there at 20 grams — and it was the top pick for taste, texture and received extra credit for being low sugar. The On Protein Crisp Salted Toffee Pretzel Bar is a convenient choice for breakfast, lunch or a snack and garnered high marks for being gluten free.


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FEATURE

Alternative Snacks/Meat Snacks: Stryve Beef Biltong; Stryve Biltong Snacks Biltong is an ancient word from South Africa that means strips of dried beef. Unlike traditional jerky, biltong is never injected with or soaked in sugar-laden marinades. Stryve Beef Biltong is a protein-packed snack without all the heavy carbs. It ticks off all the current food trend boxes: high in protein, simple ingredients, made in the USA, gluten free, and a betterfor-you healthy profile. Each serving has an impressive 16 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of sugar. Stryve Beef Biltong also got high marks for its packaging. Beer: Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold; Anheuser-Busch Anheuser-Busch developed Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold to address the consumer values of transparency, ingredient traceability and overall wellbeing. This beer fills a niche in the traditional beer space by offering an option that is low carb, low calorie and made from organic ingredients. The label calls it “Superior Light Beer” and our testers agreed. Candy/Chocolate:  Hershey’s Gold Peanuts & Pretzels Bar; The Hershey Co. The buttery, sweet taste of Hershey’s Gold Bar is a complex mash-up of sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy. The bits of peanuts and pretzels deliver a very noticeable salty crunch that takes this to the next level in taste. Hershey is calling this a fourth flavor profile. The brand got the ratios just right. It was the hands-down favorite of our testing panel. Candy/Chocolate/Novelty & Seasonal:  M&M’S Ghoul’s Mix; Mars Wrigley Confectionery Mars Wrigley Confectionery has come out with silly and spooky packaging for its Peanut M&M’S Halloween share pouches. M&M’S Ghoul’s Mix complements the full assortment of M&M’S and creates excitement around the holiday. This product delivers a generous 3.27 ounces of real milk chocolate and roasted peanuts for trick-or-treaters, coworkers or friends. Candy/Gum: Ice Breakers Ice Cubes — Peppermint; The Hershey Co. The first thing you notice about this chewing gum is that it

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

has an icy blast of flavor. The sugar-free gum from The Hershey Co. also contains Xylitol for teeth protection and has earned the American Dental Association seal of acceptance. Our testers liked the square shape of the product, as well as its refreshing taste. Candy/Mints: EXTRA Chewy Mints — Peppermint; Mars Wrigley Confectionery These mints feature two layers: a thin, crunchy outer shell and a chewy, flavorful inner area. Mars Wrigley Confectionery developed this new innovation in mints because only 20 percent of the mints on the market are chewable. EXTRA Chewy Mints were a hit with our panel. The high-tech packaging also drew in the consumers with its unique design. Candy/Non-Chocolate: Skittles Sweet Heat; Mars Wrigley Confectionery This candy was designed to bring in new customers willing to try a little spice with their sweet candy — not unlike other categories of food capitalizing on this trend. Skittles Sweet Heat offers a new variety of fruit flavors with just a hint of heat that lingers on the tongue. The package design is clear and tells the story. Candy/Non-Chocolate/Novelty & Seasonal: Starburst Minis & Beans; Mars Wrigley Confectionery This seasonal variety debuted for Easter with unwrapped Starburst logo mini fruit chew squares and Starburst logo mini jelly beans mixed in a 10-ounce bag. Featuring the same bold flavors as before, this package is great for gift giving or sharing at the office. Cigars: Game Berry Blast Cigarillos; Swedish Match Game Berry Blast cigarillos are made with all-natural tobacco fillers infused with the juicy, fruity essence of sweet berries. Swedish Match added the “Limited-Edition” label for extra sales excitement. The cigarillos come in a convenient, individual foil package with three price points to ensure flexibility for retailers.


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FEATURE

Dairy Beverages: Califia Farms Probiotic Yogurt Drink — Super Berry; Califia Farms C-store customers want healthier options and this cultured nut-milk drink is a great grab-and-go breakfast or snack option. Creamy dairy-free almond and coconut-based yogurt combines with real blueberries and a touch of black currants. This new yogurt drink is super tasty, while having a low-sugar profile and featuring millions of probiotic cultures. Additionally, the nifty-looking bottle has a great look and got extra marks for the perfect 8-ounce portion size. Edible Grocery:  Chunky Maxx — Black Angus Beef Soup; Campbell Soup Co. Chunky Maxx, the heartiest Chunky Soup from Campbell’s, is for men looking for meals that are filling, quick, easy and tasty. These soups include 40 percent more meat and come in a heat-and-eat microwavable package of 15.5 ounces that is unique and stands out on the shelf. There is a variety of flavors, but Black Angus Beef was our testers’ favorite. Foodservice/Bakery: Rich’s Churro Donut; Rich Products Corp. Rich’s Churro Donut combines an authentic Spanish churro with an American doughnut. It’s a mix of cake and yeast formula with a crispy exterior. The Churro Donut contains no artificial ingredients or high fructose corn syrup. For all-day snackers, this is a spot-on item. Our panelists loved them with the cinnamon sugar and thought they added newness to the traditional c-store doughnut display. Foodservice/Beverages: Big Tea — Chamomile Mint; Harris Tea Big Tea is for tea drinkers who want a double-sized tea bag to put in their 16-ounce on-the-go cup. Tea enthusiasts are a rapidly developing market in the nation and an underserved segment. Big Tea bags come in six varieties, from traditional black and green teas to naturally flavored specialty teas. The favorite of our testers was the “smooth and flavorful” Chamomile Mint.

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

Foodservice/Breakfast: Italian Breakfast Panini; Johnsonville The Italian Breakfast Panini with Johnsonville Italian Split Sausage and real scrambled eggs, roasted peppers, onions and provolone cheese on grilled sourdough bread ticks all the boxes for flavor and freshness, according to our panelists. The bread tastes fresh also, which is often a problem with pre-prepared breakfast sandwiches. The Italian Breakfast Panini is ready to heat from the refrigerator or freezer, taking less than 2 minutes in the microwave. Foodservice/Lunch: Maid-Rite Sandwich; Land Mark Products — Day ‘N Night Bites Day ‘N Night Bites’ take on this iconic sandwich (legend has it that the Sloppy Joe was first created in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1930 by a cook named Joe) blew the competition away. It has a special sauce mixed with the meat. The bread was even soft upon microwaving it. Comments like “A 5-star sandwich,” “Fresh-tasting sloppy joe” and “Are you sure this was frozen?” were heard more than a couple times from our testers. Foodservice/Snacks:  State Fair Crispitos — Chicken Bacon Ranch; Tyson Foods Tyson delivers a slew of on-trend flavors with its State Fair Crispitos, a line of handheld, crunchy, protein-filled tortilla snacks. Our testers liked the Chicken Bacon Ranch variety best. The Crispitos are fully cooked for quick preparation and can be served with dips and garnishes on the side. Our tasters comments included: “Generous portion,” “Nice flavors with the crunch” and “Great after-school snack for my kids.” Frozen Foods: Steak Bowl; Green Chile Food Co. Bowls are a quick meal for the convenience store customer, and frozen foods have been on an upward trajectory. Green Chile Food Co.’s Steak Bowl is a flavorful meal option that is not unlike a restaurant takeout entrée. This bowl features large pieces of meat, salsa and fresh vegetables, including peppers. Best of all, it can be heated and prepared in under 4 minutes.


FEATURE

Healthy Snacks: PopChips Nutter Puffs — Peanut Butter & Chocolate; Lil’ Drug Store Products

These 100 percent tobacco leaf free oral pouches are the latest and some say greatest. Our testers liked the Wintergreen flavor.

There are a lot of new puffs out there, but these are different. While puffs are traditionally cheese flavored, PopChips Nutter Puffs bring the flavors of peanut butter and chocolate to the segment. There’s also a peanut butter only version, but our testers’ favorite was the salty and sweet version. Customers are looking for more protein in their snacks and they want them to be natural. These are both.

Packaged Sweet Snacks: Walkin’ Wafels — Apple Cinnamon; Prairie City Bakery

Other Tobacco Products: On! Nicotine Pouches; Intercontinental Cigar Corp. On! Nicotine Pouches are discreet because they are smokeless and can be used anywhere. Pop them in your mouth, and place in front of the top teeth or on the side of the upper lip. The tiny pouch with crystalized nicotine delivers for about 20 minutes.

New Year ... New Look And Continued Evolution for

On-the-go Walkin’ Wafels are individually wrapped, sweet waffles made with caramelized pearl sugar and rich, whole-wheat brioche dough. This Belgian snack is made the traditional Liège way, which means the waffles are infused with flavor so no messy syrup is required. Walkin’ Wafels are available in Apple Cinnamon, Blueberry, Buttery Maple and Vanilla varieties. Apple Cinnamon earned the highest praise from our panelists with comments like “Perfect size” and “No added syrup needed.”

Convenience Store News magazine has been the leader in convenience retailing information for more than 40 years. As the c-store industry has evolved, CSNews has changed to stay at the forefront of industry developments. With our January 2018 issue, we are excited to unveil the next step in that evolution with a fresh update to the look and feel of the magazine.

www.CSNews.com

Industry’s Favorite Magazine has a new look that matches the evolution of the convenience retail market.

LING L R E TA I ND FUE IENCE A CONVEN NEXT IN W H AT ’ S

Temperate Optimism

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

pliers and retailers, sup ing Convenience about the com are upbeat distributors ervations. res few a year — with

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FEATURE

Salty Snacks/Crackers: Cheez-It Duoz — Caramel Popcorn and Cheddar; Kellogg Co.

tion. The co-branded product also features generous packaging with a 5.35-ounce bag.

Cheez-It Duoz Caramel Popcorn and Cheddar got high marks for its decadent amount of caramel on the popcorn paired with the traditional Cheez-It cracker. There is an even amount of both pieces in the bag, as noted by our testers, which was satisfying as they were expecting less caramel corn. The 4-ounce bag is a perfect snacking size to share or not. Salty Snacks/Nuts & Seeds: BIGS Sunflower Seeds — Taco Bell Taco Supreme; Conagra Brands New flavor pairings are key to drawing more customers to the sunflower seeds segment. BIGS Taco Bell Taco Supreme Sunflower Seeds feature the bold combination of taco seasoning plus the strength of the Taco Bell brand, making for a winning combina-

Sports Drinks: Vitaminwater Active; The Coca-Cola Co. Vitaminwater Active is a natural sports drink designed for the everyday workout person, not the elite athlete. The beverage is positioned to provide the hydration needed for a good workout through vitamins, electrolytes and coconut water. It comes in three varieties that have sporty names, but are essentially orange/mango, lemon/lime and strawberry/black cherry. All three were well-received by our panel as there was a three-way flavor tie among the testers.

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Txomin 561-400-7526

Jimmy 331-452-3683

Central

Northeast

Terrence 224-254-3039

Steve 561-613-8324

GPNNACS@Glanbia.com

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


Bring news to the Bars Category with a real-food candy bar

Triple layer of nut butter coating, granola & nuts, and chocolate

Simple, recognizable ingredients: A sweet treat consumers can feel good about eating!

Consumers reported an 80% purchase intent during quantitative testingยน

Source: 1. PGI Consumer Learning Test 8/1/2017


FEATURE

Wine: Red Sangria Spritzer; E. & J. Gallo Winery Sangria continues to grow and this Red Sangria Spritzer from E. & J. Gallo’s Barefoot brand is a perfect addition to the line. The spritzer is wine based, has 6.5 percent alcohol and is fizzy. This product appeals to the beach and barbecue crowd with its slim tall can. Overall Innovation:  World Peas Peatos — Classic Cheese; Snack It Forward Over the years, customers have been disappointed in the taste and texture of so-called “healthy” versions of national brands. That’s not the case with World Peas’ Peatos. Made with real cheese, and nutritionally dense with sustainable peas and lentils, the Classic Cheese variety delivers a bold cheese flavor with a big crunch, without the empty calories. The Chili

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

Cheese, Fiery Hot and Masala varieties were also strong contenders with our testers. Peatos are truly innovative. They taste like “junk food,” but have some serious substance. What’s more, the packaging has a cool look to it and the flavors are bold and on-trend. CSN Susan Durtschi, an experienced buyer and product development specialist for both brick-and-mortar and online retailers, is president of Past Times Marketing, a consumer research firm. For the ninth consecutive year, Convenience Store News partnered with Past Times Marketing for the Best New Products Awards. Past Times works via focus groups and through online surveys with consumers across the country to judge new products. For more information, go to www.pasttimesmarketing.com.


FOODSERVICE

What’s Hot on C-store Menus? Holiday’s Asiago Breakfast Bagel Sandwich hits the mark with consumers in quality and price IT’S A CLASSIC HOT BREAKFAST SANDWICH with a twist: the

use of the famous asiago bagel (you probably know of a certain fast-casual chain known for selling these).

OPERATOR: Holiday Stationstores ITEM TYPE: Limited-Time Offer DATE: September 2018 PRICE: $3.29 Served with sausage, egg and cheese on an asiago bagel.

Holiday Stationstores’ Asiago Bagel Breakfast Sandwich received excellent ratings from consumers surveyed using Datassential’s SCORES platform, which features six benchmarks that reveal what makes an item successful.

Bagel Breakfast Sandwich gets the job done.

Other Quality Notes The sandwich’s sausage and cheese help, too. According to Datassential’s FLAVOR platform, breakfast sausage is up 21 percent on restaurant menus over the past four years and 69 percent of consumers love or like the meat. Consider it a must within your breakfast offerings, but be sure to add a unique touch to stand out from the rest of the crowd as Holiday did with the asiago bagel.

Wide Audience Finally, the sandwich scores well among all generations of consumers, except for Gen Z (mostly kids and teens), showing a basic breakfast can appeal to a wide range of people. CSN.

The sandwich performed particularly well for Unbranded Purchase Intent, scoring in the 93rd percentile, indicating such a concept could work beyond the Holiday brand — something to keep in mind for your future menu planning.

Basic & Effective The breakfast sandwich also hits the mark with consumers for its price. At just $3.29, the LTO ranks in the 77th percentile for Value. Consumers would also visit Holiday just to buy this sandwich, with it ranking in the 89th percentile for Draw. While the concept is not the most unique, the Asiago

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.

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


3 Key C-Store Foodservice Takeaways (And the stats to back them up)

FOODSERVICE IS LUCRATIVE

$37

Foodservice is a high-margin, high-revenue business. Maximizing profits means staying on top of ever-changing trends and consumer demands.

FOODSERVICE IS A PRIORITY

That’s

16 %

BILLION

61

%

of in-store sales

in C-store foodservice sales

Consumers are eating at C-stores MORE.

of C-stores

are committed to foodservice

Their reasons?

Monthly dining frequency has jumped by more than 13% in the past five years.

It drives transactions It satisfies customers It maintains customer loyalty

CUSTOMERS’ FOOD PREFERENCES ARE CHANGING

44%

are trying to eat less meat

FRESHNESS MATTERS

57%

are trying to eat more plant protein

47%

of millennials want made-toorder options

82% of consumers say they make buying decisions based on how “fresh” an item looks.

There’s more where that came from.

The latest and greatest C-store foodservice equipment, supplies and insights are at The NAFEM Show, Feb. 7-9, 2019, in Orlando, Fla.

Register today for only $40 at thenafemshow.org

75%

of consumers are not fully satisfied with healthier C-store food options


TOBACCO

Strategically Speaking Exclusive brands, loyalty programs are helping c-store retailers gain an edge in tobacco By Melissa Kress DURING THE THIRD QUARTER OF 2018, convenience store retailers saw improved sales of premium cigarette brands and larger basket sizes. The uptick, according to Wells Fargo Securities LLC’s Tobacco Talk survey, was driven largely by a strong economy and a stronger consumer.

Still, as cigarette volumes continue to decline at their traditional level — anywhere between 3 percent and 4 percent annually — c-store retailers need an edge to boost the category. For some operators, that means carrying an exclusive brand, like Circle K’s Traffic and Crown cigarettes. For others, it means tapping into loyalty programs and offers. Circle K added the value-priced Traffic cigarette brand to its backbar in June 2016. The retailer, a division of Canada-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., developed the control-label product in partnership with Premier Manufacturing of Chesterfield, Mo., the consumer products division of U.S. Tobacco Cooperative Inc. The Traffic brand complements Circle K’s private-label cigarette brand, Crown — the retailer’s first foray into an exclusive brand. Couche-Tard launched the Crown brand across its retail network in 2012. Similar to Circle K, Westborough, Mass.based Cumberland Farms carries an exclusive cigarette brand, 1st Class. The offering, which is also manufactured by Premier Manufacturing, is the lowest-priced brand available at Cumberland Farms’ convenience stores. “We have been very successful with our exclusive brand. I feel that it’s helped us outperform the industry as far as declines,” said Anne Flint, the chain’s director of category management, tobacco.

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

Speaking during a virtual retailer roundtable hosted by Convenience Store News in September, Flint explained that recent price increases by the major tobacco companies have further separated premium and subgeneric cigarette brands on the price scale. “The gap is going to widen between these subgenerics and premium brands, so people will be looking to save some money,” Flint said during the event, sponsored by Swedish Match. “And being in the Northeast with high excise taxes, consumers are looking for a better value. We’re lucky we have that in place.” Another retailer that knows a thing or two about private-label and exclusive cigarette brands is Smoker Friendly International. The Boulder, Colo.-based company has more than 800 independently owned and operated retail stores that carry a full line of tobacco products and are the exclusive retailers of the SF brand. Terry Gallagher, president of Smoker Friendly, said cigarette growth “is probably the shining star” in its stores. “We are up in units year over year in every cigarette category. It’s not great growth, but it’s up over 2 percent in units which, in a declining market, is a win,” he said. He credits the growth to Smoker Friendly’s consistent pricing and the stores’ natural and luxury brand cigarette segment. Having its own brand doesn’t hurt either. “Our Smoker Friendly house brand, SF, continues to be a strong performer. We’ve done a market basket study on Smoker Friendly and the market basket test showed we are gaining a bigger market basket with that brand than even Marlboro,” Gallagher reported. With continued and increasing pressure on the tobacco consumer, retailers see exclusive brands as a solid strategic play and a way for them to take back some control. “Retailers are looking at cigarette sales and seeing their volume and margin declining in the tobacco category. That’s occurring because the industry is going down 3 percent or 4 percent. It’s at


TOBACCO

Premier Manufacturing provides control-label and private-label cigarette brands to retailers across the United States. Retailers have exclusivity for the brand in their areas, which drives consumers to their stores looking for their “destination” brand, according to Mancuso. Retailers see private-label and exclusive cigarettes as a strategic alternative, and the feedback has been positive, he said, noting “the strategic decision to sell high-quality value brands has not hurt retailer’s premium cigarette business as much as people might imagine.”

Loyalty Meets the Backbar Smoker Friendly stores carry a house brand, SF, which continues to be a strong performer for the chain.

the top end this year, averaging a decline on a 12-month basis of about 3.7 percent,” said Russ Mancuso, senior vice president of consumer products, U.S. Tobacco Cooperative. Retailer margins are being squeezed by the industry price increases. Those increases also are making it more expensive for the average consumer to buy cigarettes.

THE 72 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

Richmond, Va.-based GPM Investments LLC, which operates c-stores under such banners as Fas Mart, Shore Stop, Village Pantry and E-Z Mart, has not taken the exclusive brand path, but it is seeing some growth in combustibles thanks to different approaches. “We are seeing growth driven through some different strategies we put in place but, most definitely, I would call out the loyalty programs from Altria [Group Inc.] and Reynolds [American Inc.], which are helping us drive some volume and traffic in our stores,” Ruth Ann Lilly, senior category manager of tobacco, wine and spirits at GPM, said during the virtual roundtable.


Cumberland Farms’ exclusive brand of cigarettes, 1st Class, is the lowest-priced brand available at the retailer’s stores.

West Des Moines, Iowa-based convenience store chain Yesway is also ringing up success tying cigarette sales to loyalty. The retailer, which operates in multiple states, is leveraging its Yesway Rewards loyalty program to run joint promotions with vendors, including Altria. The Yesway Rewards program is powered by the Paytronix platform. A big part of setting up a loyalty program is identifying customers and getting them to enroll in the program, according to Jeff Hoover, strategist for convenience store brands at Newton, Mass.-based Paytronix. “Step one: getting a card in their hand, or getting them to go to your website or mobile app, to complete registration and get a loyalty number,” Hoover advised. Unique customer IDs, in fact, are one of the key requirements for retailers to participate in Altria’s loyalty program, which offers customers $1 off a purchase. When the retailer goes back to Altria to get those funds redeemed, the company has reporting requirements that must be met to receive the refund, according to Hoover. “A key part is being able to identify that unique customer ID so that they know it is 5,000 unique customers, for example, instead of 20 customers doing it multiple times

each. There are more detailed reporting requirements than just the unique identifier, but it all starts with being able to identify the customer’s individual behavior in that transaction,” he explained. Insights gleaned from transactional data tied to specific loyalty accounts can be used to develop future offers and promotions, too. Hoover pointed to one such example at Yesway. “In a couple of promotions — $1 off two packs — they were able to look back over a certain timeframe and identify guests in the loyalty program that had purchased tobacco and send them an email or push a notification and make them aware of the promotion,” he said. CSN

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GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Five Reasons to Celebrate ‘Fifth Season’ Novelty and seasonal items are not just about the four major holidays anymore By Renée M. Covino MOVE OVER MAJOR HOLIDAYS,

the micros are

moving in. Novelty and seasonal items, including confections, greeting cards and gift cards, are very popular around the four major holidays of Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Christmas and Easter. However, more retailers — convenience stores included — are moving into “fifth season” or “micro” occasions such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Super Bowl. “Retail seasons have gotten longer, major holidays are overlapping, and shoppers are continuously finding ‘mini’ moments in their lives to enjoy each holiday,” said Jim Dodge, vice president of convenience at Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S., maker of novelty and limitededition seasonal confectionery items. This has given way to more micro season moments and thus, more opportunities for retailers’ merchandising and marketing plans.

Consider these five fifth-season ideas when looking to capitalize on the latest and greatest in general merchandise:

1. Be Seen & Heard Fifth-season merchandising opens itself up to more available space. Convenience store retailers who put a bigger focus on micro occasions will come to realize that retail space is a lot less crowded at other times of the year vs. during the winter holidays, according to Jaclyn Nix, a retail industry consultant and vice president of sales at MyWebGrocer. Consumers are more likely to notice fifth-season merchandising, too, because it comes at a time when they’re not bombarded by typical holiday messaging.

2. Summer: A Three-Way Window of Opportunity Convenience stores can capitalize on the three key summer holidays: Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day, utilizing general merchandise endcap and counter displays. “There’s plenty of time [during the summer season] to drive purchase and create a shift in buying behavior,” Nix told Convenience Store News. Plus, summertime is when consumers are shopping for a crowd, so retailers should consider price promotions for bulk buys. Think sunglasses, sunscreen and even pool toys/ drink floats. And speaking of sunglasses, retailers looking to become serious general merchandise players must realize that they have to keep their impulse-item displays, such as sunglass racks, just as in stock as they do their beverage coolers. “It always amazes me how stores understand to keep the coolers full, but high-profit seasonal impulse items they often forget about,” said Al Underwood, president of American Style Sunglasses. Summertime as a general marketing theme can span summer fun, travel, tailgating, family fires — these are all symbolic of the season, family life and American values, noted Don Stuart, managing director at Cadent Consulting Group. “C-stores can leverage them all,” he advised. Additionally, this works for springtime and the theme of “Spring Fling,” whereby c-stores can feature collectible cards, spinning tops or whatever the latest trending general merchandise item is to take consumers out of their winter doldrums. Spring is not just about Easter. As for when retailers should start merchandising seasonal moments like summer and spring, Dodge suggests weeks in advance. For summer, “shoppers want to see merchandise in stores beginning in early May, and

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


the majority want it to run through Labor Day,” he stated.

3. School Days The two micro occasions of Back to School in September and Back From Holiday Break in January are critical, according to Stuart, as these can be key last-minute merchandising opportunities for stock-up and incremental purchases. “Backpacks, crayons and stationery, as well as snacks for school lunch boxes, are all essentials that can be lastminute pickups at c-stores,” Stuart pointed out. And the opportunity isn’t limited just to the days leading up to these occasions. “These are all things kids notice they’ve forgotten after the first few days of school have gone by,” he added. “These are great opportunities for quick fill-ins and emergencies.”

Mardi Gras and National Margarita Day are two “fifth-season” occasions c-store operators could use as marketing opportunities.

4. The National Day Calendar Did you know National Yo-Yo Day is June 6? How about National Sunglasses Day on June 27? The National Day Calendar (nationaldaycalendar.com) can become the fifth-season bible for a retailer looking to capitalize on odd holidays to sell more general merchandise. Kathy Thomas, a retail consultant and owner of a margarita mix company, Ready Ritas, discovered National Tequila Day (July 24) and National Margarita Day (Feb. 22) on the National Day Calendar to promote her product. She also uses color as a marketing tool as she sells colored salts in on-the-go plastic pouches that can be transported to any event. “We sell traditional lime-flavored margarita mix in fun teamand holiday-inspired colors. We have CrimsonRitas, BlueRitas, RedRitas, MaroonRitas, BurntOrangeRitas, PurpleRitas and a classic light-green color mix,” she explained. “As a smallbusiness owner, I depend on promotions around all holidays to encourage purchase. During tailgate season, I promote team colors. For Fourth of July, I promote red and blue mix and the complementary salt to go with it. For Mardis Gras, I feature purple salt on a glass full of green mix.”

“Millennial shoppers are looking for stronger emotional connections. One way they can achieve this is through yearround affordable gift-giving,” he said, pointing to candy. Confectionery company CandyRific likewise sees fifth season as bringing “all new and fresh opportunities in the retail environment,” said Clark Taylor, vice president of sales. CandyRific has begun to build new platforms to help retailers grow this fringe promotion area. For example, the company recently worked with several major retailers to create Super Bowl promotions around snacking and chocolate candy.

Stuart agrees there’s a lot more fifth-season opportunities than retailers realize.

“This has involved some of our toys, as well as promotionspecific snacking bowls for their candy and party events,” Taylor relayed.

“It seems almost any day is a big day that has a named event after it. Some have historical significance such as Flag Day, but some are truly frivolous such as Peach Day or Watermelon Day,” he said. “But these are all days that creative operators can make something out of.”

Other fifth-season opportunities that CandyRific has capitalized on are license releases, such as Star Wars in May. Cinco de Mayo is also a focus of the company. “We are creating specific packaging graphics to tie into these new opportunities,” he said.

Still, he’s not suggesting c-stores do this every day. “There’s probably one a week that can be really special to make a store pop — to differentiate it, to create some traffic and to generate incremental sales with unique merchandising.”

Taylor cautions retailers, though, to be mindful of the merchandising difference between a major holiday and a mini one; the latter is exactly as it sounds: smaller and shorter.

5. Confectionery as a Backdrop Fifth season isn’t limited to general merchandise. Dodge recommends retailers mix major and mini season moments throughout the year using confectionery as a backdrop.

“These opportunities do not have long promotion windows associated with them, so the presentation of the items and the quantities purchased must be very tight on the timing,” he advised. “Also, you need smaller case packs for quicker turns of stock.” CSN

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FEATURE

ON THE MOVE

More consolidation and increased foodservice sales headline a strong year for the nation’s top convenience distributors By Don Longo THE NATION’S 20 LARGEST convenience store wholesale distributors rolled into a strong year — increasing their sales by nearly 5 percent in the past year. The year-overyear growth of 4.8 percent was a half-point better than the previous year’s rate of sales growth.

McLane Co. Inc. once again tops the 2018 Convenience Store News Top Wholesalers ranking. The Temple, Texas-based distributor registered more than $33 billion in sales in its latest fiscal year, a 4.7-percent annual gain. Operating in all 50 states, McLane serves 46,144 predominately chain locations with roughly 69,000 deliveries per week. No. 2 ranked Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc., located in South San Francisco, Calif., posted an 8-percent sales increase to total more than $15 billion in annual sales. Also a national distributor, Core-Mark serves 45,000 locations with approximately 51,000 deliveries per week. Like last year, this year was marked by significant acquisitions and mergers. Imperial Super Regional Distributor’s acquisition of S. Abraham & Sons, and Eby-Brown Co. LLC’s acquisition of Pittsburg, Pa.-based A.J. Silberman were the highlights. With the acquisition of Silberman, Eby-Brown ranks third with a 5.6-percent revenue gain to $5.7 billion in annual sales. Operating in 23 states, Naperville, Ill.-based EbyBrown serves 15,000 locations with about 18,000 deliveries per week. H.T. Hackney Co. of Knoxville, Tenn., ranks fourth, with about $4 billion in sales, while the acquisition of S. Abraham & Sons has lifted Imperial Super Regional to the No. 5 rank this year, with $2.3 billion in annual sales.

Top Wholesalers Summary TOTAL SALES (Percent change vs. year ago): Top 20 wholesalers Top 5 wholesalers

$70.9 billion (+4.8%) $60.9 billion (+5.2%)

AVERAGE SALES PER: Company Retail location served Warehouse Full-time employee

$3.543 billion $344,188 $537 million $2.272 million

PERCENT OF SALES: Chains Single stores

54.1% 45.9%

Source: Convenience Store News Market Research, 2018

Percent of Sales by Category Cigarettes Other tobacco products Foodservice

68.0% 10.2% 7.0%

Candy/gum/packaged sweet snacks

5.3%

Salty snacks

2.9%

Grocery

2.0%

General merchandise/health & beauty care

1.5%

Packaged beverages

1.4%

Fresh produce

0.7%

Gourmet/natural/specialty food

0.6%

Other

0.4%

Source: Convenience Store News Market Research, 2018

Among the remaining top 20 wholesalers, strong performances were turned in by Consumer Product Distributors Inc., which does business as J. Polep Distribution Services (sales up 4.9 percent); Harold Levinson Associates LLC (up 6.1 percent), Harbor Wholesale Foods (up 13.5 percent), and Topicz (up 8.6 percent).

Expanded Offerings Convenience wholesalers continue to generate the majority of their sales from cigarettes — on average, 68 percent of the top 20 wholesalers’ sales came from cigarettes in the past year, about the same as in previous years. Other tobacco products (OTP) constituted 10 percent of sales.

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


Save the Date! 11.15.2018 ANNOUNCING ... From the most established brand in the convenience store retailer space comes one of the highest honors in the industry: the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame. This is a must-attend gala event with some of the most admired retailers and suppliers in the c-store industry in attendance, honoring some of the industry’s most influential retailer and supplier executives.

4 REASONS TO PARTICIPATE IN THE CSNEWS HALL OF FAME EVENT: • • • •

Strengthen and develop industry relationships Be known as a leader in the industry Gain visibility for your brand and products Reach retail and supplier executives and key decision-makers

Hall of Fame is an intimate awards gala reception, dinner and award ceremony celebrating the induction of outstanding men and women who have exhibited exceptional leadership and provided significant contributions to the convenience store industry.

2018 HONOREES

RETAILER HALL OF FAMER

SUPPLIER HALL OF FAMER

Jay Ricker

Rick Brindle

Chairman Ricker Oil Co.

Vice President of Industry Development Mondelez International Inc.

AND INTRODUCING...

RETAILER EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

Joseph S. Sheetz President and CEO Sheetz, Inc.

Join us as we help nurture and celebrate the exceptional leaders of tomorrow in the convenience store industry. The Convenience Store News Future Leaders in Convenience program celebrates and develops the next generation of convenience retail leaders by providing a forum for talented young business people to hone their leadership talent while recognizing the achievements of an emerging leaders under the age of 35 at the time of nomination. The CSNews Future Leaders in Convenience program provides a comprehensive workshop and networking program that teaches young convenience store managers and executives how to achieve their full potential as leaders in their organizations and the industry at large.

SPONSORSHIPS AVAILABLE! Contact Paula Lashinsky, VP and Brand Director, plashinsky@ensembleIQ.com | 917-446-4117


FEATURE

Top 5 Trends Impacting Business Today Increased government regulation

Foodservice, however, was the fastest-growing category, rising from 5.9 percent of sales a year ago to 7 percent of sales currently. Meanwhile, candy/gum/packaged sweet snacks dropped from second to third in share, generating 5.3 percent of sales for the top wholesalers in the past year.

23.3%

Short supply of qualified truck drivers

15.2%

Competition from other full-line wholesalers

14.0%

Rising transportation costs

9.1%

Pressure on tobacco margins

6.3%

Source: Convenience Store News Market Research, 2018

Several respondents to the Top Wholesalers survey said they’ve expanded offerings in both new and existing categories, such as expanded private label foodservice offerings and additional offerings in the nutritional category, better-for-you products, fresh bread, ice cream, fresh foods, Hispanic snacks and candy, cold brew coffee and novelties.

Sales per Retail Location Served McLane Co. Inc.

$720,094

Team Sledd

$575,000

Chambers & Owen Inc.

$500,000

Charles C. Parks Co.

Several wholesalers also reported that they’ve implemented new services or business solutions over the past year to help their retailer customers. “We’ve expanded mobile ordering technology and functionality,” said Ryan Peters, vice president of sales and marketing for Harbor Wholesale. The Lacey, Wash.-based distributor also expanded its product selection to provide alternatives to traditional DSD (direct-store delivery) product needs, and increased its selection of healthy and gourmet foods. McLane noted that it continues to invest in cutting-edge technology to drive costs out of the supply chain, while generating efficiencies. “In response to the ever-changing needs of our customer-partners and their consumers, we initiated a plethora of solutions over the past year,” said Vito Maurici, senior vice president of sales. These included the addition of a cycle count feature on handheld devices; a consumer loyalty application that gives retailers the ability to send push notifications for coupon redemption by specific user; and a new ordering platform called the Mobile Virtual Trade Show that allows customers to take advantage of deep discounts, new products and promotional offers using their phone.

$484,211

Cooper-Booth Wholesale Co.

$449,819

Topicz

$422,222

Imperial Super Regional Distributor/S. Abraham & Sons $418,182 Eby-Brown Co. LLC Southco Distributing Co. Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc.

$380,000 $372,125 $348,622

Source: Convenience Store News Market Research, 2018

Sales per Delivery per Week McLane Co. Inc.

$480,799

Chambers & Owen Inc.

$480,000

Team Sledd Cooper-Booth Wholesale Co.

$479,167 $420,946

Imperial Super Regional Distributor/S. Abraham & Sons $407,080 Charles C. Parks

$391,489

Topicz

$389,744

Tripifoods Inc.

$325,000

Allen Brothers Wholesale Distribution

$317,576

Eby-Brown Co. LLC

$316,667

Source: Convenience Store News Market Research, 2018

Brad Prendergast, chief financial officer at Imperial, shared that the company added a Product Movement Specialist to its team. This position assists retailers with product location to “increase sales, improve inventory turns and have fresher product availability,” he said. Discussing external forces, the top wholesalers said the three trends most impacting their business today are increased government regulation, the short supply of qualified truck drivers and competition from other fullline wholesalers. Rankings for the 2018 Convenience Store News Top Wholesalers report are based on sales for the last full fiscal year for each company. Data for this report was gathered through a survey conducted among the largest wholesalers primarily servicing c-stores that derive the majority of their sales from tobacco and candy products. Additional data was obtained through company reports and other public sources of financial data. In some cases, estimates have been made by Convenience Store News based on historical data and current industry trends. CSN 78 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


Solving Big Problems, Inspiring Bold Ideas EnsembleIQ is a premier business intelligence resource that believes in Solving Big Problems and Inspiring Bold Ideas. Our brands work in harmony to inform, connect, and provide predictive analysis for retailers, consumer goods manufacturers, technology vendors, marketing agencies and service providers. EnsembleIQ’s integrated suite of solutions-based, total-market resources give you all the tools you need to achieve a strategic market advantage, giving you the insights, positioning, focus, and access, along with a team of dedicated strategic consultants to help you bring it all to life.

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FEATURE

ESTIMATED SALES

RANK

2018

Company/Headquarters

Chief Executive

Latest FY1 (millions)

RETAIL SERVICE

Previous FY % (millions) change

Trading Area

Locations Deliveries Served per Week

1

McLane Co. Inc., Temple, Texas 2

Grady Rosier

$33,228

$31,725

4.7%

50 states

46,144

69,110

2

Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc., South San Francisco, Calif.

Scott McPherson

$15,688

$14,529

8.0%

50 states

45,000

51,000

3

Eby-Brown Co. LLC, Naperville, Ill.

Thomas & Richard Wake

$5,700

$5,400

5.6%

MN, IA, WI, IL, MO, KY, IN, MI, GA, TN, NC, SC MS, AL, ND, SD, PA, WV, VA, OH, NY, MD, DE

15,000

18,000

4

H.T. Hackney Co., Knoxville, Tenn.

William Sansom

$4,000

$4,000

0.0%

AL, AR, FL, GA, MS, NC, SC, TN, LA, TX, KY, OH, PA, VA, WV, MD, IN, MO, IA, MI, MO

22,000

n/a

5

Imperial Super Regional Distributor/ S. Abraham & Sons, Elmood, La. 3

John D. Georges

$2,300

$2,276

1.1%

LA, MS, AL, GA, TX, OK, AR, TN, KS, MO, MI, IN, KY, WI, OH, PA, WV, IL

5,500

5,650

6

Consumer Product Distributors Inc., Chicopee, Mass. 4

Eric Polep

$1,554

$1,482

4.9%

MA, CT, RI, NH, VT, ME, NY, NJ, PA

4,895

5,500

7

Harold Levinson Associates LLC, Farmingdale, N.Y.

Edward Berro

$1,376

$1,297

6.1%

All except AL, AK, HI

9,000

9,500

8

AMCON Distributing Co., Omaha, Neb.

Christopher H. Atayan

$1,250

$1,267

-1.3%

AR, CO, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, OK, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WI, WV, WY

4,600

4,200

9

GSC Enterprises Inc., Sulphur Springs, Texas

Michael Bain

$973

$973

0.0%

AR, KS, LA, MS, NE, NM, OK, TX

n/a

n/a

10

Cooper-Booth Wholesale Co., Mountville, Pa.

Barry Margolis

$623

$610

2.1%

PA, MD, DE, VA, WV, DC, NJ

1,385

1,480

11

Chambers & Owen Inc., Janesville, Wis. John K. Owen

$600

$600

0.0%

WI, MI, MN, IA, IL

1,200

1,250

12

Southco Distributing Co., Goldsboro, N.C. Sherwin Herring

$597

$604

-1.2%

NC, SC, VA, TN, GA

1,600

2,100

13

Team Sledd, Wheeling, W.Va.

$575

$575

0.0%

WV, OH, PA, MD, VA, KY, DE

1,000

1,200

14

Harbor Wholesale Foods, Lacey, Wash. Justin Erickson

$538

$474

13.5%

WA, OR, ID, CA, AK

3,000

2,200

15

Topicz, Cincinnati 5

Marvin H. Schwartz

$380

$350

8.6%

OH, KY, IN, WV, TN, IL

900

975

16

Tripifoods Inc., Buffalo, N.Y.

Gregory G. Tripi

$325

$316

2.8%

IL, IN, NY, OH, PA, WV

2,350

1,000

17

Resnick Distributors, New Brunswick, N.J. Steven Resnick

$315

$315

0.0%

NJ, PA, NY, CT, MD, DE, DC, VA, NC

1,000

1,000

18

Stephenson Wholesale Co. Inc., Durant, Okla. 6

Tammy Cross

$295

$298

-1.0%

OK, TX

2,869

3,930

19

Charles C. Parks Co., Gallatin, Tenn.

Charles C. Parks III

$276

$281

-1.8%

TN, KY, VA, NC, SC, GA, AL, MS, AR, IN

570

705

20

Allen Brothers Wholesale Distribution Inc., Philadelphia

Jeff. B. Allen

$262

$261

0.4%

PA, DE, NJ, NY, DC

1,254

825

Robert M. Sincavich

Footnotes: Consumer Product Distributors dba J. Polep Distribution Services Topicz corporate parent is Novelart Manufacturing Co. 6 Stephenson Wholesale dba Indian Nation Wholesale

1

4

2

5

FY=Fiscal year McLane corporate parent is Berkshire Hathaway, Omaha, Neb. 3 Imperial Super Regional/S. Abraham & Sons corporate parent is Georges Enterprises LLC, Elmwood, La.

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


PERCENT OF SALES

WAREHOUSES

EMPLOYEES

Sq. Feet Full-time Part-time (thousands)

PRODUCTIVITY RATIOS: SALES PER

Chain

Indep.

# of Warehouses

Sales

Sq. Foot

Employee (thousands)

99%

1%

22

10,494

13,417

78

290

$3,166

$2,477

$720

$481

65%

35%

34

5,500

5,000

n/a

n/a

$2,852

$3,138

$349

$308

40%

60%

8

2,000

2,250

100

150

$2,850

$2,533

$380

$317

n/a

n/a

28

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

$182

n/a

65%

35%

6

829

838

15

142

$2,774

$2,745

$418

$407

63%

37%

7

387

926

16

114

$4,016

$1,678

$317

$283

7%

93%

6

420

597

74

133

$3,276

$2,305

$153

$145

72%

28%

6

641

528

12

104

$1,950

$2,367

$272

$298

n/a

n/a

1

450

n/a

n/a

n/a

$2,162

n/a

n/a

n/a

42%

58%

1

210

298

2

20

$2,967

$2,091

$450

$421

45%

55%

1

252

260

0

35

$2,381

$2,308

$500

$480

55%

45%

1

210

192

12

36

$2,843

$3,109

$373

$284

50%

50%

1

200

275

0

40

$2,875

$2,091

$575

$479

40%

60%

2

312

460

14

55

$1,724

$1,170

$179

$245

5%

95%

1

120

170

3

14

$3,167

$2,235

$422

$390

85%

15%

1

250

150

44

11

$1,300

$2,167

$138

$325

35%

65%

1

100

135

0

13

$3,150

$2,333

$315

$315

90%

10%

3

194

261

2

30

$1,521

$1,130

$103

$75

70%

30%

1

179

154

2

12

$1,542

$1,792

$484

$391

46%

54%

1

65

81

4

15

$4,031

$3,235

$209

$318

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Location (thousands)

20 1 8

Delivery (thousands)

Convenience Store News

81


FEATURE

IT’S ALL ABOUT CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE The 2018 NACS Show drove home the importance of delivering a compelling shopping experience A Convenience Store News Staff Report CHANGE IS LIKE SURFING in that it’s all about paddling as hard as you can before the wave gets you, NACS President and CEO Henry Armour told attendees of the 2018 NACS Show in a keynote address that focused on change, disruption and the future of the convenience channel.

“In this new era of disruptive change, we need to start paddling, and paddling fast. There are an enormous number of waves heading our way and some are very, very close,” he said, pointing to electric and self-driving vehicles, on-demand fueling, the increasing focus on healthier lifestyles, legalization of marijuana, and the impact of e-commerce on traditional brick-and-mortar retail. To navigate the waves, Armour laid out which way the convenience and fuel retailing industry should be paddling to ensure its survival. Rather than focusing on the delivery of a compelling fuel offer that brings people to the stores —  which has long been the strategy — he said operators should instead focus on delivering a compelling in-store offer that will bring people to the fuel side.

“We must be paddling to a future in which our stores deliver a compelling shopping experience with products that fuel and excite the immediate-consumption demands of our customers in as frictionless an ordering and payment environment as possible,” he concluded.

Three specific areas Armour said the convenience channel should be addressing are:

Outgoing NACS Chairman Joe Sheetz, president and CEO of convenience store chain Sheetz Inc., also addressed the importance of customer experience during his keynote speech at the NACS Show, which took place Oct. 7-10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

• Friction in the customer’s journey and the massive technological opportunities to reduce it; • Electric vehicles and the significant implications for convenience retailers; and • The changing definition of convenience.

Convenience store operators must always look to evolve in order to compete for the attention of their customers, which is getting harder to do. “We compete against everyone who sells convenience, and increasingly that seems like everyone,” said Sheetz.

On the topic of friction, he cited companies like Amazon and Starbucks, which have helped “deconstruct” the path to purchase by creating more frictionless customer shopping experiences.

To successfully compete with its many competitors, Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz Inc. focuses on three main areas that are representative of what it does best:

“Mobile order and frictionless payment is a focus we must have,” urged Armour. As for the changing definition of convenience, he explained that NACS research has found consumers don’t see convenience as a separate retail channel; they see convenience as a lifestyle. “Let’s not get caught, either as convenience store operators or as suppliers to c-stores, thinking that we are an insulated channel. We aren’t,” Armour said. “The world competes for the convenience shopping occasion and channel walls have not only crumbled, they are being obliterated.” Stores that deliver a compelling shopping experience are the ones that will stay afloat.

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

1. Fulfilling the immediate needs of convenience-demanding customers; 2. Making people’s lives easier; and 3. Being dedicated to Sheetz employees and the communities that Sheetz serves. The key to continuing success, according to Sheetz, is figuring out ways to disrupt from within, while keeping an eye on those also seeking to sell convenience, such as Dunkin’, McDonald’s and Starbucks. For Sheetz Inc., a big part of serving its target customers is ensuring that employees focus on giving them “a total customer experience” that they might not be able to find elsewhere — including through Amazon. “We can give you an experience with an actual smiling face,” said Sheetz, noting that at his company, “C” not only stands for “convenience,” but also “community” and “caring” for people.


A Global Perspective

Marijuana: The Next Emerging Category for C-stores?

On the final day of the 2018 NACS Show, Sheetz Inc. President and CEO Joe Sheetz passed the baton of NACS chairman to Frank Gleeson, president of Aramark Northern Europe, making him the first Europebased chairman in NACS’ 57-year history.

There is a hot new category that could usher in huge opportunities for convenience stores. The bad news: It is not legal in all states and certainly not legal at the federal level.

Gleeson, who calls Dublin home, detailed his experience in the convenience and fuel retailing industry, which started 30 years ago when he began working at his family’s general goods store. In his teens, he embarked on his own business, and its failure proved a defining moment for him. “It turned out to be one of my most memorable lessons,” he said. Eventually, Gleeson found himself working at Blockbuster, a company whose eventual obsolescence in the dawn of Netflix provided a lesson in disruption for Gleeson.

Outgoing NACS chairman Joe Sheetz (left) passed the gavel to incoming chairman Frank Gleeson.

“As innovative as Netflix is, our industry is right there,” he said. “We’ve caused enough disruption of our own but, in doing so, we’ve never lost sight of our customers; exceeding their expectations before they even know what they need and continuing to be innovators in our stores.” Gleeson went on to discuss his work at Aramark, particularly the concept of “foodvenience” — providing high-quality food to customers wherever they are. Aramark recently launched a 10-year-partnership with British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who has made eliminating childhood obesity a focus of his work. In closing his speech, Gleeson spoke about touring the U.S. convenience store industry, stopping at retailers like QuikTrip, Sheetz and Wawa to see firsthand the impressive work they’re doing. He noted that U.S. innovators like Rutter’s Scott Hartman are known to travel the globe in search of innovation elsewhere, including his hometown of Dublin. Across the globe, Gleeson said, there are similar trends and issues — trends and issues that c-store retailers everywhere can come together to understand and tackle. “Sometimes, they are incremental improvements, but they are all focused on redefining the mindset of convenience,” he said. “Now that’s exciting! We are as vibrant as ever in owning convenience.”

That being said, marijuana has the potential to turn the convenience channel from the traditional ‘gas, smokes and cokes’ to ‘gas, smokes and tokes,’” said Melissa Vonder Harr, marketing director of iSEE Store Innovations and moderator of the “Marijuana: Capitalizing on a Budding Opportunity” education session at the NACS Show. The marijuana business is boomScott Sinder ing, according to Scott Sinder, NACS’ general counsel and partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP, with Bloomberg reporting revenue will hit $50 billion by 2026. Many states have legalized marijuana overall or in part — including the legalization of CBD-type products, medical use and recreational use. To date, nine states and Washington, D.C. have legalized full recreational use; 31 states, inclusive of the nine states, have legalized medical marijuana; and 22 states have bills to legalize adult-use marijuana this legislative session. However, under federal felony law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug similar to heroin and LSD. Therefore, those in the space today face banking, insurance and tax challenges. “You put your entire business at risk,” Sinder acknowledged. In those states with legal marijuana measures on the books, there are running themes: allow for use over 21 years old; create a new regulatory body to oversee it; impose taxes; and have geographic limitations. The pitfalls for retailers, according to Sinder, are: • It is another age-restricted product; • It has restricted hours of operation; • Insurance requirements; and • A prohibition on the sale of non-cannabis products. Don Rhoads, president and CEO of The Convenience Group LLC, based in Washington State, knows firsthand the challenges of marijuana retailing. Washington was one of the first states to fully legalize marijuana, and Rhoads has been in the marijuana business for four years now. Citing numbers from a Marist College study, he pointed out that more than half of the U.S. population over the age of 18 has tried marijuana. Of the 55 million reported users, 52 percent are millennials and 16 percent are baby boomers. Thirty-eight percent are female. Most interesting, he said, is that only 16 percent say they use marijuana to have fun, while 80 percent say they use it for other reasons, such as relaxation or pain management.

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FEATURE

The Foodservice Trends You Should Know Convenience store operators that have successfully built foodservice programs must continue to innovate and keep up with food trends to move their businesses forward. The “Foodservice Trends: Now, New, Next” education session at the NACS Show explored the ways in which retailers can do this, along with spotlighting current and emerging trends.  Speakers included Steve Turner, director of food programs and offers at RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.; Ted Roccagli, director of preferred vendor programs at Empire Petroleum Partners; and Mark DiDomenico, director of client solutions at Datassential, who served as moderator. Health and wellness is an aspect of foodservice to which c-stores should pay increasing attention. Results of Datassential’s market research shows that health and wellness is in a “3.0 stage,” where consumers are interested in functional foods and care about what positive aspects they should have, instead of what negative aspects they should lack. Today, this includes protein, antioxidants and superfoods. While consumers still love steak and other meat products, they are more interested in consuming vegetarian or vegan products, as well as cutting back on meat products to become “flexitarians.” RaceTrac has begun looking at locally sourced vegetables and free-range chicken as functional food ingredients for its program, according to Turner. The chain also added almond creamer as a standard condiment in its coffee set based on customer requests, and is working on a dairy-free, almond milk-based ice cream option for its Swirl World concept. While Empire works with a wide variety of branded partners, instead of offering its own proprietary program, the retailer does offer healthier options, such as Burger King’s

The panelists pointed to automation and delivery as key trends.

Tendergrill chicken sandwich and Morning Star veggie burger, and Five Star Pies’ cauliflower crust profile, which has less sodium. Automation and delivery are additional trends on the rise in foodservice. While autonomous vehicles are in their infancy, they will eventually be on the streets and used for delivery, DiDomenico predicted. In the meantime, land-based drone delivery already exists in some cities, particularly on college campuses, and automated devices are assisting in production, such as a CostCo device that delivers the sauce to uncooked pizza dough. This kind of automation can help fill the labor crunch. RaceTrac is currently testing delivery service with a thirdparty partner. Turner encouraged other c-store retailers to make the foray into delivery. “Don’t wait until you’re ready,” he said. By trying it, retailers can figure out what to do and not to do, but if they don’t take any steps, “your market share is guaranteed to be zero.”

The Coolest New Products Attendees of the 2018 NACS Show selected 10 new products as the best of the best out of the more than 300 new products featured in the Cool New Products Preview Room. The Cool New Products Preview Room showcases the latest products, flavors, packaging and innovations available to the convenience and fuel retailing industry. Visitors scanned the products they were interested in and received a printout of where to find them on the expo floor. A record number of scans were recorded in this year’s Cool New Products Preview Room. Based on visitor scans, the top 10 new products were: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Pastry Case with Warmer — Hussmann Corp. Joy Bol and Rice Krispies Treats Poppers — Kellogg Co. Cheez-It Snap’d and Pringles Wavy — Kellogg Co. OH SNAP! Hoppin’ Jalapeños — GLK Foods Pro2Snax to the Max — Reichel Foods Inc.

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

A record number of scans were recorded in this year’s Cool New Products Preview Room.

6. Push N Go Creamer Dispenser — Plastic and Products Marketing 7. Probiotic Dairy Free Yogurts — Califia Farms 8. Acqua Panna, San Pellegrino Essenza, Perrier & Juice, Kids Buddies — Nestle Waters North America 9. Spray & Go — CAF Inc. 10. Bang Energy Digital Rack — Dot Design Group Pty. Ltd.


Convenience Store News @ NACS Show 2018 In addition to being an exhibitor, and our editors covering all aspects of the event, Convenience Store News used the backdrop of the 2018 NACS Show to host multiple events and make several award presentations honoring notable companies and individuals in the industry. On Oct. 7, the 2018 Technology Leadership Roundtable & Awards Dinner was held on the 104th floor of the Stratosphere Hotel. The event featured a fireside chat with Rutter’s President and CEO Scott Hartman discussing the intersection of marketing and technology. Another highlight was the Technology Leader of the Year award presentation to Charles Jarrett, senior vice president and chief information officer at Cumberland Farms Inc. On the evening of Oct. 8, Convenience Store News celebrated its fifth class of Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) with an awards gala at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Perseverance, belief in oneself and teamwork were key themes of the event, which honored 45 of the convenience store industry’s top female leaders, mentors and up-and-comers.

The 7-Eleven executive team accepted the Hot Beverages Innovator of the Year award.

Editorial Director Don Longo conducted a fireside chat with Rutter’s President and CEO Scott Hartman.

Melissa Stockwell, the first American female soldier to lose a limb in Iraq, served as the keynote speaker for the fifth-annual TWIC event. A first lieutenant, Stockwell lost her left leg when a roadside bomb exploded while she was leading a convoy in Baghdad. She used her adversity to fuel subsequent success as a Paralympian, transforming from wounded warrior to world champ. Last but not least, over the course of the show, Convenience Store News presented its 2018 Foodservice Innovators Awards, which recognize retailers for raising the bar on quality, service and innovation in the fast-growing and critically important foodservice category in the convenience channel. This year’s honorees included: • Foodservice Innovator of the Year: Rutter’s • Prepared Foods Innovator of the Year: Maverik Inc. • Hot Beverages Innovator of the Year: 7-Eleven Inc. • Cold & Frozen Beverages Innovator of the Year: Circle K • Best New Foodservice Offering of the Year: BP/ampm • Foodservice Innovator to Watch: Dash In (The Wills Group) CSN

Four of the five Women of the Year recipients were present for the ceremony.

Melissa Stockwell shared her story of tragedy to triumph.

The Convenience Store News Sampler Sack was once again a must-get at the show.

The Alimentation Couche-Tard team turned out in force to laud their winning colleagues.

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STORE SPOTLIGHT

An Express Lane to the Future New TA Express sites fill the need for smaller travel centers on secondary highways By Don Longo & Danielle Romano

Four locations are currently open under the TA Express brand, including three in Colorado and one in North Dakota.

INNOVATIVE STORE MODELS that can fulfill the immediate need states of commuters and professional drivers alike continue to propel the truck stop and travel center channel forward.

For Westlake, Ohio-based TravelCenters of America LLC — the nation’s second-largest chain of travel centers — the launch of a third brand, TA Express, does just that.

At a Glance TA Express

Locations: Colorado and North Dakota Size: 10,000 to 15,000 square feet Unique features: A smaller, more nimble footprint; no sit-down QSR restaurants, counter service only; deli counters at select sites; “high-bar” restrooms

TravelCenters of America currently offers diesel and gasoline fueling, restaurants, truck repair facilities, convenience stores and other services in 43 states and Canada, principally under the TA, TA Express and Petro Stopping Centers brands. In June, the retailer announced it was looking to grow its network of travel centers through franchising opportunities. As part of this initiative, TravelCenters unveiled TA Express, a smaller, more nimble format to serve travelers, professional drivers and local motorists. Fast forward to September, and four travel centers are open under the TA Express banner, including three in Colorado and one in North Dakota. The Colorado locations include 455 US Highway 85 in Walsenberg;

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

1041 North Colorado Ave. in Brush; and 2222 US Highway 6 in Grand Junction. The North Dakota location is at US Highway 85 and State Route 68 in Alexander. “While our traditional travel centers offer a wide variety of options for all travelers, we heard from our motorists and professional drivers that they also wanted locations where they could experience TravelCenters’ quality in a quick-serve setting. That’s what we’re offering with TA Express,” said Barry Richards, the company’s president and chief operating officer. “TA Express gives our guests another convenient way to refuel, replenish and refresh so that they can quickly and easily continue their family trip or deliver their freight load.”

Sizeable Offerings The TA Express travel centers range in size from 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, about half the size of TravelCenters’ traditional sprawling locations, whose main buildings alone average between 20,000 and 30,000 square feet. The new brand allows TravelCenters to open stores on potentially profitable sites formerly deemed too small for the company’s full-size travel centers.


“TA Express allows us to fill in some holes on secondary routes that can’t accommodate a full-size TA travel center. We’ve spent years looking for sites and had to pass on sites we thought were too small,” Richards explained. He noted that even at half the size of the company’s traditional full-size TA travel centers, TA Express locations are still the same size or bigger than the travel centers operated by most of the major competing truck stop and travel center chains.

“TA Express gives our guests another convenient way to refuel, replenish and refresh so that they can quickly and easily continue their family trip or deliver their freight load.”

— Barry Richards, TravelCenters of America TravelCenters anticipates that TA Express will benefit from customers’ familiarity and loyalty to the TA name, according to Richards. Additionally, not offer sit-down restaurants. The new the smaller-format sites offer the same branded fuel (diesel builds also have a deli counter that and gasoline), merchandise mix, food, services and “highserves up hot and fresh grab-and-go bar” restrooms as the retailer’s full-size locations. prepared foods. For professional drivers especially, TA Express allows them to fuel faster, fulfill basic travel needs and return to the road in less time. UltraOne, TravelCenters’ loyalty platform for professional drivers, is available at TA Express sites. “TA has served the needs of professional drivers and motorists for nearly 50 years. We’ve listened to our customers and have adapted our facilities to meet their needs, including their need to have our locations in some areas where you just cannot put a large-format TA or Petro travel center,” Richards said. “New distribution centers country-wide have changed freight patterns and call for additional fueling locations not restricted to interstates and 25-acre parcels.” The four TA Express locations consist of two brand-new additions to the TravelCenters network in Brush and Walsenberg, Colo.; a company-operated site known as The Wild Bison in Alexander, N.D.; and the conversion of a TA travel center in Grand Junction, Colo. All four offer food and beverage counter service, featuring one or two of the retailer’s quick-service restaurant (QSR) partners. Unlike its full-size travel centers, TA Express does Traditional TravelCenters of America locations are about double the size of the new TA Express locations.

Small Footprint, Big Growth Franchising TA Express units will be an avenue of growth for TravelCenters, which entered into a definitive agreement in early September to sell its Minit Mart chain of standalone convenience stores to U.K.-based EG Group. The roughly $330.8-million deal will allow TravelCenters to improve the leverage of the company and expand its travel center growth initiatives, including expansion of its truck services programs. TravelCenters plans to develop a TA Express network across the nation’s interstates and other heavily traveled highways, and will be announcing expansion plans soon, according to the company. Currently, TravelCenters operates 179 TA travel centers, 14 of which are franchised. It also operates 77 Petro Stopping Centers, 13 of which are franchised. “We think franchising is a good way to grow the brand,” Richards told Convenience Store News, adding that both existing franchisees and new operators are candidates to open TA Express units.   “This is a complicated business,” he acknowledged. “We’re dispensing diesel fuel and gasoline. We operate all our QSRs ourselves. We have full-service restaurants, vehicle repair and emergency roadside assistance. But, when managed well, this can be a lucrative business.” CSN

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NEW HORIZONS

Advancing All Women White women and women of color have different workplace experiences — a single approach doesn’t fit all “It took me 28 years of proving myself to senior management to get to the VP level. I had the skill sets for the jobs, but I was being passed up for other individuals.”

success are the same. That assumption marginalizes the unique experiences and perspectives of women of color.

— Hispanic woman, NEW survey respondent

When leaders focus on women as a single group, they perpetuate the women of color achievement gap.

A FEW MONTHS AGO,

By Sarah Alter, President & CEO, Network of Executive Women

the Network of Executive Women (NEW) added a tagline under its logo: “Advancing all women. It’s just good business.” The tagline speaks for itself — and our corporate partners recognize the business case for gender diversity and inclusion, and have moved on to efforts to make it a reality. The increased focus on gender equality is shaking up our workplaces, and corporate leaders are rooting out gender bias in their company policies, programs and talent strategies. We’re seeing a greater desire to retain talented women and more investment in women’s leadership development. That’s all good. But in many cases, attempts to provide a workplace where “all women” can succeed have underperformed — or outright failed — because they are based on the premise that all women’s workplace experiences and barriers to

NEW’s latest research report, Advancing All Women: How Women of Color Experience the Workplace, published in partnership with Mercer and Accenture, addresses this achievement gap head-on. How wide is that gap? Women of color make up more than 35 percent of the female U.S. population, but just 15 percent of the managers, senior managers and executives at the retail and consumer goods companies we surveyed. Worse, we found that figure will decline over the next 10 years if there are no changes in talent strategies. The good news: Our research found women of color could hold one in four of those roles by 2027 if companies address the very different experiences women of color are having at work through new hiring, promotion and retention strategies.

Why They Leave As a group, women of color pointed to two factors influencing their intent to stay with a company: a feeling of belonging and satisfaction with their ability to achieve long-term career goals. These were the only two factors consistently selected by women across all ethnic and racial groups surveyed: White, Black, Hispanic and Latina, and Asian. In both areas, companies are falling short, especially for women of color. Only six in 10 women of color reported feeling a sense of belonging, compared to seven in 10 white women. As women of color face conscious and unconscious biases against their gender, race and, for some, religion, they feel pressure to “cover” or hide aspects of their authentic selves at work — leading to greater workplace stress. In many cases, women of color also deal with additional cultural, community or religious demands that make work/life integration even tougher than it is for white women.

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


Non-white women also reported less satisfaction with their ability to achieve long-term career goals at their company. Forty-seven percent of Hispanic women, 41 percent of black women and 38 percent of Asian women said they feel good about their ability to reach their long-term goals, compared to 50 percent of white women.

Equality efforts that ignore women of color are destined to fail.

As one black woman who participated in our survey pointed out: “Often, promotions are given to the most agreeable in the group and not the most qualified.”

Key factors influencing job satisfaction also differed between Asian, black and Hispanic women, our research found. Asian women reported that opportunities to improve their skills, pay for performance, the ability to use their paid time off and a culture with minimal favoritism influenced their level of engagement and happiness on the job. As a group, black women put greater importance on feeling they are part of a group. Their relationship with their supervisor and level of job stress also weighed on their intent to stay with their company. Hispanics and Latinas said trust in their supervisors and a range of developmental assignments were key factors in their job satisfaction. Advancing All Women offers an action plan to move toward gender and racial equality. Here are some of the strategies NEW lays out:

Convenience Store News is pleased to continue this series of exclusive educational columns by the Network of Executive Women (NEW), coinciding with the annual CSNews Top Women in Convenience awards given out each fall. Forty-five female managers, executives and directors who work in the convenience store industry were honored in our 2018 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. Founding & Presenting Sponsor:

• Set ambitious goals for equality and enforce them. • Do not tolerate excuses. Coach those who are not effective in driving change. • Support sponsorship of women of color. • Train on unconscious bias to help create greater understanding. • Call out bias. Silence can be construed as consent or agreement. • Practice conscious inclusion every day, with every interaction and communication.

Platinum Sponsors:

Most companies still have a long road to travel to get to workplace equality for women, and an even farther distance for women of color.

Gold Sponsors:

Download the complete Advancing All Women report at newonline.org/realities. Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a learning and leadership community representing more than 12,000 members, more than 800 companies, 100 corporate partners and 21 regional groups in the United States and Canada. Learn more at newonline.org. CSN Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.

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HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Gourmet Pet Treats

Grab N Go Chocolates

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


HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Food Service

C-Store Postage Program

Age Verifier

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CLASSIFIEDS

Services

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CLASSIFIEDS

Credit Card Processing / Merchant Services

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CLASSIFIEDS

ATMs

Air Vacs

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CLASSIFIEDS

Credit Card Processing / Merchant Services

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CLASSIFIEDS

Air Vacs

For Sale

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CLASSIFIEDS

Plastics

Health and Beauty Care

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CLASSIFIEDS

Air Vacs

Petroleum/Equiment

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POS


CLASSIFIEDS

ATM’s

Age Verifier

Services

Chain Acquisitions

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CLASSIFIEDS

SPIRIT SPECIALTIES

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CLASSIFIEDS

Check Guarantee Services

Equipment / Supplies

Sunglasses

Equipment / Supplies

Wholesale Refrigeration

ADINDEX Altria Group Distribution - Phillip Morris.......................2-3 Anheuser-Busch Inc. ...........................................................57 Aperion (a Hussmann company) ....................................19, Outsert Bake’n Joy Foods ..................................................................33 Blu E-Cigs ................................................................................45 Cash Depot, Ltd. ....................................................................22 Cookies United .......................................................................29 E-Alternative Solutions ......................................................17 Forte Products .......................................................................32 General Mills Inc. ..................................................................65 Glanbia Performance Nutrition ........................................64 GlaxoSmithKline ....................................................................21 Goya Foods, Inc. ....................................................................7 Harris Tea .................................................................................63 Hussmann Corporation ......................................................20 ImageWorks Display & Marketing ..................................53 Inter-Continental Cigar Corp. ...........................................66 J&J Snack Foods Corp. .....................................................15 John Middleton Company ................................................31 JUUL Labs ................................................................................27 Liggett Vector Brands .......................................................71 Mars Chocolate NA/ Wrigley ...........................................67 McLane Company .................................................................25 Mondelez International ......................................................41 NAFEM ......................................................................................69 Perfetti Van Melle USA Inc. ...............................................51 Procter & Gamble Distributing Company ...................11 Reynolds American Trade Marketing Services .........9, 37, 43 Rich Products Corporation ..............................................61 Stryve Protein Snacks ........................................................59 Swedish Match North America LLC ..............................5, 23, 39, 73, Back Cover Swisher International ..........................................................49 U.S. Food and Drug Administration ................................12-13 Universal Merchants .............................................................Outsert White Castle Food Products, LLC ..................................47

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Convenience Store News (ISSN 0194-8733; USPS 515-950) is published 12 times per year, monthly, by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W, Bryn Mawr Chicago, Il 60631. Copyright © 2018 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. Subscriptions: One year, $93; two years, $152. One year, Canada, $110; two years, Canada, $175. One year, foreign, $150. Payable in advance with a bank draft drawn on a U.S. bank in U.S. funds. Single copies, $10, except foreign, where postage will be added. Printed in U.S.A. Periodicals postage paid at Deerfield, IL, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Convenience Store News, P.O. Box 1842, Lowell, MA 01853.

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GETTING TO THE CORE

Does Displaying Calories Change Purchase Behaviors? A menu simulation finds one gender does buy differently when faced with calorie counts EIQ Research Solutions, sister company of Convenience Store News, surveyed convenience store shoppers to understand how, if at all, purchase behaviors of c-store prepared food might differ if shoppers are given calorie counts for the offerings. Participants were presented with a menu of c-store prepared food items and asked to purchase food for dinner from the menu. Half of the sample saw a menu with calorie counts, while the other half did not.

So What? Displaying calories of prepared foods impacts females, not males MENU WITH CALORIES

ITEM TYPE

MENU WITHOUT CALORIES

Only females varied in calories in terms of sides, dessert and in total.

1,065 663 (711) 235 (225) 1,964 (1,969)

Entree Sides Dessert Total

1,192 762 (907) 284 (368) 2,238 (2,488)

MENU WITH CALORIES

# OF ITEMS PURCHASED

MENU WITHOUT CALORIES

Quantity of items purchased, overall and unique items, does not change. This means females are exchanging items, not necessarily reducing purchases.

7.37 4.04

Total Unique

8.02 4.44

MENU WITH CALORIES

SPEND

MENU WITHOUT CALORIES

Only dessert items have a lower spend among females.

$10.85 $5.20 $1.01 ($0.98) $17.06

EntrĂŠe Spend Side Spend Dessert Spend Total

$11.93 $5.75 $1.28 ($1.64) $18.96

Menu with calories: n=235, Menu without calories: n=241. Data in parenthesis is among females.

Convenience store shoppers don’t place much emphasis on calories of c-store prepared food offerings. However, women, not men, are changing their purchase behaviors to reduce calories of prepared food meals at convenience stores. They are not necessarily buying less, just buying differently. This means that, when providing calories, offering healthier options can help maintain spend among females.

Impact on Purchase

Trans fat

29%

Saturated fat

28%

Sodium

27%

Vitamins and minerals

27%

Total fat Survey respondents sourced via ProdegeMR, reinventing the market research process by taking a respondent first approach. Visit prodegemr.com/ensembleiq for more info.

24% 23%

Calories from fat

21%

Calories

20%

Dietary fiber Total carbohydrate (n=476)

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

32%

Sugar

Cholesterol

Want to collaborate and share expertise with your peers? The Council of Retail Experts (CORE) is an exclusive network of convenience store retail leaders who do just that. For more information on how to join CORE, please visit www.cvcoreinsights.com.

35%

Protein

20% 19%


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Finding the Balance Between FRESH & FAST C-store customers increasingly want fresh, customizable food, but they also want it fast, which means retailers have some important choices to make.

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EDITOR’S NOTE

Bringing Flavor to the Foodservice Category As the industry gains expertise at all levels, convenience store operators are their own best resource for category development in both sales and importance to the convenience store industry, foodservice is no longer a newly successful category for c-store operators. Whether a program features fresh grab-and-go products for busy commuters, or made-to-order items that can be expansively customized, convenience foodservice as a whole is maturing, with more options and ways to distinguish oneself from the competition than ever before.

AFTER YEARS OF INCREASING

This means that while useful data and inspiring ideas can be found in other areas of the foodservice world, the convenience channel already possesses much of the most valuable knowledge possible, gained through experience, experiments and mistakes. During the 2018 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange (see coverage on page 12), and the Convenience Store News Convenience Innovation Council, powered by ConvenienceWorks by Hussmann (see page 20), retailers gathered together and were able to take part in interactive discussions with small groups, as well as oneon-one, retailer-supplier business development meetings in a true interchange of ideas. These events highlighted that the keys to foodservice success are on local, national and even global levels. C-stores are subject to generational trends, but as Ryan Krebs showed during his presentation on the results of Rutter’s going all-in on local, the communities in which they operate have just as much of an impact. The challenges and opportunities presented to a mom-andpop store in rural Iowa and a chain store in Los Angeles are neither identical nor utterly different. The ways in which they

respond to them, and the insights they gain from them, will likewise have similarities and differences, but the c-store industry at large will benefit from sharing that knowledge. One thing that all retailers can agree on is that convenience foodservice faces a great deal of change, today and for the foreseeable future. Of course, this category has never been stagnant, but technological innovation, changing consumer tastes, acceptance of convenience stores as foodservice destinations and more all mean that retailers must absorb a great deal of information as they choose their path. Grab-and-go or made-to-order? Foodservice specialists or jack-of-all-trades employees? Absolute freshness or speed of service? The choices seem endless, the number of potential missteps nearly so, yet there’s no doubt that the creativity and collective knowledge of the industry will benefit convenience foodservice as a whole, building new concepts and outstanding programs that tomorrow’s foodservice leaders will in turn use as inspiration. There’s no telling what exactly the future of foodservice will be like for convenience stores — but what’s certain is that we can’t wait to see what happens next. For comments, please contact Angela Hanson, Associate Editor, at (201) 855-7619 or ahanson@ensembleiq.com.

EDITORIAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS (2013-2018)

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

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD

2018 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Website Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2017 Business to Business, Editorial Use of Data, June 2017 2017 Eddie Awards, Folio: magazine Winner, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, May 2017 Honorable Mention, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, June 2016 2016 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2015 Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, August 2015 2015 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2014

Brett Atherton Bolla Management

Vito Maurici McLane Co. Inc.

Jon Bratta Core-Mark International Inc.

Jack Lewis GPM Midwest

Rick Crawford Green Valley Grocery Edward Davidson ER Davidson & Associates (7-Eleven Inc., retired)

Danielle Mattiussi Maverik Inc. Richard Mione GPM Southeast Jonathan Polonsky Plaid Pantries Inc. Greg Scriver Kwik Trip Inc.

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

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

Jim Hachtel Eby-Brown Co.

Roy Strasburger Strasburger Retail

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

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

Ray Johnson Speedee Mart

Frank White Yesway

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

2016 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Silver, Front Cover Illustration, June 2015

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CONTENTS NOV 18 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631 (773) 992-4450 Fax: (773) 992-4455 www.csnews.com Direct Mailing Address for Convenience Store News: 11-43 Raymond Plaza West, 16th floor, Newark, NJ 07102

EDITOR’S NOTE

BRAND MANAGEMENT

3 Bringing Flavor to the Foodservice Category

Vice President/Group Brand Director Paula Lashinsky (917) 446-4117 plashinsky@ensembleiq.com

As the industry gains expertise at all levels, convenience store operators are their own best resource for category development. COVER STORY

EDITORIAL Editorial Director (201) 855-7606

Don Longo dlongo@ensembleiq.com

Editor-in-Chief (201) 855-7608

Linda Lisanti llisanti@ensembleiq.com

6 Finding the Balance Between Fresh & Fast

Senior News Editor (201) 855-7618

C-store customers increasingly want fresh, customizable food, but they also want it fast, which means retailers have some important choices to make.

Associate Editor (201) 855-7619

Contributing Editor (303) 741-3377

RenĂŠe M. Covino reneek@aol.com

FEATURE

Contributing Editor (201) 280-2614

Tammy Mastroberte tmastroberte@gmail.com

12 Exchanging Excellence The 2018 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange brought retailers together to share ideas, insights and industry best practices. FEATURE

Melissa Kress mkress@ensembleiq.com Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com

Associate Managing Editor (201) 855-7604

Danielle Romano dromano@ensembleiq.com

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Ron Lowy rlowy@ensembleiq.com

20 Navigating the Intersection of

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

Foodservice & Technology The inaugural Convenience Store News Convenience Innovation Council gathered top retailers to share their expertise.

Account Executive & Classified Advertising Terry Kanganis (201) 855-7615 tkanganis@ensembleiq.com Classified Production Manager Mary Beth Medley (856) 809-0050 marybeth@marybethmedley.com EVENTS Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several (860) 830-8321 eseveral@ensembleiq.com AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT Director of Audience Engagement Gail Reboletti (224) 632-8214 greboletti@ensembleiq.com Audience Engagement Manager (215) 301-0593

Shelly Patton spatton@ensembleiq.com

List Rental (847) 492-1350 ext.318

MeritDirect Elizabeth Jackson

Subscriber Services/Single-Copy Purchases (978) 671-0449 EnsembleIQ@e-circ.net PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART Vice President, Production (877) 687-7321 Creative Director (973) 607-1320 Advertising/Production Manager (773) 992-4418 Art Director (224) 632-8245

Derek Estey destey@ensembleiq.com Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com Ed Ward eward@ensembleiq.com Michael Escobedo mescobedo@ensembleiq.com

CORPORATE OFFICERS Executive Chairman Alan Glass Chief Executive Officer David Shanker Chief Operating Officer & Chief Financial Officer Rich Rivera President, Path to Purchase Institute Terese Herbig Chief Digital Officer Joel Hughes Chief Human Resources Officer Jennifer Turner Chief Innovation Officer Tanner Van Dusen CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS AFFILIATIONS Premier Trade Press Exhibitor

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.

4 Guide to Foodservice C S N E W S . c o m


COVER STORY

Finding the Balance Between Fresh & Fast C-store customers increasingly want fresh, customizable food, but they also want it fast, which means retailers have some important choices to make By Angela Hanson

6 Guide to Foodservice C S N E W S . c o m


AT LUNCHTIME, a hungry office worker gets into his car to pick up lunch at a convenience store. Like many Americans, he’s within minutes of several c-stores that offer foodservice programs, which gives him options, but presents him with multiple questions.

Does he want something that can be extensively customized, or an item that is already hot and waiting? How long is he willing to wait for something made to order? If he wants something fresh, what exactly does that mean? Convenience store operators, as they build up their foodservice programs, are wrestling with the same questions. What do they want to offer their customers, and what kind of foodservice program do they want to be? The answers that retailers give to hundreds of questions will shape their offering, but as convenience foodservice evolves and individual retailers are able to create more advanced programs, one key consideration boils down to the balance of fresh and fast. Research shows again and again that consumers value freshness, yet retaining speed of service is fundamental to what the convenience retail channel is known for. The point at which c-stores land on that sliding scale affects not just the individual menu items they offer, but also what type of prepared food program they offer — made-to-order or grab-and-go — and what degree of customization is built into it. C-stores need to live up to the standards they set, whatever those standards are, to become a desirable foodservice destination. Industry veteran and consultant Jerry Weiner discussed this issue during his presentation at the 2018 NACS Show education session, “Is Made to Order Really For Me?”, which sought to help c-store operators decide whether made-to-order or graband-go is the right fit. “This is your program. This is your brand,” Weiner said. “What you deliver and execute is what people will think of your brand.” It’s easier said than done. So, how do retailers decide what to do?

A FOCUS ON FRESH In the fresh vs. fast debate, one question is obvious: How is “fresh” defined?

For certain products, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every ingredient in a product is equally fresh, according to Ryan Krebs, director of foodservice at York, Pa.-based Rutter’s, which operates 70-plus stores in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. “The perception of fresh is what people are really after, and creating that is critical,” he said. This doesn’t mean tricking customers or implying things about food quality that aren’t true. However, for example, not every hamburger must be made with never-frozen beef. A frozen burger patty can be combined with fresher ingredients that have a shorter shelf life, such as bread and vegetable toppings, to offer freshness in a product that still gets into a customer’s hands quickly. This makes knowledge of and trust in supplier partners extremely important. “In order to execute the quality and freshness people are looking for, you really have to leverage your manufacturers,” Krebs advised. “[They] are key to providing that quality, fresh image that can be executed in five minutes or less, consistently, by a part-time minor.” Rutter’s expanded into pizza with a personal-sized pie that has self-activating yeast in the crust. After being cooked for just two minutes, it has the texture of a brick oven pizza. Krebs points to this product as a good example of balancing freshness and speed. “It did take a little longer than typical, but I feel like it was worth it,” he said. “We even put language on the kiosk — ‘Worth the wait.’” Of course, having the quality of freshness means nothing if customers don’t believe it. Incorporating “fresh” as a key point of marketing is one way to earn trust. Another way, for c-stores with the resources to do so, is to let customers actually see the preparation process. Sheetz Inc. won a Convenience Store News 2017 Store Design Contest award for the interior of its Morgantown, W. Va., store, which incorporates a kitchen with an open view, allowing customers to watch the preparation of their food. While grab-and-go programs, which by their nature cater to the quick pickup, may not have that option, their focus on speed does not mean there are no standards for freshness. Retailers have other avenues at their disposal to help customers feel confident that grab-and-go products haven’t been sitting in the warmer for hours upon hours. “Presentation, labeling and packaging are the keys to the fresh presentation,” said Frank White, director of foodservice for Des Moines-based Yesway, which operates 150 convenience stores in eight states. “But the product quality has to be there.”

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COVER STORY

Training is “relentless” at Rutter’s, he noted. “I am so impressed at what our team does. If I create it, our team will figure out how to do it. I vet everything over and over again before we even get to deciding what we’re going to do,” he said. That training period, before a new product ever debuts, is built into the product development pipeline. More complicated products require extra training, particularly because a store-level employee may be young, with minimal foodservice experience when they start. Krebs recommends that c-stores always require a minimum level of training, even for items that only require pressing a button to begin cooking. Foodservice leadership should also solicit feedback from team members who actually prepare the food. “Even though we vet at our level, there’s nothing better than having experts at store level tell you exactly the way it feels to them. By the time it hits kiosks, it’s a perfectly executed system” he said. While it doesn’t take absolute top-tier equipment to build a quality program, the right kitchen technology can help as well. Yesway is investing in this area. “We are investing in kitchen technology that can be multipurpose — rapid heat ovens, humidified warmers, tortilla/ panini presses — and can see the product through multiple dayparts,” White said. “Our Culinary Innovation Center under Chef Carlos Acevedo will allow us to really fine-tune the processes for the best consumer experience.” At Rutter’s, the sweet spot is a high-quality food item that can be freshly prepared for the customer in an average of four to five minutes.

Along with a continual focus on improving ingredients, Yesway is currently assessing different “carrier solutions,” such as bread, wraps, tortillas and bowls, that are designed to maintain texture better than typical sandwich bread does.

FAST, FASTER, FASTEST At a certain point, a convenience store’s menu may become as optimized as it can be, with no further product changes able to be made without compromising freshness. From there, the only option is to deliver food as fast as possible, letting customers receive their orders and walk out the door before they grow impatient and opt to go elsewhere in the future. Krebs points to a single factor as making the biggest difference in being able to quickly prepare fresh orders, even for more complicated items: training.

8 Guide to Foodservice C S N E W S . c o m

White noted that significant time savings and value can be found in c-store classics like the roller grill, even for retailers working to transcend the c-store stereotype of offering low-quality food that sits there all day. Roller grill innovation is on the rise, with healthful items seeing a high profile, he said. He pointed to Tyson and Johnsonville as being notable in this area. Other technologies may not strictly speed up preparation, but can improve processes behind the scenes. The easier the preparation is for employees, the quicker it will reach customers. Ryan Yost, general manager for the print solutions division of Avery Dennison, pointed to equipment like the company’s FreshMarx 9417+ solution, which tracks such information as expiration dates, nutrition information and recipe ingredients to ensure proper food preparation. “Streamlining the process of serving customers quickly with foods that are continually evolving has more to do with organization than anything else,” Yost said. “The creation of the dishes originates in the corporate kitchen, of course, but bringing that to the shelf has everything to do with ease of use and standardization to ensure consistency and freshness.”


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COVER STORY

Industry experts agree that overall, as consumers have become more accepting of c-store foodservice as an appealing option, they have also grown more willing to wait for their orders — but there is a limit, which varies by daypart and by customer. “Guests will wait for the right freshness, taste and quality, but why should they?” asked White. “I would say the order to checkout timeline should be limited to three to 10 minutes, based on complexity.” Krebs concurs, citing an average window of four to five minutes at Rutter’s, with some products able to be ready in two minutes and others in six or seven minutes. Retailers must be flexible and adjust their staffing and offerings based on daypart and an understanding of customers’ needs at different times of the day. Individual personalities matter, too. Krebs describes two types of morning customers:

Associate training is an integral part of preparing fresh items fast.

the type who always builds time to stop for breakfast into their morning routine vs. the type who is continually running five minutes late and will never account for that time. The latter will opt for items in the hot-hold case no matter how delicious a made-to-order product might be. Lunchtime is particularly challenging for c-stores not just because of the increased foot traffic, but also because most lunch hour customers are pressed for time and can’t afford a lengthy wait before they must get back to work. On the other hand, dinnertime customers are typically more able to wait, which allows retailers to feature items in this daypart that take more prep time.

Roller grill innovation is on the rise, particularly healthful items.

Depending on a store’s market and menu, there are countless ways to balance fresh and fast. An operator will be most successful after deciding what’s best for their operation and then following through every day. When c-stores show they can be consistent with their operation, customers are able to trust them and will make their dining decisions with that in mind. “There is a balance but, at the same time, you can educate your customer to wait a little longer for quality,” Krebs said. CSN

10 Guide to Foodservice C S N E W S . c o m


FEATURE

EXCHANGING EXCELLENCE

The 2018 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange brought retailers together to share ideas, insights and industry best practices By Angela Hanson & Don Longo THE THEME FOR THE 2018 CONVENIENCE FOODSERVICE EXCHANGE, hosted by Convenience

Store News, was “Striving for Foodservice Excellence” and the agenda was designed to appeal to any convenience store retailer, regardless of size, that is looking to up their game in the critically important foodservice category. More than 35 retailers, representing large chains like Circle K, regional powerhouses like Wawa, RaceTrac and Maverik, and food-forward smaller chains like Rutter’s and Parker’s, were treated to a diverse program of interactive information-sharing and networking. The Convenience Foodservice Exchange was also the setting for the presentation of the 2018 Convenience Store News Foodservice Leader of the Year award. This year’s winner was Greg Parker, CEO of Savannah, Ga.-based Parker’s, a fast-growing chain of 53 convenience stores where customers can buy fresh, hot, Southern-inspired food. After a productive two days, five points emerged as the key takeaways from the 2018 Convenience Foodservice Exchange:

12 Guide to Foodservice C S N E W S . c o m

1. Foodservice Success Requires Brand Differentiation Brand differentiation means creating a foodservice offering and environment that separates you from your competition, said Jerry Weiner, a 40-year industry veteran and president of Food Service Consultant. He advised retailers to become a destination for food by doing things better or differently than the rest of the local market. Offering items that competitors don’t is one way of differentiating from your rivals. 2. It’s Not About Price, It’s About Value This was mentioned by numerous speakers, but Mark Kuperman, chief operating officer at restaurant consultancy Revenue Management Solutions, hit the nail on the head when he said, “Fresh prepared food offers more pricing flexibility than a candy bar.”


A customer may know how much they expect to pay for a Snickers bar, but not a sandwich, Kuperman said in his presentation with King-Casey’s Tom Cook on menuboard optimization. “Let go of the myth that customers remember what they spend on individual products,” he said. “Rather, they remember what they spend on a total basket.” 3. Demand Is Growing for Plant-Based Foods & Proteins Plant-based new product innovation includes using “clean meat,” cell-based meat, cellular agriculture and aquaculture. “Consumers are seeking ways to prevent, control or reverse medical conditions,” said Dr. Marcia Schurer, president of Culinary Connections. Consumers want ingredient and nutritional information and foods with health benefits to increase energy and longevity, she said. 4. Convenience Is Always Evolving The convenience store — a retail format that has evolved continuously since its inception in 1927 — is on the cusp of more dramatic change. New upstarts and innovators like Choice Market in Denver, Los Angelesbased Locali Healthy Convenience and Street Corner Markets’ urban superettes are redefining the meaning of convenience. With both baby boomers and millennials migrating into cities, such urban, fresh-food concepts are sure to pop up in more and more city centers.  5. Local Is More Than a Fad Several speakers advised convenience store operators to think local — particularly when it comes to sourcing products and ingredients for their “farm-to-fork, flexitarian, label-reading customers.”

This year’s Convenience Foodservice Exchange included a “Top C-store Chef” competition. Andy Spink of Gate Petroleum (top) and Kyle Lore of Maverik (bottom) were among the competitors. The event also included the Foodservice Leader of the Year award presentation to Greg Parker of Parker’s Corp.

Ryan Krebs, foodservice director for Rutter’s, said the Mid-Atlantic chain believes local is more than a trend. When Rutter’s launched its local initiative, he said, “We assumed we’d get some feedback, but we didn’t realize they’d kick our door in.”

The 2018 Convenience Foodservice Exchange was sponsored by: GOLD SPONSORS

SILVER SPONSOR

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FEATURE

Benefiting From the Blurred Lines Between Foodservice Dayparts

Liza Salaria, Impact 21

It isn’t news that the walls between dayparts are crumbling. Convenience stores may see the most traffic at specific times of day, but the differences between breakfast, lunch and dinner are no longer as great as they once were. Still, even with the shift in eating patterns, retailers can strategize to maximize sales based on daypart, according to Liza Salaria, senior principal consultant at Impact 21.

Salaria pointed to McDonald’s as leading the charge with its all-day breakfast program, but said simple generational changes are likewise prompting evolution in the morning meal as breakfast flavors evolve.

“People are eating all sorts of foods at all sorts of times of the day,” Salaria said during her “Winning the Foodservice Daypart Battle” presentation.

To offer a broader selection regardless of daypart, Salaria recommends minimizing operational complexity. This could include building a menu with products that share equipment to solve capacity issues; pulling ingredients from a common pool and innovating from within; and offering a smaller number of SKUs, as even McDonald’s all-day breakfast program started small.

The three traditional dayparts still exist, but regular snacking between them blurs the lines. This snacking habit is largely driven by millennials, currently the largest living generation in the United States — and they aren’t just young adults anymore.

Customers have different desires for meal combos, too. Retailers can maximize their sales potential by adding choices while still promoting bundles. Instead of offering the traditional combo deal of a breakfast sandwich and coffee in the morning or a burger, fries and beverage at lunch, they might consider a discount on breakfast sandwiches with the purchase of any beverage; be it coffee, packaged tea or an energy drink.

“They are our customers and our team members,” Salaria said, describing how millennials are influencing what appears on menus. More than nine in 10 millennials (92 percent) replace meals with snacks at least once a week, and they do so between all dayparts, not just during the p.m. hours.

Peter La Colla, CEO of Street Corner, listens to a presentation.

C-stores can respond to this by moving beyond chips and candy bars to offering a wider variety of packaged and freshprepared snacks, such as hard-boiled eggs, pretzel and hummus combos, yogurt and granola parfaits, and mini wrap pieces paired with fruit. Along with the change in what a meal can be, consumers today also are more flexible about when a meal should be eaten, in the sense that traditional breakfast items are no longer reserved for the mornings.

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When growing the menu, there is always the struggle to balance added complexity with long-term loyalty, but thinking ahead can make it easier. In defining a daypart strategy, Salaria suggests retailers ask themselves three questions: • Does it fit within my brand? • Will it add complexity to my business? • How will it affect my people? Above all, c-store operators should keep their fundamental strengths in mind. “Never compromise quality and speed of service,” Salaria said. “That’s your core tenet as a brand.”


How C-store Foodservice Can Appeal to Tomorrow’s Consumers Today Foodservice success is about more than offering the right menu, price points and level of service that consumers want today. It’s also about making the right moves to meet the needs and desires of the consumers of tomorrow and beyond.

Erin Murray, Datassential

Erin Murray, managing director at Datassential, offered an in-depth consumer analysis in a presentation entitled “Getting It Right: Generations, Trends, Health & Other Things You Need to Know About Today’s Food Consumer.” Currently, the food world is what Murray calls “the third era of health and wellness,” in which consumers care a great deal about functional food.

ingredients and flavors for appetizers, entrees and side dishes have ethnic origins. Food from Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, in particular, have shown major menu growth over the last four years. This shift in tastes is likely to stick around for a long time to come, as members of the emerging Generation Z show higher interest in many kinds of ethnic food compared to their predecessors. For convenience store operators, data shows the sweet spot for new menu item introductions is uniqueness combined with strong purchase intent from customers. Murray presented a scatterplot showing Royal Farms’ Cinnamon Bun as an example of a product with high purchase intent but low uniqueness, and QuikTrip’s Bac’n Quikshake as a product with high uniqueness but lower purchase intent. Vegan foods aren’t just for vegans anymore, according to Murray.

“[It’s] all about what food does for us,” she explained. Examples include turmeric, which has received positive attention for being an antiinflammatory, and seeds such as chia seeds and flaxseed, which have a wide array of applications. However, regardless of the specific ingredients in vogue right now, Datassential research reveals a significant discrepancy in how consumers eat today vs. how they want to eat tomorrow. The biggest difference is a move away from meat. While most consumers are not vegetarian or vegan, an increasing number indicate interest in reducing the overall amount of meat they eat. While only 2 percent of consumers want a vegan lifestyle, 23 percent are favorable to vegan eating; 44 percent are trying to eat less meat; and 57 percent are trying to eat more plant protein. When examining the top trends of 2018 thus far, Datassential’s menu database shows a continued strong interest in ethnic food. More than half of the fastest-growing

“Strong purchase intent and uniqueness is possible, but requires focused effort,” she said. Products that combine the two are rare, but she said retailers can find the overlap in a number of ways, such as: • Reimagining classic items; • Offering food with a story; and • Offering safe experimentation, or something that is exciting but in a format that feels familiar and comforting. The tricky part is defining safety and adventure, as these mean different things to different people, according to Murray. Retailers will need to know their market well and build their menus in a way that offers consumers an experience, not just fuel to fill up.

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Can the Local Movement Drive C-store Foodservice Sales? Industry experts frequently advise convenience store operators to think local, and that doesn’t only apply to area competition and customer tastes. Working with local vendors to supply a foodservice program has its benefits, as today’s consumers increasingly value local products and the idea of transparency in what they consume. Convenience store chain Rutter’s is betting that consumers’ appreciation for local isn’t just a passing fad. Ryan Krebs, director of foodservice, believes it is going to stick around for a long time. For the chain, going local in its foodservice program started with a simple question: How does one define “local”? 

Ryan Krebs, Rutter’s

on their organization’s definition of local and stick to it no matter what, because there will always be “edge cases” trying to prompt a slight expansion until the term is meaningless. Once the definition exists, retailers can determine what categories and products already meet their criteria and use them as a foundation. When vendors and manufacturers are aware of local initiatives, they will come knocking, Krebs assured Convenience Foodservice Exchange attendees. Retailers will likely find themselves surprised by the quantity of suitable local options and the enthusiasm of local vendors. While emphasizing local in foodservice can reap many benefits, retailers must ensure that their ingredient suppliers maintain sufficient safety standards, particularly when it comes to local produce. If something doesn’t meet the right safety criteria, it should not be sold.

The retailer, which operates 71 stores, decided that any product manufactured or produced within a 100mile radius of its York, Pa., corporate office or within the state of Pennsylvania qualified as local. From there, Rutter’s developed an action plan to make customers aware of both the overall local initiative and the specific local items they can find at Rutter’s stores. To date, the action plan has included: • Adding “Local” tags to its touchscreen kiosks, grab-and-go cold cases and in-store advertising strips; • Advertising its local selections on in-store digital messaging, social media, radio and TV; • Listing all local vendors on its website; • Posting videos to its website that tell the stories of its local vendor partnerships; and • Holding in-store wine and beer tastings supported by local suppliers.  Krebs recommends that retailers decide

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Krebs is a believer that “local” isn’t just a passing fad.

Once a c-store’s local program is up and running, the operator may want to expand the focus. Rutter’s has expanded its local focus to include additional transparency initiatives to meet the needs of the emerging label-reading, “flexitarian” consumers, who are interested in attributes such as clean label, vegetarian/vegan, cage free, no antibiotics ever and plant-based proteins. However, Krebs cautions retailers against labeling anything as all-natural. “It doesn’t necessarily mean anything except what it means to the person that produced it,” he said.


Building Foodservice Profits Through Menuboard Optimization In a convenience store foodservice program, the actual food is obviously extremely important. But when it comes to increasing profits, how important are the menuboards that display the products and their prices? According to Tom Cook, principal of retail branding and design firm King-Casey, the answer is “very.” “It’s really decision time — where the rubber meets the road,” Cook said during his presentation at the Convenience Foodservice Exchange. Tom Cook, King-Casey

King-Casey research shows that more than half of consumers (56 percent) are influenced by menuboards, and 74 percent consider easy-to-read menuboards a top priority. These displays become even more important when competing with quick-service restaurants, whose customers expect to see menuboards. Cook views them as an opportunity to persuade people. The menuboard optimization process should be a disciplined process, not a single step; be grounded in business strategy; and measure progress against established goals. It should also be data-driven, involving consumer research, financial analysis and communications research. “It all starts with a menu strategy,” Cook said. Specifics are key. While many retailers already have a vague menu strategy in mind, the most effective strategies are tied to specific objectives with metrics for each target, and guide all in-store foodservice merchandising. To build that strategy, retailers must determine the needs, attitudes and behaviors of consumers inside the store. This process can involve evaluating existing menuboards; performing ethnographic behavior studies, customer intercept interviews and online polls; and other research options, according to Cook. Co-presenter Mark Kuperman, chief operating officer at restaurant consultancy Revenue Management Solutions, recom-

The Convenience Foodservice Exchange is an exclusive, invitation-only conference for convenience foodservice executives.

mends c-store operators segment their brands based on how customers use them store by store. In today’s retail environment, different restaurants in the same market can make different pricing decisions. Kuperman advised the c-store retailers in attendance to let go of the myth that customers remember what they spend on individual products. Rather, he said they remember total benchmarks, such as more or less than $10. Along with considering location, demographics, trade areas and local competition when pricing, c-stores should think about revenue channels, daypart usage, response to limited-time offers and basket analysis. For example, retailers should know what food products customers tend to buy together, so they can spread price changes out, touching different segments at different times. Kuperman also cautioned retailers to think about the timing and magnitude of price changes, as some times are better than others; and to not assume they must raise prices based on a price increase around an individual ingredient. When it comes to actually creating new menuboards, Cook recommends conducting a self-analysis and going through a three-step process: 1. Developing a strategic layout, describing in words and schematics how content will be organized to achieve business goals; 2. Visualizing the new menuboard with illustrations and more detail; and 3. Relying on research to save time and money. If done properly, menuboard optimization can increase both speed of service and average check size.

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Why & How You Need to Differentiate Your Foodservice Program Creating a quality food offering is a fundamental part of becoming a foodservice leader, but true foodservice success requires brand differentiation, according to Jerry Weiner, president of Food Service Consultant and a 40-year convenience store industry veteran.

• Becoming a destination for food by doing things better or differently than the rest of the local market; • Providing a consumer need; or  • Offering items that competitors don’t, or ones that are available but can be done better. Weiner specified that better than the competition doesn’t necessarily mean cheaper than the competition.

Brand differentiation means creating a foodservice offering and environment that separates you from your competition, Weiner said during his presentation at the event.  Jerry Weiner, Food Service Consultant

“It’s not a price. It’s a price value,” he said.

C-store retailers can achieve this in multiple ways, depending on the strengths of their brand and their competition. Creating brand differentiation could include:

To demonstrate one way of achieving differentiation, Weiner, former foodservice director for Rutter’s, shared photos of a new Rutter’s convenience store. He pointed to the clean exterior store design, which looks very inviting from the street and does not block the view with fuel pumps. Potential customers are able to see the inside of the store, which he said is significant as the “hardest thing in the business” is getting people to come inside for the first time.

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To determine how best to differentiate, Weiner recommends c-store operators first examine what their competitors offer and decide whether they can do it better. Then, determine what competitors don’t offer and decide whether they can offer that. And finally, look at what other foodservice operators, such as quick-service restaurants and casual-dining outlets, offer and ask themselves whether they can execute those items. It is important for retailers not to get stuck in the c-store box, according to Weiner. “Even Bubba wants good-quality product, consistently delivered, at a fair price,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to build product a little more expensive.” Another key tenet in Weiner’s expert opinion is that presentation yields

expectation, and meeting or exceeding expectation yields repeat customers. This applies not just to the food, but to the employees who make and sell it. To be a foodservice destination, a c-store must set a high bar and hold their people accountable for reaching it. They must also execute their marketing plans, operational controls and food safety well. Training is crucial, too. Weiner closed his presentation by noting that in his experience, food safety is the weakest link as the convenience store industry moves deeper into foodservice. It’s critical that retailers have a plan in place to avoid breaking the chain. “If you don’t have a food safety program or certification ... you need to,” he said. CSN

Dr. Marcia Schurer told attendees how to capitalize on emerging trends in the health and wellness marketplace, offer signature foodservice menu items that create a point of differentiation, and capture more sales through product mix selection, strategic marketing, merchandising and branding.

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Navigating the Intersection of Foodservice & Technology The inaugural Convenience Store News Convenience Innovation Council gathered top retailers to share their expertise By Angela Hanson

The first-ever Convenience Innovation Council brought together leading c-store retailers to share their perspectives.

DISCUSSIONS OF DISRUPTIVE and

evolving technology, food safety and cultural shifts were on the menu at the inaugural Convenience Store News Convenience Innovation Council. This new event, powered by Convenience Works by Hussmann, brought together a group of leading convenience store retailers to discuss changing consumer behavior, share current best operational practices and plan future benchmarks for convenience foodservice excellence. To build an optimal future for the industry, c-store retailers must understand the most pressing issues of the present. In an opening presentation and follow-up discussion on disruptive trends, Convenience Store News Editorial Director Don Longo discussed the key drivers of cultural change in 2018.  The most significant factors include: • The growth of multi-generational and non-family households; • Geographically uneven economic recovery from the recession; • Increased consumer focus on design and experience; • Mobile centricity; • Alternative ownership models; and • The desire for connection, placing e-commerce at odds with cases where consumers want to engage with other people. These key drivers, particularly those related

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to technology, are changing what it means for brands to be successful and for consumers to be satisfied. Products and industries that may seem immune to significant changes are only protected until someone devises a new way to do something. “The future belongs to the curious,” remarked one attendee. The retailers in attendance agreed that while the rapid evolution of retail technology can offer many advantages and operational capabilities that never existed before, newer technology isn’t always better. Touchscreen ordering kiosks have been added to many c-stores and other foodservice operators in recent years, but the associated expense may make them obsolete as mobile ordering through smart devices takes their place. Still, retailers need to try new things, moving out of their comfort zones, or risk being left behind. “You can’t wait until you think you’re ready for it,” another attendee noted.

Food Safety & the Role of Technology The Convenience Innovation Council, held Sept. 11-12 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel by the Galleria, took a closer look at one especially important aspect of foodservice: food safety, particularly the ways that a safety failure can negatively affect customers, brand reputation and legal liability. Merridith VonHartitzsch, market research manager for Hussmann, led the food safety discussion. She pointed out that along with the basics of emphasizing handwashing, following local regulations and working with health inspectors, a solid food safety program should include the specifics of a c-store’s food safety policies (what to do); procedures (how


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The Convenience Innovation Council included presentations and roundtable discussions.

to do it); records (who did what); a store map (where things are located); and a plan for what happens if things go wrong. Retailers should keep it FRESH, said VonHartitzsch: • Food Temperatures — Keep them safe • Regulations — Stay compliant • Education — For all employees • Sanitation and safety programs • Handle food-related incidents with care Even an isolated incident can go viral quickly, but store operators can mitigate the risk by knowing their vendors well, inspecting deliveries and focusing on traceability — something customers care about as well.

Retailer attendees of the Convenience Innovation Council included: • Ross Adkinson, senior director, food, Circle K Stores Inc. • Kelly Buckley, vice president of fresh food innovation, 7-Eleven Inc. • Ed Burcher, vice president of foodservice, Beck Suppliers (dba FriendShip) and principle, Burcher Consulting • Billy Colemire, foodservice category manager, Dash In • Derek Gaskins, senior vice president of merchandising and procurement, Yesway • Kyle Lore, corporate executive chef, Maverik Inc. • Lisa Luben, director of foodservice, Country Fair, United Refining Corp. of Pennsylvania • Marty Putz, director of food safety and quality assurance, Kwik Trip Inc. • Steven Turner, foodservice director, RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. • Nancy Wilson, director of quality assurance, risk management and safety, Wawa Inc.

The retailers in attendance pointed to issues of training and turnover, as well as the cost and complexity of foodservice, as being among their biggest pain points related to food safety.

Technology & the Retail Industry The Convenience Innovation Council also included presentations and roundtable discussions on how technology has changed the retail industry and will continue to do so. In 2013, mobile technology made up 22 percent of media consumption. Five years later, it’s jumped to 36 percent, as mobile-based services such as Uber and Venmo have become an accepted part of consumers’ daily lives. Retailers may not have control over the actual development of technology, but they can study the disruptors and consider how advancements can apply to their industry, according to Doug Middlebrook, assistant vice president, shopper marketing, convenience retail, for the Coca-Cola North America Group.  Middlebrook pointed to Chik-Fil-A as a brand that “out-convenienced us” with its mobile app, which is easy to use and makes food a reward for trying it out. As disruption through technology continues, brands will need to evolve what they sell, how they sell it and how they deliver. Companies that are doing well with various types of innovative technology include CVS and Albertsons (curbside pickup), GrubHub and Uber Eats (instadining), and Starbucks and Square (insta-ordering/payment), according to Middlebrook.  The rise of innovative retail technology has prompted a change in the definition of “convenience,” as companies develop new ways of providing goods and services to create convenience and affordability. Additionally, more retailers are looking to the curation of experiences to satisfy consumers’ expectations of personalization, and are exploring connectivity, striving to integrate physical and digital experiences using technology and data. Regardless of the brand, companies should make sure that innovation supports their business strategies, Middlebrook concluded. CSN

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