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Convenience Store News November 2021

Retailer Executive of the Year Kevin Smartt is cultivating the people and business practices that ensure a bright future.

THE NEXT GENERATION OF C-STORE INDUSTRY LEADERSHIP

Volume 57, Number 11

NOVEMBER 2021

CSNEWS.COM

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

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

TAKE SURVEY CLICK HERE

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


VIEWPOINT

A Show Like No Other The NACS Show’s return is just what the industry needed THE SUCCESSFUL RETURN of the NACS Show, held last month in Chicago, signaled a rebirth for the convenience store industry. After last year’s show hiatus and almost two years of an extremely challenging business environment caused by the COVID19 pandemic, the convenience store industry was able to meet in person to network, learn together, and reforge the critical partnerships and relationships that have fueled this remarkable channel.

across the nation are getting out again, going back to work, taking their kids to school, etc.

It was great to see the faces of so many friends and business associates, even if they were behind masks. I thought that attendance was much better than most expected considering the sparse number of international attendees due to travel restrictions.

Of course, the buzz at the show was all about continued supply-chain challenges and out-of-stocks. The labor shortage and the rising costs of everything were also forefront on retailers’ minds.

I know many exhibitors reduced the number of people they sent to the show, which reduced overall traffic in the aisles, but among the retailers I spoke with, almost all of them sent a contingent of their top executives. There was no shortage of key decision-makers. Retailers and exhibitors were very optimistic about improving business conditions. Perhaps it was the euphoria of finally meeting in person again. Or, more likely, it was the real improvement retailers are seeing in their sales as consumers

My Fitbit tells me I walked nearly 20,000 steps each day, but I don’t think I saw more than half of the expo floor. Of what I did see, I was impressed. Rather than taking a break from innovation due to the weakened COVID business conditions, manufacturers were showing lots of new items, new flavors, and new technology. There was an expansion of better-for-you food and beverage offerings. I saw new energy drinks and new hard seltzers. New flavors like Strawberry-Apricot and Dragon Fruit.

Convenience Store News conducted three events during the show: our annual Technology Leadership Roundtable & Dinner, the Top Women in Convenience Awards Gala, and a meeting of our new Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board. All were well-attended and big successes. The overall vibe at the show may have been a little subdued, but everyone I’ve spoken with said that it was a busy and productive week — and just what the industry needed. For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director, at (201) 855-7606 or dlongo@ensembleiq.com.

EDITORIAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS (2013-2021)

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laura Aufleger OnCue Express

Ray Johnson Speedee Mart

Chad Beck Core-Mark

Ruth Ann Lilly GPM Investments LLC

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

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

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

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

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CONTENTS NOV 21

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COVER STORY PAGE 30

66 FEATURES

DEPARTMENTS

COVER STORY

VIEWPOINT

STORE SPOTLIGHT

3 A Show Like No Other The NACS Show’s return is just what the industry needed.

66 Dispelling C-store Industry Misconceptions C’s Market focuses on carrying quality products at low prices and building community connections.

30 Investing in Success Retailer Executive of the Year Kevin Smartt is cultivating the people and business practices that ensure a bright future. FEATURE

40 Forging Their Path This year’s record class of Future Leaders in Convenience are ready to lead the industry forward. FEATURE

62 Celebrating the 2021 Top Women In Convenience An awards gala, held against the backdrop of the 2021 NACS Show, brought together the c-store industry to applaud the achievements of 74 outstanding women.

62

8 CSNews Online 18 New Products SMALL OPERATOR

22 Talking Tech Growth of third-party software, cloud-based platforms and other solutions is making key technologies more affordable and attainable for small operators.

INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND

86 The Conversation Around Cannabis Exclusive research shows an existing user base among c-store shoppers.

86

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CONTENTS NOV 21

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

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

Don Longo dlongo@ensembleiq.com

Editor-in-Chief (201) 855-7608

Linda Lisanti llisanti@ensembleiq.com

Senior News Editor (201) 855-7618

INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

CATEGORY MANAGEMENT

10 Yesway Files for Up to $100M IPO

FOODSERVICE

12 FDA Authorizes First Vapor Products Through PMTA Pathway 14 Eye on Growth 14 Fast Facts 16 Retailer Tidbits 16 Supplier Tidbits TECHNOLOGY 58 Engineering Loyalty Program Success Keeping it simple, presenting personalized offers and utilizing the newest technology can help create brand superfans.

54

50 The New Values of Food More than half of consumers think food brands should engage in key social issues. TOBACCO

52 A Long & Winding Road It has taken 10 years, but the Food and Drug Administration finally gave the regulatory thumbs-up to some vapor products. ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

54 Beyond Beer New innovations continue to pour into the alcoholic beverages space.

Melissa Kress mkress@ensembleiq.com

Senior Editor (201) 855-7619

Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com

Managing Editor (201) 855-7604

Danielle Romano dromano@ensembleiq.com

Contributing Editor (303) 741-3377

Renée M. Covino reneek@aol.com

Contributing Editor (201) 280-2614

Tammy Mastroberte tmastroberte@gmail.com

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

Rachel McGaffigan rmcgaffigan@ensembleiq.com

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

Ron Lowy rlowy@ensembleiq.com

Associate Publisher & Midwest Sales Manager Kelly Fischer (773) 992-4464 kfischer@ensembleiq.com Account Executive & Classified Advertising Terry Kanganis (201) 855-7615 tkanganis@ensembleiq.com Classified Production Manager Mary Beth Medley (856) 809-0050 marybeth@marybethmedley.com EVENTS Executive Vice President, Events & Conferences Ed Several (860) 830-8321 eseveral@ensembleiq.com AUDIENCE List Rental (914) 309-3378

MeritDirect Marie Briganti

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

contact@csnews.com

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

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

Advertising/Production Manager (773) 992-4418

Ed Ward eward@ensembleiq.com

Art Director (973) 607-1321

Lauren DiMeo ldimeo@ensembleiq.com

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

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. Subscription rates: Subscription rate in the United States: $125 one year; $230 two year; $14 single issue copy; Canada and Mexico: $150 one year; $270 two year; $16 single issue copy; Foreign: $170 one year; $325 two year; $16 single issue copy; Digital One year, digital $87; two year, $161. Periodical postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631, and additional mailing addresses. Copyright 2021 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Reprints, permissions and licensing, please contact Wright’s Media at ensembleiq@wrightsmedia.com or (877) 652-5295. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Convenience Store News, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631.

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CSNEWS ONLINE

TOP VIEWED STORIES

1

Proposed Federal Tobacco Tax Could Result in 50% Increase in State Taxes & Retail Prices

While no tax hikes are set in stone, a proposal to increase the federal excise tax for tobacco products could have a dramatic impact at retail. The Tobacco Tax Equity Act of 2021 would close tax code loopholes for tobacco products by increasing the federal tax rate on cigarettes, pegging it to inflation, and setting the federal tax rate for all other tobacco products at this same level.

2

Casey’s Reaches $220M Deal to Acquire 40 Pilot C-stores

3

Attorneys General in 24 States Threaten to Sue Over President’s Vaccine Mandate

4

Philip Morris International & Altria Must Stop Selling IQOS in the U.S.

5

Recent M&A Deals Advance Alimentation Couche-Tard’s Growth Plans

Casey’s General Stores Inc. is buying 40 Pilot convenience stores from Pilot Corp. in an all-cash transaction for $220 million. The acquisition will extend Casey’s presence in Tennessee and Kentucky with well-established locations.

President Joe Biden is facing opposition from the other side of the aisle over a recent vaccine mandate for private businesses with 100 or more employees. In a Sept. 16 letter, 24 Republican state attorneys general voiced opposition to the requirement, arguing that the mandate misuses its authority in attempting to impose a nationwide health decree through an emergency labor order that has traditionally been directed to address workplace safety.

Plans to expand IQOS across the United States are on hold. On Sept. 29, the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Philip Morris International and Altria Group Inc. must stop selling and importing the heat-not-burn tobacco product. The ruling follows a finding that IQOS infringes on two patents by British American Tobacco.

In July, the parent company of Circle K inked a definitive agreement to acquire Wilsons Gas Stops and Go! stores in Canada. The purchase of this network of 226 corporate-owned and dealer locations and a fuel terminal will allow Couche-Tard to expand its presence in Atlantic Canada. In addition, Couche-Tard entered into an agreement to acquire 35 sites currently operated under the Porter’s brand, predominantly in Oregon and Washington.

EXPERT VIEWPOINT

The Future of Convenience Stores Is Here As convenience store operators and customers begin to look toward the future and wonder what the post-COVID customer experience will look like, it is certain the landscape of operational and customer experience has shifted, writes Alex Myrick, vice president of Steritech. The rise of work-from-home models, stay-in and order delivery, and heightened expectations for fresh food and better hygiene are pushing c-store operators to reevaluate customer service techniques. C-store operators can use these insights to help mitigate the everchanging retail landscape. Creating a signature fresh food item that consumers gravitate toward provides great opportunities for delivery and takeout customers who will not hesitate to increase their basket size. Higher-margin items will be added to orders for the convenience of delivery, initiated by the desire to have that signature fresh food item.

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

How Leadership Can Solve the Labor Crisis Convenience store operators across the country agree: the most pressing challenge in the industry today is the ability to recruit and retain good employees. To overcome this challenge, it is imperative that leaders step up, according to a recently held Convenience Store News virtual roundtable entitled “The Leadership Imperative.” The recent labor crunch began before spring 2020, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the problem, leading to what some experts today have called the hardest labor market in 60 years. To attract and retain talent in this highly competitive time, Sheetz Inc. responded by doubling down on its investments in company culture and its employees. Rutter’s emphasizes career development, which creates an internal talent pipeline. Offering employees a career path gives them a reason to remain with the company, as 95 percent of Rutter’s current store managers moved up within the organization. For more exclusive content, visit the Special Features section of csnews.com.

MOST VIEWED NEW PRODUCT

Truly Holiday Party Pack During the holiday season when drinkers may reach for wine and spirits, Truly is giving them a reason to reach for hard seltzer this year. Available nationally on Nov. 1, the Truly Holiday Party Pack features four cocktail-inspired flavors of hard seltzer: Cran Orange Sparkler, Pom Ginger Fizz, Holiday Sangria Style, and Spiked Apple Spice. Just like the rest of the Truly lineup, each style in the Holiday Party Pack has a 5 percent ABV, 100 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and is gluten free. Hard Seltzer Beverage Co. LLC Boston trulyhardseltzer.com

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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Yesway Files for Up to $100M IPO The operator of Yesway and Allsup’s branded c-stores intends to list on the Nasdaq

an initial public offering (IPO) valued at up to $100 million. On Sept. 21, the company filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission relating to the proposed offering of its Class A common stock.

YESWAY INC. IS PLANNING

The operator of Yesway and Allsup’s branded convenience stores intends to list on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “YSWY.” The number of shares to be offered and the price range for the proposed offering have not yet been determined. Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs & Co. LLC, BMO Capital Markets and Barclays are acting as joint bookrunning managers for the proposed offering.

Yesway had 403 company-operated stores as of June 30, which is up from 140 on Dec. 31, 2018. Its geographic footprint includes attractive rural and suburban markets throughout the Midwest and Southwest, where it often effectively serves as the local grocer. Additionally, its sites are differentiated through a leading foodservice offering that features Allsup’s famous deep-fried burrito, and a wide variety of high-quality grocery items and private label products. Yesway reached $1.6 billion in sales for the 12 months ended June 30, 2021. The company plans to continue its successful track record of growing through acquisitions, solidifying its market position and growing its store count. Based in Fort Worth, Texas, Yesway is the retail arm of BW Gas & Convenience Holdings LLC. Its current operating footprint includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.

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Nutrients. Electrolytes. Coconut Goodness.


INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

FDA Authorizes First Vapor Products Through PMTA Pathway R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co.’s Vuse receives the greenlight to be marketed in the U.S. THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA)

gave the greenlight to R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. (RJR Vapor), an operating company of Reynolds American Inc., to market its Vuse Solo electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) in the United States. The agency on Oct. 12 issued marketing granted orders to RJR Vapor for its Vuse Solo closed ENDS device and accompanying tobacco-flavored e-liquid pods. This move marked the first time that the FDA authorized an electronic cigarette or vapor product under its premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) pathway. Under the PMTA pathway, manufacturers must demonstrate to the agency that, among other things, marketing of the tobacco product would be appropriate for the protection of public health. The FDA must approve PMTA bids for e-cigarette and vapor products to stay on the market. “[These] authorizations are an important step toward ensuring all new tobacco products undergo the FDA’s robust, scientific premarket evaluation,” Mitch Zeller, director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said when announcing the approval. “The manufacturer’s data demonstrates its tobacco-flavored products could benefit addicted adult smokers who switch to these products — either completely or with a significant reduction in cigarette consumption — by reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals. “We must remain vigilant with this authorization, and we will monitor the

marketing of the products, including whether the company fails to comply with any regulatory requirements or if credible evidence emerges of significant use by individuals who did not previously use a tobacco product, including youth,” Zeller continued. “We will take action as appropriate, including withdrawing the authorization.” The marketing granted orders cover the Vuse Solo Power Unit, Vuse Replacement Cartridge Original 4.8% G1, and Vuse Replacement Cartridge Original 4.8% G2. On the same day it approved these products, the FDA also issued 10 marketing denial orders (MDOs) for flavored ENDS products submitted under the Vuse Solo brand. The FDA is still evaluating the application for menthol-flavored products under the Vuse Solo brand. “[The] order represents an important moment for Reynolds,” said a spokesperson for British American Tobacco (BAT) Group, of which WinstonSalem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc. is a member. “FDA is required to evaluate vapor product PMTAs against a rigorous, science-driven standard to determine that sales of these transformational products are appropriate for the protection of the public health. BAT is committed to reducing the health impact of its business through a multi-category approach, and [the] marketing orders for Reynolds Premarket Tobacco Product Applications are a significant regulatory accomplishment.”

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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Eye on Growth 7-India Convenience Retail Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd., opened the first 7-Eleven store in Mumbai, India. This move marked the 7-Eleven banner’s expansion to an 18th country.

These stores are among the 293 locations that 7-Eleven has agreed to divest following its acquisition of Speedway.

Jacksons Food Stores Inc. picked up 62 convenience stores in California, Arizona and Nevada from 7-Eleven Inc. The majority of the stores will operate under the Jacksons Food Stores and ExtraMile banners.

Tri Star Energy opened its third Twice Daily convenience store and White Bison Coffee location in the north Alabama market in September. The retailer has plans to open another Alabama location in Huntsville this year.

Mercury Fuel Services Inc. sold eight of its c-stores to EG Group and 12 stores to affiliates of CCO LLC, which operates as Sam’s Food Stores. CCO also acquired Mercury’s wholesale fuels business. The Kent Kwik banner is expanding to North Carolina and South Carolina through the acquisition of Bountyland Petroleum and Bountyland Food Service assets. The deal includes 11 company-operated, Exxon-branded Bountyland stores.

Lykins Cos. Inc. sold its commercial fuels, heating oil and propane, wholesale fuels, and electricity divisions. World Fuel Services, Colonial Oil Industries Inc. and Shipley Choice LLC picked up the four divisions.

FAST FACTS

$39B 33% 74% Sales of snacks boasting low carb, high protein, low/no sugar, lower fat, plant-based, clean label, whole grain, natural and heart healthy claims reached $39 billion in 2020 on the strength of pandemic trends. — Better-for-You Snacks: Market Trends and Opportunities, Packaged Facts

Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids are expected to represent 33 percent of vehicle sales in China, Europe and the United States by 2030.

Three in four convenience store operators (74 percent) expect 2021 year-end in-store sales to be better than 2020, and 67 percent expect them to top 2019. — NACS Retailer Member Survey

— AlixPartners

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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Retailer Tidbits Kum & Go LC rolled out a new fresh food menu, first to its stores in the Little Rock, Ark., metro area, and then to the Omaha, Neb., market. The retailer’s goal is to elevate its menu to be on par with fastcasual restaurants.

creamer, citing a shortage of small plastic bottles. The move affected flavors such as low-fat chocolate and strawberry, but only in 8-ounce and 16-ounce containers.

Stewart’s Shops is partnering with the Capital District Transportation Authority to offer its employees unlimited bus passes. Approximately 150 employees have joined the Universal Access program since August.

Kwik Trip ships roughly 105,000 gallons of milk a day.

CEFCO Convenience Stores is teaming up with Stuzo for pay-at-the-pump capabilities using the retailer’s digital wallet. Rewards members can access offers without having to download the CEFCO Rewards mobile app. Circle K is bringing a frictionless checkout experience to Arizona. In partnership with Standard AI, Circle K stores will feature a network of AI-powered cameras mounted at strategic locations throughout the interior to record customers’ purchases. Kwik Trip Inc. limited the production of some flavored milk and cappuccino

Supplier Tidbits

PepsiCo Inc. is rolling out Juntos Crecemos, a $50-million platform that seeks to strengthen Hispanic-owned businesses. It is part of PepsiCo’s larger $172-million Racial Equality Journey Hispanic Initiative.

Thorntons LLC introduced a Pro Driver Refreshing Rewards app exclusively for the professional driving community. Offers include special fuel discounts and exclusive rewards for professional drivers. Love’s Travel Stops added roughly 100 new items to its Mobile to Go Zone. The technology selection is available at 400 Love’s locations across the U.S.

known as KRS, aims to create a fully integrated backend. Core-Mark International debuted My Daily Crave at the 2021 NACS Show. The in-store beverage program offers dozens of customized, pour-your-own drink options. Avery Dennison completed a $1.45-billion acquisition of Vestcom. The companies will combine inventory availability, price management and frictionless checkout for a complete solution across multiple U.S. retail channels.

Swedish Match began moving away from combustible tobacco with the sale of its cigarette business in 1999.

Swedish Match is planning to spin off its cigar business to shareholders. The company will shift its focus to smokefree products, such as nicotine pouches and snus. KickBack Rewards Systems acquired back-office software provider CMI Solutions. The combined entity, now

Skupos launched a multi-brand winter discount program called “Game Day Deals.” Promotional bundles on candy, snacks and energy drinks are designed to build incremental sales for small operators. NCR Corp. inked a definitive agreement to acquire cryptocurrency software provider LibertyX. NCR plans to offer LibertyX capabilities as part of its solutions for banks, retailers and restaurants.

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1. NIIN Air Synthetic Nicotine Vape Disposables Available in a 5 percent nicotine strength option with a long-lasting 900mAh battery, the new NIIN Air line of synthetic nicotine vape disposables features a sleek, modern design; a 2,000-puff count; and adjustable airflow technology. The tobacco-free disposables come in six signature flavors: Banana Chill, Blue Razz, Guava Chill, Mango Chill, Peach Chill, and Strawmelon. Each NIIN Air flavor was crafted to deliver the highest level of flavor satisfaction possible and an all-around superior vape experience, according to the maker.

2. M&M’S Movie Night Snack Kits

3. KÖE Kombucha New Flavors

4. Microburst Energy Gummies

CandyRific is teaming up with the M&M’S brand to offer four seasonal Movie Night Snack Kits. The Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter themed buckets have a suggested retail price of $10.99. Each Movie Night Snack Kit is filled with one M&M’S Milk Chocolate Theater Box of candy, one M&M’S Peanut Chocolate Theater Box of candy, and three bags of gourmet popping corn. The snack kits come in a six-count case with a tray for the six buckets to sit in.

As demand for betterfor-you beverages climbs, KÖE Kombucha added two new, fresh flavors to its lineup. Crafted with billions of probiotics to support immunity and gut health, KÖE Tropical and KÖE Watermelon are available in 12-ounce recyclable aluminum cans. KÖE Tropical features a trio of fresh pineapple, citrus and exotic guava. KÖE Watermelon combines the taste of juicy watermelon with a splash of lime. According to KÖE, it is the only fruit forward, shelfstable kombucha brand without the vinegar taste.

With Microburst Energy Gummies, consumers can get an energy fix and satisfy their sweet tooth all in one. Three gummies offer as much caffeine as most 12-ounce energy drinks. Consumers can also take one gummy at a time for bursts of energy throughout the day. Additionally, the product provides a synergistic blend of ingredients designed to enhance mood, increase focus, and provide a longlasting boost of energy.

CandyRific Louisville, Ky. (502) 893-3626 candyrific.com

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Phoenix Energy Boise, Idaho phoenixenergy.com

KÖE Kombucha Los Angeles drinkkoe.com

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SEI brings legendary American brands — Stewart’s and Hard Rock — to one of the fastest-growing beverage categories on the market: hard seltzer. SEI took classic Stewart’s flavors and transformed them into a new Stewart’s Spiked Seltzer line. Available varieties include Root Beer, Orange Cream, Black Cherry, and Raspberry Lime. The new Hard Rock Hard Seltzers line, inspired by Hard Rock’s signature cocktails, includes such varieties as Hurricane, Blackberry Sangria, Mojito, and Strawberry Lime. All of the new sparkling beverages are low calorie, low sugar, low carb, vegan, and made with natural flavors. Stewarts Enterprises Inc. Lincroft, N.J. stewartspiked.com 18 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

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6. 4505 Butcher’s Snacks 4505 Meats, maker of meaty snacks sourced from all natural ingredients and responsibly raised meats, introduces a line of premium sausage snacks. The new 4505 Butcher’s Snacks are crafted with 2 ounces of high-quality, humanely raised pork, and packed with 18 to 24 grams of protein per serving. Additionally, the sausage snacks are Keto certified, Paleo friendly, and gluten free. 4505 Butcher’s Snacks are available in three varieties: Original Recipe, Cheddar & Bacon, and Red Hot. 4505 Meats San Francisco 4505meats.com

7. BIC Special Edition Nostalgia Series Lighters BIC is bringing retro back. Its newest series, BIC Special Edition Nostalgia Series Lighters, lets users celebrate the most iconic technological extinctions of our time. The “ironically trendy designs” are featured on BIC Maxi Lighters, which are longlasting, reliable and 100 percent quality inspected, according to the company. The lighters in this series have a suggested retail price of $2.09 per lighter. BIC Shelton, Conn. us.bic.com

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Frontier Cigarillos are handmade, all-natural tobacco cigars made with the finest premium tobaccos from Nicaragua and Dominican Republic. Wrapped in an Ecuadorian Connecticut Shade leaf, these premium-style cigars come in six flavors: Honey, Honey Berry, Rum, Russian Cream, Sweet Aromatic, and Whiskey. Each cigar is individually cellophaned and packaged in a stayfresh crushproof tin of 10 cigars. The suggested retail price is $17.99 per tin.

Naked Juice launches its latest smoothie innovation, Indulgent Protein, in rich chocolate and velvety vanilla flavors. Each 15.2-ounce bottle is packed with 30 grams of plant protein and is Non-GMO Project certified, vegan, has no preservatives, and is a good source of iron. Indulgent Protein is an ideal on-the-go option for those looking to indulge in a delicious and satisfying smoothie after a workout. or those who need another easy reason to treat themselves, the company said. The suggested retail price is $3.19 per bottle.

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10. ShineWater Hydration Beverages ShineWater, a ready-to-drink hydration beverage with 100 percent of the daily recommended Vitamin D in a single bottle, is now available in all 50 U.S. states. ShineWater’s six unique flavor fusions have no added sugar, and contain electrolytes, antioxidants and minerals. Varieties include Strawberry Lemon, Mixed Berry Acai, Peach Mango, Kiwi Cucumber, Coconut Lime, and Pomegranate Grape. Through an ongoing partnership with OneWorld Health, ShineWater donates a portion of each bottle sold to help communities in developing countries.

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SMALL OPERATOR

Talking Tech Growth of third-party software, cloud-based platforms and other solutions is making key technologies more affordable and attainable for small operators By Debby Garbato WHILE LARGE CONVENIENCE store

chains continue adding new technologies at every juncture, the industry’s small operators are no longer being left in the dust. A growing cadre of affordable, user-friendly solutions is giving them competitive advantages that historically, only large companies could afford. These include functions like data mining, critical back-office solutions, digital loyalty programs and other consumerinterfacing perks. More vendors are aiming technologies specifically at small businesses. Growth is being driven by the increased presence of third-party software providers (including software as a service, or SaaS models), automated solutions, cloud- and webbased technologies, and “out-of-the-box” preconfigured software. Many technology services are contracted, with outside companies storing, processing and analyzing the information in a centralized location.

“Small chains can now compete without the investment overload,” said Zach Zalowitz, senior director of product management at enVista Corp. in Carmel, Ind., a provider of global supply chain consulting and unified commerce solutions. “It’s become easier to onboard new technology since you don’t have to customize it. It’s instantly deployable, which has been the trend the past four to five years. Ten years ago, products weren’t as prevalent.” Since in-house equipment is minimal, systems require little or no maintenance and are easy to use. An outside provider handles any headaches. This dramatically reduces the number of in-house IT personnel required, making products accessible to the smallest retailers. “Products don’t require care and feeding,” said Gary Saarenbirta, CEO of Daisy Intelligence in Toronto, which offers automated software. “It’s a prebuilt package. We supply support and infrastructure. You don’t need highend data scientists. Our smallest clients have four stores. Automation technology is the new wave.” Many of today’s small-chain technologies are better than those marketed to large chains in years past, said Matt

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Paduano, owner of Lakeport Markets, a two-store chain based in Chittenango, N.Y., and a former Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes and Circle K executive. “I can mine data I was unable to get at big chains, where we went through the pains of upgrading servers and spent thousands on setup, integration and training. Today, we’re not investing in servers, hardware or maintenance.” A decade ago, a back-office function such as accounting management could cost a small operator $10,000. Today, Paduano uses a web-based system from Salinas, Calif.-based SSCS, which caters to small operators. After upfront expenses, the cost is $180 monthly. “Clicking a link connects us to a server in California. We’re not burdened with unneeded expenses,” Paduano said, noting that SSCS also handles pricebook functions. Labor management technology is increasingly important for c-store operators of all sizes as extended unemployment benefits have downsized the labor pool, while the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted customer traffic and purchasing patterns.

“Workforce management provides a daily model and, along with POS [point-of-sale], is a priority,” said John Benson, a director in the restaurant, hospitality and leisure practice at N.Y.-based consultancy AlixPartners. “Retailers are trying to mitigate pressure on labor. While it depends on the operator’s maturity, many aren’t at that level.” Paduano’s outsourced SSCS package, however, lets him pull reports that track staff levels, market baskets and customer traffic by the day and hour. “When scheduling shifts, I can run a detailed report for yesterday or July 4. If there’s more than 40 customers, I must add people,” he explained. Without the big corporate staffs, small operators must also manage their licenses, permits and other timesensitive documents. Lapses can be costly. Temple, Texasbased StrasGlobal, which currently manages and operates 18 c-stores for outside parties, replaced spreadsheets and post-it notes with its proprietary Compliance Safe software. The web-based SaaS program securely stores documents in the cloud and sends renewal notifications. Information can be accessed anywhere via any device. “It was tremendously valuable during COVID-19 with everyone working remotely and government offices shut down,” said CEO Roy Strasburger. Other technologies help small retailers manage their inventories. Daisy Intelligence’s automated software

HJB Convenience Corp. recently converted three stores to its new 1,000-square-foot unmanned Russell’s Xpress format.

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SMALL OPERATOR

offerings include forecasting and ordering tools. “Running inventory incorrectly is one of the biggest drains on small businesses,” said Saarenbirta. Daisy offers promotional analysis software as well, which helps companies run promotions and determine which ones are most effective. “We’re selling answers for clients who don’t have the personnel to run data,” Saarenbirta pointed out. Then, there is cybersecurity. Cliff’s Local Market, a small chain of c-stores in the Central New York region owned and operated by Clifford Fuel Co. Inc., worked with a third-party network security company to upgrade its firewalls and make equipment consistent across its CITGO and Sunoco branded fuel locations. “One fuel company was demanding an upgrade. We found a solution applicable to both,” said Jeff Carpenter, director of training at the 19-store, Marcy, N.Y.-based chain. The upgrade also let Cliff’s replace analog phone lines with a less costly IP service. “What was thousands monthly is [now] significantly less,” he added. On-site security is another concern. Las Vegas-based Speedee Mart, which has 22 locations, is turning to technology to enhance security at its sites. The retailer is upgrading cameras at its eight 24-hour tunnel car washes to deter insurance fraud. Operations Manager Ray Johnson recounted a scenario where, at 2 a.m., a customer repeatedly slammed his already damaged vehicle into the wash, then blamed Speedee Mart. “We want full shots, including before and after they enter the

car wash, [so] we can see if something came in broken,” he explained.

Consumer-Facing Solutions The smartphone revolution, coupled with the pandemic, has raised the bar on consumer expectations. Shoppers today want — and often expect — to use smartphones to make payments and place orders for delivery and curbside pickup. But a retailer’s POS system must be robust enough to handle these transactions. “There’s been heavy emphasis on efficient POS systems and making sure user experiences are expedited at checkout,” said Dawn Hupp, vice president of retail and enterprise technology at enVista. “I’m surprised if a place doesn’t at least have Apple Pay.” According to the 2021 Convenience Store News Forecast Study, published in January, 60 percent of the small operators surveyed (those with one to 20 stores) already offered mobile payment in-store, while 34 percent offered it on the forecourt. Another 23 percent planned to add mobile pay at the pump this year, with 9 percent planning to add it in-store. Paduano said he added Apple Pay and other electronic payments this past year. These new forms of payment use Verifone technology, which is provided by CITGO, Lakeport Markets’ branded fuel provider. “It’s one reason we went with branded fuel,” he said. While only 5 to 7 percent of transactions are digital, “they could be as high as 80 percent if you’re near a college.” Contactless payment technology also grabbed the attention of Lakewood, Colo.-based HJB Convenience Corp., which operates 14 c-stores in multiple office buildings. This past year, HJB converted three stores to its new 1,000-square-foot Russell’s Xpress format, which are unmanned. Shoppers use self-checkout via PayPal or credit card; mobile payments are also accepted. HJB President Ray Huff is seeking to further expedite the customer experience with contactless payment

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Lakeport Markets uses a web-based system from SSCS to pull reports that track market baskets, customer traffic by the day and hour, and staff levels.

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technology. “We want it close to an Amazon Go store and are exploring offerings,” he said. “If there’s 10 people in line, it’s a problem since people take lunch around the same time. If they can get the coffee and doughnut and just go, they’re happy.”

Electronic Loyalty Programs A better customer experience is also at the heart of electronic loyalty programs, which are increasingly important for c-stores in competitive markets. According to AlixPartners, 50 percent of people who shop c-stores at least three times weekly want a loyalty program. “Loyalty lets you know where the shopper is,” said Benson. “It’s a key traffic driver, and you can use the data to better understand changing consumers.” Compared to the industry’s large chains, loyalty programs can be a more challenging undertaking for small operators. There are startup costs, and mining and applying the data requires ongoing analysis and integration of disparate POS systems. “You need interaction of different business segments, and must be data-driven,” Benson advised. “It’s very challenging for smaller operators, who must be discriminating about investments.”

“Small chains can now compete without the investment overload. It’s become easier to onboard new technology since you don’t have to customize it.” — Zach Zalowitz, enVista Corp.

have come down, but it’s still a big investment for small companies, where people wear many hats. Analytics can help manage promotions. There are tools. It’s finding what works,” the training director said. StrasGlobal is working on a loyalty program that would put all promotions for its single-store clientele under one loyalty umbrella. While each store would be branded, promotions would be uniform across the banners. “Having one for each client isn’t manageable,” said Strasburger. In addition to accruing valuable data and offering targeted promotions, loyalty programs let retailers communicate with shoppers. “We’ve been dragging our feet since 2019, but during COVID-19, we couldn’t communicate to say we were open or that our staff was wearing masks. That shot up the importance of loyalty,” Strasburger acknowledged. Jeff Hoover, director of data insights at Newton, Mass.based Paytronix, says launching a digital loyalty program is actually more attainable than some believe. Paytronix’s SaaS-based loyalty platform integrates with a retailer’s POS system. Paytronix offers a “white label app” that lets retailers execute basic programs and communicate directly with shoppers’ smartphones. “It doesn’t have creative, custom elements but includes all the messaging basics,” he said. “We’ve done many studies. Loyalty members generally spend 20 percent more.” Paytronix supplies reports that track redemptions, participation, and customer data. Retailers do not need an internal analyst. And Hoover stresses simplicity. “Don’t have a bunch of tiers and sophisticated marketing programs,” he said. “Establish an easy-to-execute and manage program around points and core rewards.”

Cliff’s still uses punch cards. It also runs email and social media promotions. Carpenter wants to “bring them together to enhance functionality,” but he has not yet committed to a POS-based loyalty program. “Costs

In recent years, many small players have been gobbled up by larger competitors. But now, the increasing availability of affordable technologies, coupled with vendors’ direct marketing to small chains, is giving these players a competitive edge and allowing them to continually innovate. CSN

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Investing IN SUCCESS Retailer Executive of the Year Kevin Smartt is cultivating the people and business practices that ensure a bright future

BY ANGELA HANSON

IT’S BEEN A BUSY YEAR for Kevin Smartt. 2021 marked

the 20th anniversary of the day he bought the Kwik Chek chain after working his way up in a variety of roles, but there was little time to celebrate the milestone. Instead, his time was occupied by overseeing the Spicewood, Texas-based company’s chainwide rebranding to Texas Born (TXB), while also serving as the 2020-2021 NACS chairman. Having a lot on his plate is nothing new for Smartt, who has been putting in hard work at convenience stores since his teens. “Life brings you full circle,” he reflected while discussing his career with Convenience Store News. He started with his very first paycheck job at age 14, working for a small c-store operator in Baytown, Texas. “I stocked the shelves. I cleaned the parking lot. I just did whatever he needed,” Smartt recalled. “It was a great little summer job.” After college, he spent several years in direct sales with Frito-Lay before his father-in-law, the then-owner of Kwik Chek, offered to bring him into the business. Smartt initially declined, but after he and his wife had their first child, they revisited the offer. “He said, ‘Kevin, I assure you, it won’t be a problem. You will earn your own way.’ And he was right. I did,” Smartt said. Once again, he learned the ropes of the business through hands-on experience. “I learned how to drive a fuel truck, learned how to work on a fuel dispenser. I managed a store. I was district manager. I finally took over marketing, and became president of the retail company.” Smartt and his business partner, the late Doyce Taylor, bought Kwik Chek from his father-in-law in early 2001 and promptly began expanding through the acquisition of three

NOVE MBE R

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COVER STORY

stores and a small fuel wholesaler. However, their plans were upended several months later when the terrorist attacks of September 11 took place.

new-build TXB store opened in Georgetown, Texas, in August 2021, bringing the total store count to 46 locations.

“We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what did we do?’” Smartt recounted. The cost of fuel doubled overnight, doubling the company’s cash requirements. “We essentially bought the business with hardly any money, so it was a very challenging time.”

The actual TXB brand is older than it seems as the company trademarked it years ago for uses such as private label packaging. “Then, we had such good success — so many positive comments from consumers — we went, this is it,” Smartt said, noting that TXB is not targeted to people born in Texas — although he was — but rather reflects what Texas represents.

Despite this, Kwik Chek survived and began to thrive. “We learned a lot of good lessons and discipline along the way in that timeframe, which made us a better company. The rest is history,” he said. Twenty years later, the experience Smartt gained through persistent effort and the leadership skills he honed along the way have made him a respected figure who is known for working on behalf of the c-store industry as a whole, while continually pushing to improve his business, earning him the title of Convenience Store News’ 2021 Retailer Executive of the Year.

Building a Better Tomorrow Today, Smartt leads a company that is significantly different from the one he bought in 2001, starting with the name. Last year, Kwik Chek Food Stores announced it would rebrand all locations to TXB to emphasize its Texas roots and values. The first

So far, Smartt is pleased with the rollout, especially the way that fresh food is leading the way at the Georgetown store. But the process hasn’t been all smooth sailing. The decision to rebrand was made two years ago, but it couldn’t be done chainwide at the same time. “There were things we didn’t realize when we did it; basically, the flow of how things should work,” Smartt said. For example, when the stores began running out of branded fountain cups, did it make sense to order Kwik Chek or TXB branded replacements? Employee uniforms, menuboards and other components also had to be considered. “We had all those little components that just started creeping up.” Quietly starting the rebrand also prompted questions from shoppers about whether the company had been acquired. So, the retailer decided to make things official and kick off marketing efforts through media stories, store signage, and virtual town halls. The current plan is to rebrand in regional pockets, after which they can be effectively marketed until the entire network is TXB branded. Some existing stores only need light remodeling, while others will be fully gutted and remodeled — a process that used to take around three months, but is now expected to take four to five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent disruptions to the supply chain. The rebranding process has involved a certain amount of trial and error, but Smartt and his team are using an old company saying to guide them: “We do, we learn, we hopefully do better.” Many of these changes came soon after the sudden death of Taylor in late 2019. “That was really an emotional time for our company and for me because he was such a great person,” Smartt said. “Him and I were super good friends and good business partners.”

Josh Schroeder, mayor of Georgetown, Texas (left), congratulates Smartt on the opening of the first new-build TXB store in the city.

The onset of the pandemic several months later, followed by months of social unrest in 2020 and multiple catastrophic weather events, added to the difficulties. “I don’t think it could have been a more challenging

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Retailer Hall of Famer Kyle Krause Founder and CEO of Krause Group

2021 Retailer Executive of the Year Kevin Smartt Texas Born (TXB)

Supplier Hall of Famer Vito Maurici Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Relations for McLane Co. Inc.

Congratulations!

You’ve left an amazing mark on our industry! Congratulations to the 2021 Convenience Store News Retailer Executive of the Year and Hall of Famers.


COVER STORY

Smartt views his company’s culture as a major asset, built over decades.

time to put this on,” Smartt acknowledged. However, he sees strength in his company and throughout the industry at large. “The thing about our industry is that we’re super resilient,” he said. “We keep proving that.” Throughout these turbulent times, Smartt believes that c-stores have demonstrated their strength as a channel and their importance to the communities they serve. “I think c-stores have outshined most everyone else consistently through it all and have been there for our communities and our customers and our employees,” he said. “It’s a testament to the great business leaders we have in this industry and entrepreneurs who have figured out a way to be nimble and change and do what they have to do to survive and succeed.”

Making the Right Investments As a leader, Smartt views TXB’s company culture as a major asset, built over decades. “If you ask anyone about our company, we’ve always had a super strong culture,” he said. “I’ve got employees who have been with me 30 years. I know their kids, everything that’s gone on within their lives. They know me as well. So, there is a sense of family culture there.” While he has always valued people, Smartt describes having “sort of an epiphany” around seven years ago, when he realized that he was spending a lot of time and money looking for really good pieces of real estate to

“It sounds a little cheesy, but c-stores truly are the cornerstone of communities, the fabric of America. I want to talk about that. It’s been tremendous to get that word out there.” — Kevin Smartt, Texas Born (TXB)

build stores on, but the same couldn’t be said for his approach to recruiting new team members. “It’s an investment, right? But one of the most important investments that I could make is in people,” he said. Previously, being a small company from a small town, he’d been reluctant to search for outside talent and pay them what they were worth. After reassessing, though, he found that TXB was able to reap long-term benefits from wider talent recruitment. “We still have a lot of people who have been with me a long time, but we went out and found a lot of really talented people around the industry who fit our culture and hired them,” he said. “They’re still with me today and they’re a big reason why we’re having success.”

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The Three Pillars of TXB about that. It’s been tremendous to get that word out there.” As both NACS chair and CEO of TXB, he’s also focused on technology, emphasizing the need to lean in and advance the industry’s technology skills, equipment and endeavors. Earlier this year, NACS began pilot tests of TruAge, a digital identification solution designed to enhance current age-verification systems, while protecting user privacy. “Nobody sells more age-restricted products than the convenience store industry,” he said, explaining that he thinks TruAge is going to be needed due to existing and potential new restrictions on certain items. “I think this is another step toward showing we are the most responsible industry in selling age-restricted products.”

The inaugural new-build TXB store opened in August 2021.

Smartt describes his own leadership philosophy as “what you see is what you get,” which ties into TXB’s three pillars: authenticity, integrity and hospitality. “If we’re not living up to that, we want to know,” he said. Over the last 12 months, Smartt has served as a leader in the overall c-store community as NACS chairman, an experience he describes in one word: “Virtual,” he said with a laugh. Like his predecessor, Julie Jackowski of Casey’s General Stores Inc., Smartt had to reinvent the role due to the pandemic. The tenure of a NACS chair typically involves a large amount of travel. Instead, Smartt used Zoom and other digital tools to attend events and conferences, give speeches, and discuss the c-store industry. “It was very virtual but super engaging,” he noted. Smartt’s term also marked the second year that the industry went above and beyond for the communities it serves, both in how c-stores act as reliable shopping destinations for the things people need during the pandemic and in the philanthropy performed by retailers of all sizes. It’s something he wants to amplify, now and in the future. “Our company has been super-involved in communities for years. We take great pride in it,” he said. It can be as simple as sponsoring a Little League team or as important as helping customers stay safe and stocked up during a global pandemic, but c-stores make a difference wherever they are. “It sounds a little cheesy, but c-stores truly are the cornerstone of communities, the fabric of America,” Smartt said. “I want to talk

TruAge will also prepare the industry for a potential future where sales of cannabis products become widely legal. C-stores cannot currently sell such items, even in states where cannabis products are legal, but Smartt is thinking longterm and preparing for change. “We think this at least gives us a seat at the table in the future,” he said.

What Comes Next In the years to come, technology will continue to be important at TXB, where Smartt and his team are working on putting numerous innovations in place. The company relaunched its mobile app with an enhanced loyalty program in spring 2020, yet TXB continues to evolve its digital program alongside the evolving expectations of consumers. It is currently testing mobile food ordering through the app, which the retailer hopes to have live by the end of the year. “It’s a big thing for us,” Smartt said. “We visualize that happening as both in-store pickup and as home delivery.” TXB will also add a food locker in new builds. Customers who order online will be able to scan a QR code on the locker, which will be placed at the front of the store and unlock their food. This will free up space in the foodservice area for customers ordering in-store and the employees assisting them.

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COVER STORY

“We’re excited about that,” he said. “We think it’s a little bit of future-proofing, if you will, in terms of where we’re going.” New TXB stores will also be built in a way that allows them to add a drive-thru one day if necessary, enabling the company to save money now but get into the drive-thru business quickly if it eventually makes sense. There are no current plans to add curbside pickup. “We like [the food lockers] a little better than curbside,” Smartt said, noting the importance of his stores’ limited parking spaces. “We think customers will appreciate it from a convenience standpoint; of being able to come right in the door, get the food out of the food locker, and leave.” Another impending innovation is new fuel dispensers that feature a large digital touchscreen and no buttons. “We hope to integrate that, so once you start fueling, it looks like our app on the screen,” he said. If all goes well, customers will be able to order food at the pump, too, just like in the app. As for the food offering itself, Smartt strongly believes that TXB can compete with fast-casual and fast-food operators, as well as other convenience stores. The key, he says, is to never stop looking for ways to improve what’s on the menu. “Our team is constantly thinking about innovation that we can execute at a store level, things that our consumers are looking for,” he said. As Smartt prepares for the next stage of his company’s existence, he recognizes the many ways the c-store industry has changed since the start of his career — and the ways it hasn’t. “There has been a tremendous amount of change but, at the same time, some core things are still the same,” he said. “Technology has dramatically changed the convenience store world. It’s changed retail in general.” Looking back, Smartt recognizes that he began investing more in technology around the same time he began investing more in people. When asked what advice he’d give to his younger self, he says he’d advise him to take the same path, but do it sooner.

Smartt strongly believes that TXB’s food offering can compete with fast-casual and fast-food operators, as well as other convenience stores.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean home delivery. It could be home delivery; it could be drive thru,” he said. “The point of delivery of the product will continue to morph and there will be more options there for the consumer.” Electric vehicle (EV) charging is another area where Smartt urges c-store operators to have a voice. “The return-on-investment case for it may not be there today, but if we don’t have a seat at the table today, we won’t be in the conversation three or four or five years from now,” he cautioned. It is particularly important for retailers to get involved in the EV charging discussion due to how new the industry is and how many uncertainties exist. Smartt pointed out that while the EV charging stations at TXB’s new Georgetown store are getting a surprising amount of use, he doesn’t know what his electricity cost is until the end of the month, making it difficult to know what to charge users.

“I’d encourage myself to embrace spending money in those areas,” he said.

Regardless of how EV technology and the c-store industry in general change in the future, Smartt plans to do what he advises all c-store leaders to do: make his voice heard.

Looking ahead to the future that he continues to prepare for, Smartt expects more changes to come, including the proliferation of contactless checkout options and the expansion of delivery options as both become critical to success.

“I hope our industry finds a way to again be a part of that conversation and help be a leader throughout this country and how we build out this infrastructure,” he said. “I hope we’re an important part of that conversation.” CSN

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FEATURE

FORGING THEIR PATH

This year’s record class of Future Leaders in Convenience are ready to lead the industry forward By Melissa Kress & Danielle Romano

have been anything but routine. In the face of supply chain challenges and labor woes, against the backdrop of the still-spreading coronavirus, the convenience channel has needed the stability of its senior leadership more than ever.

THE PAST 20 MONTHS

and marketing to operations and technology — and they have one thing in common: they are all ready to take up the reins to lead the industry into the coming years, regardless of the challenges.

However, challenges often offer the perfect chance to think outside the box and do things differently, and that’s where the next generation of convenience store industry leaders are stepping up to the plate.

Now in its fourth year, the goal of FLIC is to celebrate and help develop the next generation of c-store industry leaders by recognizing the achievements of a select few emerging leaders, while providing a forum for talented young businesspeople to hone their leadership skills.

This year, Convenience Store News honors the largest class yet in its 2021 Future Leaders in Convenience (FLIC) awards program. The group includes 25 c-store retailer executives — all 35 years old or younger — who are already proving their leadership skills on multiple levels.

The honorees were selected based on nominations from their peers and mentors that showcased their accomplishments over the past 12 months. They will be celebrated at the fourth-annual Future Leaders in Convenience Summit, being held Nov. 11 in Des Moines, Iowa.

They excel across all areas of the industry — from category management

The 2021 Future Leaders in Convenience are:

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Congratulations! Our channel is stronger thanks to you! Founding Sponsor Of

Congratulations to all of the 2021 members of Future Leaders in Convenience on behalf of the proud founding sponsor, Reynolds.


FEATURE

Robyn Cartlidge Supervisor of JDA & Floor Planning Wawa Inc. • Cartlidge, who has been with Wawa for 11 years, leads a team of floor planning coordinators and is responsible for the strategic development and implementation of merchandising purchase functions, the vendor communication process, and all JDA/Blue Yonder floor planning activities. In this role, she delivers on expectations for new stores, remodels, major marketing category resets, and corporate initiatives and rollouts. • A forward thinker with a strong focus on process improvement and automation, Cartlidge was the recipient of Wawa’s highest recognition, the Wings of Excellence award, in 2015 for her leadership on a new shelving and ordering automation process, which continues to save roughly 600 labor hours per year. • She graduated from Bloomsburg University with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and is slated to graduate from Saint Joseph’s University in December 2022 with a master’s degree in marketing focused on customer analytics and insights.

Kelley Clinch Category Manager 7-Eleven Inc. • Clinch joined 7-Eleven in 2019 as the category manager for beer overseeing the East Coast. While driving beer strategy and focusing on digital opportunities, she was part of the team that launched first-to-industry offers bundling food and beer for customers. • Her passion to innovate and evolve 7-Eleven’s product offerings has turned the convenience retailer into a go-to destination for hard seltzer, which outpaced the industry for the past two years. According to her nominator, Clinch challenges the status quo, thinks outside of the box, leads her peers to push their boundaries, and has turned 7-Eleven into a leader within the alcohol marketplace.

• Prior to 7-Eleven, the Texas Tech University graduate worked for JCPenney for nearly a decade, where she was responsible for planning assortments, pricing strategies, and establishing and building supplier relationships.

Katie Clingner Associate Category Manager, Dispensed Beverages Speedway LLC • Since joining the Speedway team in December 2012, Clingner has worn multiple hats within marketing, including pricebook analyst, pricebook coordinator, temp prepared foods associate category manager, supervisor of planograms and, most recently, her current role as associate category manager of dispensed beverages. In this position, she helped launch a test of the first 30 bean-to-cup stores in Speedway’s fleet of 3,800-plus locations. Recently, she moved over to the cold side of dispensed beverages, overseeing the fountain, Speedy Freeze, f’real and packaged ice programs. • Speedway has recognized Clingner’s leadership by sending her to the New Supervisor Leadership Program, Clark State’s Speedway Retail Leadership Program, and the Raj Soin College of Business at Wright State University Speedway Emerging Leaders Program. • Born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, Clingner received a bachelor’s degree from Wilmington College and a master’s degree from Missouri State University. She resides in Beavercreek, Ohio, with her husband and two-and-a-half-year-old son Otis.

Madeline Crandall Category Manager, Candy & Snacks RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. • Crandall is responsible for leading the development of products, programs and services to generate sales and drive financial growth in the candy and snacks category for RaceTrac’s fleet of 560 stores. She manages the ongoing

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implementation, execution, maintenance and measurement of all elements within the category, and is also responsible for maintaining and growing category margin and units. • The category manager says she loves many things about her role, but some of her favorite aspects are supporting RaceTrac stores with exciting innovation and programming, building relationships with manufacturers, and launching creative solutions and programming to continue to grow sales for her category. • The University of Alabama graduate is lauded for being a standout manager to two associate category managers and making time to support their development.

Kyra Durr Operations Support & Excellence Manager Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K • With more than 10 years of operational experience, Durr provides support to store operations by launching new initiatives and process improvements that strive for operational excellence. She is part of the Heartland Business Unit (BU) management team and collaborates with directors and BU leaders daily to deliver value to customers and shareholders. • Durr, who holds an MBA from Governors State University, is always looking for ways to organize stores, make it easy for customers and team members, and encourage engagement through electronic platforms and social media Some of her accomplishments within the past year include the launch of gamified training, task planner, smart safe implementation, and sustainability initiatives. • In addition to delivering tangible results, she is passionate about helping others. She’s been instrumental in providing leadership for the ACT Women’s Council, and developed a strong relationship with the Children Memorial Network. In 2021, Heartland BU was recognized for raising more than $500,000 for the organization.

Nick Floyd Associate Category Manager, Frozen Food & Ice 7-Eleven Inc. • Floyd joined 7-Eleven in 2017 as a merchandise business systems associate and quickly worked his way up to the role of promotions support specialist. In 2020, he served as a category support supervisor for alcohol, dairy and frozen products. After only three months, he was promoted to his current position of associate category manager and now oversees 7-Eleven’s frozen food and ice category. • Floyd has made significant contributions to the dairy/frozen team at 7-Eleven. Key among them is new reporting/analysis of data, white space identification, and seeking out innovation and learning through testing. His efforts have enabled the c-store chain to lead in market-share growth in the ice category. • During his time at the University of North Texas, Floyd was a member of the American Marketing Association and the Sports Marketing Association.

Amanda Hansen Chief Operations Officer RallyStop • While only 32 years old, Hansen has worked in the convenience store industry for more than 15 years. In 2006, she joined a small family-owned company that was later sold to Jenkins Oil Co., operator of RallyStop. During her tenure, she has climbed her way up the corporate ladder from cashier, to store manager, to category manager, to her current role where she oversees the dayto-day operations of the company’s 13 c-stores, one truck stop, two quick-service restaurants, and one full-service restaurant. • RallyStop General Manager Kurtis Maxwell says Hansen “has been instrumental in growing [RallyStop] from three to 13 c-stores and one truck stop in the past few years and has developed policies and procedures to unify all locations under her leadership. She has created a culture of exceptionalism in NOVE MB E R

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FEATURE

helping us develop a cohesive brand image across the many sizes and layouts of the stores we have purchased.” • Hansen is a member of NACS and NATSO. She is the mother of two young children, has competed in drag racing, and holds a cosmetology degree.

Amir Hassan Director of Operations & Retail H&S Energy LLC • Hassan assists in developing, reviewing, improving and enforcing best practices and procedures across H&S Energy’s 100-plus locations. He also spearheads technology projects, overseeing development, integration, implementation and training, along with working with the marketing and purchasing departments to secure vendor support with promotions for its Power Market loyalty program. • Despite the difficult 2020 environment, Hassan worked tirelessly through the past year to launch several technology initiatives, including a proprietary mobile app, a loyalty program for H&S Energy’s Power Market locations, multi-platform home delivery programs, and the integration of a tabletbased communication and reporting tool for store use. • Hassan received a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of California Irvine and an MBA from the University of California San Diego.

Amy Hendricks Director of Marketing Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K • Hendricks entered the convenience store industry in 2015 after working at General Mills. Today, as head of marketing and merchandising for the Northern Tier Business Unit at Couche-Tard, she drives the business forward through the rollout of critical initiatives, such as the new “Fresh Food, Fast” program, loyalty and traffic efforts, fuel alliance partnerships, and operational marketing strategies.

• She served as the internal and external project lead for the Holiday Rewards loyalty program launch in 2019 and oversees management of the initiative. Hendricks is also a key team member of Circle K’s text program, which has proven to be a strong engagement and communication tool with customers outside the store. • In addition to serving as the co-lead for the Northern Tier BU COVID-19 Fatigue Team, Hendricks is an active volunteer at the Minneapolis Crisis Nursery and a member of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Angel Foundation.

Mukul Jindal Digital Product Manager, Fuel Loyalty 7-Eleven Inc. • Jindal contributes to 7-Eleven’s digitization effort with product strategy and thought leadership on its Fuel Loyalty program. Over the past year, he has been responsible for leading the inaugural Fuel Loyalty program through the 7Rewards app. The initiative enables 7Rewards members to pay for fuel contact-free through the app via a mobile pay option or Siri shortcuts on their Apple iPhone. • From the first quarter of 2020 to date, under Jindal’s ownership, 7-Eleven’s Fuel Loyalty program has grown from a one-store pilot to a national program encompassing 1,950 stores. During this time, he supported the launch of a number of regional pilots to learn which features drive value for both customers and 7-Eleven. • Previously a resident of India, Jindal obtained a Bachelor of Engineering degree from Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani in 2009. After moving to the United States, he received an MBA from Southern Methodist University in 2018.

Chad Kobayashi Director of Retail Technology Maverik Inc. • Kobayashi is responsible for all retail technology

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spanning point-of-sale, network, hardware and security across Maverik’s 370 stores in 11 western states. He and his team of 16 direct reports successfully implemented several initiatives in the past year, including deployment of EMV technology at Maverik’s fuel dispensers, converting 4,883 fuel positions across 366 locations; and the rollout of 428 self-checkout units at 223 stores. • In 2014, Kobayashi joined Maverik as a retail product development manager before being promoted to senior manager of retail technology, and then moving into his current role. Twice during his tenure at Maverik, he has been awarded “Defender of the Legend,” a recognition for exceeding store support expectations. • An active member of NACS and Connexus, Kobayashi also participates regularly in industry share groups, including the Merchant Advisory Group, National Retail Federation, PDI User Group, and IT Study Share Group.

Shanelle Lawson Accounting Manager Neon Marketplace • Lauded as a diverse financial leader, Lawson not only oversees Neon Marketplace’s accounting, but also expanded her scope to lead the financial, fuel, marketing and pricebook aspects of the operator’s PDI Software rollout. She also built out the company’s category management process for packaged goods, and led an RFP process to optimize its supply chain, changing many vendors and renegotiating several contracts. • Peter Rasmussen, director of operations for Neon Marketplace, said: “Shanelle’s leadership, ambition and ability to bring enthusiasm and success to so many parts of the business is incredible, and I have no doubt she will rise to senior leadership and do amazing things for the c-store industry.” • Prior to Neon Marketplace, Lawson worked as an accountant for Procaccianti Cos. She gives back to her community by helping families struggling with addiction and advocating for overdose awareness.

Brittany Leffler Marketing Manager Parker’s • Reporting to Parker’s director of marketing, Leffler’s sphere of influence is loyalty and marketing. She manages and executes multichannel loyalty communications with the chain’s customers, PumpPal members and Parker’s Rewards mobile app users. Under her leadership, the retailer recently added 45,000 new Parker’s Rewards members. • Leffler joined Parker’s in August 2016 as a marketing assistant and graphic designer, creating digital content, in-store signage and managing ParkersKitchen.com, in addition to assisting in the launch of the new Parker’s Rewards program in 2018. She was promoted to loyalty and brand manager in July 2019, playing an integral role in helping Parker’s launch mobile ordering on the Parker’s Rewards mobile app. In September 2021, her role was expanded to marketing manager. She now oversees all advertising channels, marketing campaigns, and art department team members. • The Savannah College of Art and Design graduate is a member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. She also serves as a core volunteer in the Keep Savannah Clean anti-litter public-private initiative, and plays a pivotal role in Parker’s Fueling the Community charitable giving program.

Abrina Matthews Director of Architecture, Design & Store Planning RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. • Leading a team of 15, Matthews’ execution of her daily duties has significant influence over the store experience at RaceTrac. She’s a key member of the retailer’s Portfolio Committee, which drives strategic oversight of all capital projects tied to store design, remodels and store growth. She also serves as a key resource for many strategic initiatives, such as RaceTrac’s drive-thru, self-checkout and online ordering projects.

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• During her tenure with RaceTrac, Matthews has grown the operator’s competencies in architecture and design. She’s been involved in the design and construction of nearly 300 new stores, 250 large-scale remodels, and a significant number of smaller-scale remodels. She developed a new RaceWay store prototype, and is in the midst of developing the newest store prototype for RaceTrac.

Casey’s leadership team and has been promoted twice since joining the company in 2017 in store development.

• Matthews has played a major role in the ongoing test-and-learn of RaceTrac’s food offers, including a kitchen redesign of its former madeto-order food offer and its current grab-and-go program. She’s also added value to RaceTrac in exciting realms such as the design of its only city market store and mobile-only stores.

• Prior to joining Casey’s, she held various real estate positions at Kum & Go LC, including property management, analytics, site selection, and development. She holds a State of Iowa Real Estate License and previously served on the board for the Iowa Commercial Real Estate Association.

• In addition to growing Casey’s throughout its current 16-state footprint, Meyer oversees the management of approximately 150 leases (both tenant and landlord), and the divestitures of properties.

Brooke McFarland

Stephanie Myers

Category Manager Casey’s General Stores Inc.

Media & Public Relations Manager Pilot Co.

• Among her primary responsibilities, McFarland leads Casey’s fresh bakery and refrigerated snacking programs. She is lauded for finding new ways to drive bakery sales, while protecting Casey’s core products, that impact both the top and bottom line while leveraging brand equities. • In under a year, McFarland was promoted to her current role based on profitable optimizations she immediately made to her categories upon arriving at Casey’s. Her “resilience, dedication and determination — all while having fun — differentiates her, making her a future leader not only at Casey’s, but also in the convenience industry,” according to Steven Purvis, Casey’s category director, food and beverage development. • McFarland volunteers with Operation Impact 22, an organization that aids veterans, firefighters and police with mental health wellbeing. She’s also volunteered with the Ronald McDonald House for several years, cooking meals and preparing homes for new residents, and raised awareness for Prevent Child Abuse of America.

Kendra Meyer Vice President of Real Estate Casey’s General Stores Inc. • Meyer is one of the youngest vice presidents within the

• Since joining Pilot in 2017, Myers has overseen external communications for the company and its family of brands, including integrated campaigns, messaging development, crisis communications, and corporate positioning. • Representing a Fortune top 10 private company in the transportation, retail and energy sectors, she works with Pilot executives to relay important information to the media and the public. A storyteller at heart, she is passionate about creating connections between brands, employees and consumers through meaningful communications, experiences and content. • Myers has proven to be an innovator through programs such as National Road Trip Day, working with Pilot’s public relations partner to create, oversee and execute this new day two years ago. In 2020, she pivoted to create a virtual National Road Trip Day.

Kole Olinger Senior Category Manager ExtraMile Convenience Stores • Olinger joined ExtraMile Convenience Stores in 2020 to oversee its category

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management and space planning teams. He is responsible for leading a team of 16 employees, and also personally manages the beer and alcohol category. • As a member of the retailer’s leadership team, he is directly involved with all aspects of the business, and is a frequent attendee and presenter to the board of directors and ExtraMile Franchise Council. • Olinger began his career in the convenience channel when he joined Jacksons Food Stores in 2016, where he took on several roles including category management and district manager overseeing store operations and performance.

John Powell Director, Delivery Strategy & Partnerships 7-Eleven Inc. • Powell is responsible for building 7-Eleven’s e-commerce strategy across its proprietary 7NOW delivery platform and in the overall marketplace, including DoorDash, Instacart, Drizly and Uber Eats. In his director role, he manages the overall roadmap for delivery partnerships across the nation and all 7NOW stores. • He joined 7-Eleven in 2012 as a merchandise business systems associate. Throughout the years, Powell has consistently proven himself as a champion of 7-Eleven’s values and risen in rank, serving in seven different roles during his nine years at the convenience store chain. • Powell is a member of 7-Eleven’s Equality and Diversity Task Force and Roundtable.

Egg brand and led the rollout of the Ethical Bean brand in the United States. • Despite being a recent addition to the Kum & Go family, Riezman has already dramatically reshaped the work and vision for brand marketing in the convenience retail space. Bringing a savvy mix of brand experience from his previous role at Kraft Heinz, as well as a keen sense of people and agency management skills, he is a rising star at Kum & Go, according to his nominator.

Jasmine Struble Category Analyst Yesway • Struble is a globally skilled purchasing professional with six years of foodservice experience. As a dispensed beverage category analyst for Yesway, her role includes influencing sustainable results through cross-team partnerships and strategic negotiations. • In addition to her primary job functions, Struble is passionate about leveraging diverse suppliers, including minority/ women/veteran owned business enterprises, to promote inclusion and further strengthen marketplace portfolios. She also has experience in environmental transformation initiatives, including sourcing for waste diversion pilots and single-use plastic reduction. • Prior to joining Yesway, she managed food and beverage categories for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. While at Disney, she acquired world-renowned customer service training, as well as product development skills.

Matt Riezman

Mike Templeton

Director of Brand Marketing Kum & Go LC

Director, Digital Marketing & Guest Loyalty Casey’s General Stores Inc.

• Riezman leads customer acquisition efforts at Kum & Go and champions a customer-centric approach to growth. He also leads loyalty strategy and brand design. • Prior to Kum & Go, he served in various brand marketing roles at The Kraft Heinz Co., where he helped launch the Just Crack an

• Templeton leads Casey’s efforts to connect with guests and further develop loyalty relationships through use of the Casey’s Rewards program. His teams are responsible for designing and delivering personalized guest experiences to drive engagement across the brand’s digital channels. NOVE MB E R

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• He led Casey’s to exceed its loyalty enrollment and first-party data growth goals in the company’s 2021 fiscal year, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, he launched the Casey’s Rewards personal challenge functionality, which creates customized behavior-based offers for guests, as well as a messaging feature that enables rich communication with guests through the Casey’s app.

has four direct reports in finance and three within operational excellence.

• Prior to Casey’s, Templeton spent eight years at Kum & Go, where he launched the retailer’s first mobile app and loyalty program, &Rewards.

• Ware joined the retail industry in 2014 as a market manager for Flash Foods, where he was responsible for the daily operations of 10 c-stores and 100 store team members. When CST Brands Inc. acquired Flash Foods in 2016, he played a significant role in reorganizing the stores and new regional areas. Ware joined the Circle K family in 2017 upon Couche-Tard’s acquisition of CST.

Vince Viot General Manager OnCue Marketing • Viot has played multiple roles in OnCue’s growth throughout his 11 years with the company. As general manager of OnCue’s first Texas convenience store, he oversees every aspect of the store’s operation, often acting as on-site supervisor, maintenance, crisis manager, human resources, and merchandiser. • He started as a clerk on the night shift in Oklahoma City and was managing a store within two years. During his tenure, he’s managed six OnCue stores and opened four new stores, including the first to feature OnCue’s fresh food concept, The Grill. • In addition to leading OnCue’s new Houston location, Viot also spearheaded the c-store operator’s partnership with National Safe Place and the local partner organization in Houston, enabling his store to be a pivotal location and resource for youth in need.

Josh Ware Director of Finance Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K • As director of finance for Couche-Tard’s South Atlantic Business Unit, Ware

• He has a strong passion for numbers and has been instrumental in reducing audit loss and ensuring budgets are managed. Due to his ability to analyze reports and discover trends, he has realized cost savings within his area and greatly improved margins.

Alfredo Zavala Associate Category Manager Maverik Inc. • As an associate category manager at Maverik, Zavala oversees store services, gift cards and private label brands for the convenience store chain. • He has been recognized for his ability to restructure the services categories, including propane, Airvac, ATM and Redbox. He ensures these services are available at all Maverik stores by developing and strategizing a higher standard and process through partnerships with construction teams and vendors. He’s also streamlined critical processes, helping establish an easier method for stores to submit service requests and monitor uptime. • In just one year at Maverik, Zavala developed beer distributor inventory reports for out-of-stocks and predictive forecasts to grow sales. He also developed a full marketing launch in Colorado for canopy banners, billboards and promotions, which highlighted the competitive advantage Maverik has in the market. CSN

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PRESENTED BY CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS

Congratulations to our new President and CEO, KIM REED, for being named one of the TOP WOMEN IN CONVENIENCE.

CONGRATS KIM!


FOODSERVICE F

FOOD I N SIG HT P O W E R E D B Y DATA S S E N T I A L

The New Values of Food More than half of consumers think food brands should engage in key social issues THERE IS FAR MORE TO FOOD than its calorie content or nutritional value. Both consumers and foodservice operators are driven by inherent values that steer the way they eat and the food they serve, according to Datassential’s New Food Values keynote report.

addressing the key issues they care most about. In fact, more than a third of Gen Z consumers believe food brands and restaurants should take a stand and voice their opinions on crucial issues such as human rights, healthcare, gender equality, and LGBTQ+ rights.

Most consumers claim that their values and deeply held beliefs about the world shape the way — and from whom — they shop, both for food brands and retailers. And more than 90 percent of operators say their values influence how they run their businesses, and most engage in a number of practices to uplift their employees, patrons and community.

Pick Your Battles Wisely

This shapes everything about the foodservice chain in both big and subtle ways.

What Consumers Want From Foodservice Consumers are split when it comes to whether brands should engage with key social or global issues. More than half think it’s a good idea for food and restaurant brands to tackle key issues, but that leaves half who are indifferent to the idea. More than a fifth of consumers believe it’s a bad idea for brands to engage in issues, mostly because they feel these companies should stay away from heated topics, and they worry brands may alienate them. Unsurprisingly, this varies greatly by generation. Younger consumers are significantly more interested in seeing brand engagement in issues, in contrast to their older counterparts. The next generation to approach adulthood is the most enthused at the prospect of brands and food retailers

Of course, taking a stand on social issues can be a huge risk for food brands or any business, as it wades into contentious territory. That is why authenticity is key. This means not just posting comments on social media or being vocal about a certain topic. For businesses, it means actively engaging in causes that one cares about, sharing the related work you’ve done for a certain cause, and sharing with your customers actionable ways to get involved. Making it part of the fabric of your business, rather than a rotating menu item, will bring the biggest reward from consumers.

A Cause We Can All Get Behind Wearing one’s heart on their sleeve can feel vulnerable and lead to worry about the impact on the business. If a business wants to get involved and be vocal about it, but is reticent about consumer reaction, battling food insecurity is a way to show that a business cares about its community without taking the risk of delving into issues that are more contentious. Food companies have enormous potential in positively shaping society, and combating food insecurity is the value that has the most widespread consumer appeal. CSN

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

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Go with the brands they know. With a huge variety of pre-packaged and portable offerings, Tyson Convenience is ready to meet your grab-n-go needs. These delicious products work across all dayparts and pack craveable flavors from brands your customers know and love.

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PACKAGED TOBACCO

A Long & Winding Road It has taken 10 years, but the Food and Drug Administration finally gave the regulatory thumbs-up to some vapor products By Melissa Kress

That is the number of vapor products that had received the greenlight to remain on the market in the United States

ONE.

Five years later, in May 2016, the agency released its final deeming rule extending its regulatory authority to e-cigarettes, cigars, hookah tobacco, and pipe tobacco.

In 2011, the FDA announced it would regulate the relatively new electronic cigarette and vapor segment as tobacco products under the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act.

On Aug. 8, 2016, the deeming rule went into effect. Under the rule, tobacco companies were given two years to submit marketing applications to the FDA for products that were not on the market as of Feb. 15, 2007.

as of mid-October. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Oct. 12 authorized the Vuse Solo electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) and its accompanying

In the summer of 2017, the agency revealed a new tobacco roadmap and revised some of the timelines spelled out in the deeming rule. Among the changes, applications for newly regulated combustible products would have to be submitted by Aug. 8, 2021, and applications for non-combustible products, such as ENDS and e-cigarettes, would have to be submitted by Aug. 8, 2022.

Two months later, Grimm set a May 12, 2020 deadline for tobacco companies to submit PMTAs to the agency. However, that deadline was pushed back another 90 days to Sept. 9, 2020 after the agency — citing the COVID-19 pandemic — asked for a delay. Grimm also gave the FDA 12 months to act on the PMTA submissions.

Following legal challenges, U.S. Judge Paul W. Grimm of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled on May 15, 2019 that the FDA sidestepped its authority when it pushed back the deadlines set by the deeming rule.

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The agency’s action on the submission by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co., an operating company of Reynolds American Inc., marked the first time the FDA authorized an electronic cigarette or vapor product under the premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) pathway.

The inaugural approval is a big step forward for the backbar at convenience stores, and the future of tobacco, but a drop in the bucket considering that the FDA received PMTAs for more than 6.5 million tobacco products by its Sept. 9, 2020 deadline. As of Oct. 13, 2021, the FDA had taken action on 98 percent of those applications.

Under the PMTA pathway, manufacturers must demonstrate to the agency that, among other things, marketing of the tobacco product would be appropriate for the protection of public health. The FDA must approve PMTA bids for e-cigarette and vapor products to stay on the market.

Where things stand now and what the future holds for the vapor segment — and c-store backbars across the country — is known only to the FDA. What we do know is that it has been a long, winding and somewhat bumpy road to get to this point. CSN

tobacco-flavored e-liquid pods for the U.S. market.

As the clock expired on the FDA’s original 12-month deadline to complete its review of all PMTAs, the agency announced that it needed more time, but had taken action on 93 percent of the applications. Of those submissions, the FDA issued MDOs for nearly 1 million flavored ENDS.

In August 2021, the agency issued its first Marketing Denial Orders (MDOs) under the PMTA pathway, impacting approximately 55,000 flavored electronic cigarette products.

On Oct. 12, 2021, the tobacco industry got some good news when the FDA authorized R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co.’s PMTAs for Vuse Solo. The agency, though, also announced it issued 10 MDOs for flavored ENDS products submitted under the Vuse Solo brand. Reversing an earlier decision, the FDA rescinded its MDOs for some Turning Point Brands Inc. products. As of late October 2021, the agency was still taking a second look at those applications.

Retail trade groups NACS, Energy Marketers of America, FMI, NATSO and SIGMA sent a letter to the FDA on Oct. 14, 2021 reiterating an earlier call for the agency to release the names of the products that have received MDOs. The list, they argue, will help c-store retailers know which products cannot remain on the backbar.

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ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

Beyond Beer New innovations continue to pour into the alcoholic beverages space By Kathleen Furore

ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails and flavored malt beverages have all had their moment in the spotlight. And while trends wax and wane, industry data projects that these drinks will continue driving consumers’ alcohol consumption and purchase patterns for several years to come — and that means convenience store retailers must embrace the “Beyond Beer” category to capture the sales buzz these beverages deliver.

“It was the only beverage alcohol category to grow at all during the COVID crisis, resonating with consumers across all demographics, and driven by the trend for convenience, refreshment and flavor,” said the company’s Drinks Market Analysis released in June 2021.

“The past few years have seen a significant rise in the popularity of alcoholic beverage segments together referred to as ‘Ready to Drink’ or ‘Beyond Beer,’” according to the 2021 RTD/Beyond Beer Path to Purchase Study from VideoMining, a provider of in-store behavior analytics for CPG retail. “Numerous competitive products have entered the market with a multitude of flavors, functional benefits, package formats, and alcohol bases.”

George Ward, national director of off-premise for The Boston Beer Co., maker of Truly Hard Seltzer and Twisted Tea, notes that “every major distillery, plus breweries, wineries and entrepreneurs are diving into the [Beyond Beer] space.”

IWSR, an authority on the global beverage alcohol market, reported that the RTD category posted double-digit global growth in 2020 — up 26.4 percent.

So, how can c-stores pick products that make the most sense to stock in their limited amount of shelf space considering the tremendous influx of new products hitting the market?

HARD SELTZERS,

IWSR projects that RTD volume will increase by 26.6 percent in 2021, driven by growth in the United States, which held 44 percent share of the global RTD volume in 2020.

Managing the Mix

The category’s varied segments include hard seltzers, ready-to-drink cocktails, flavored malt beverages (FMBs), hard kombucha, hard water, hard coffee, cheladas, and more.

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Looking at what’s driving growth in the space is a good place to start. According to the VideoMining study, the most impressive growth has come from hard seltzers, led by brands such as White Claw and Truly, as well as from new RTD cocktail drinks. IRI data also shows hard seltzers and RTD cocktails leading the pack. Todd Bollig, senior director of category management and shopper insights at The Boston Beer Co., pointed to IRI data that shows hard seltzer had 33.6 percent c-store dollar growth and represented 49.9 percent of Beyond Beer c-store dollars year to date through Sept. 19, 2021.

BEYOND BEER

+21.4% 18% Dollar Growth

“We see the c-store shopper slower to move toward innovation, so focus on lead brands and proven winners, then take calculated bets on what’s new and innovative. Stores have limited space, so placing the wrong bet will make inefficient use of the cooler space.”

of Beer Category Dollars

Hard Seltzer

+33.6% 49.9% Dollar Growth

— Todd Bollig, The Boston Beer Co.

As for RTD cocktails, this segment has emerged as the fastest growing in alcohol, up 119 percent vs. a year ago, according to IRI data cited by Tracy Nguyen, senior director of category development at Anheuser-Busch, whose portfolio includes Cutwater Spirits canned cocktails, Bud Light Seltzer, and NÜTRL Vodka Seltzer.

of Beyond Beer Dollars

Traditional FMBs

+9.5% 44.4%

“Success has been driven by the segment’s ability to capitalize on key occasions, such as relax and social, while attracting new 21-plus consumers into alcohol, with 64 percent of sales incremental to the category,” Nguyen explained.

Dollar Growth

of Beyond Beer Dollars

Over the past year, seltzers’ share of shelf has grown significantly, but given the trends, she said it is important for retailers to focus on SKU mix while maintaining current shelf space.

All Other

5.7%

Noting that a slowdown in hard seltzer growth is something to watch, Nguyen predicts that the future growth within seltzers will be driven by “differentiated brands with unique consumer propositions and an ability to drive trade-up.”

The remaining of Beyond Beer Dollars are made up of cider and emerging RTD spirits

Convenience channel shoppers’ hesitance to embrace innovative products, compared to other retail channels, is

Source: YTD IRI Performance in C-Stores thru 9-19-21

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ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

another factor operators should consider when picking product, Bollig said. “We see the c-store shopper slower to move toward innovation, so focus on lead brands and proven winners, then take calculated bets on what’s new and innovative,” the Boston Beer executive suggests. “Stores have limited space, so placing the wrong bet will make inefficient use of the cooler space.” With c-stores typically slow to reset — often just once a year — this approach is especially important, Bollig notes. “If an item is not doing well for a whole year, it will set you behind,” he said. His recommendation is to take three to six months to see what’s doing well in other channels, then bring in the top performers. “Wait and see, then take the winners,” he advises. Nguyen agrees that retailers should focus on the top brands across their top SKUs to ensure the right mix, while also differentiating the assortment with limited SKUs across a broader set of brands that can offer unique propositions like organic, high ABV, or unique flavors. Sales data supports this approach as well. “Top brands are driving this segment, with the top five light cocktail brands delivering 84 percent of sales, while the top five mixed cocktail brands drive 70 percent of sales,” Nguyen reports.

Basket-Building Benefits Products that comprise the Beyond Beer category are an important component of c-stores’ alcohol inventory — especially given what experts say the future holds. Because of both their volume and variety of choices, RTDs will likely continue to chip away at the shares of traditional beverage alcohol segments, according to the VideoMining study. “As the segments expand and introduce new twists on non-alcoholic beverages and convenience of RTD cocktails, the share of the category will continue to grow,” the study predicts. The reasons for focusing on Beyond Beer products also extend beyond capturing sales in just that category. While RTD is chipping away at traditional beer, wine and spirit sales, shoppers who buy RTD beverages frequently buy other alcoholic drinks, too. “Buyers of RTD also purchase a traditional beer product 20 percent of the time, traditional wine 15 percent of the time,

“Success has been driven by the segment’s ability to capitalize on key occasions, such as relax and social, while attracting new 21plus consumers into alcohol, with 64 percent of sales incremental to the category.” — Tracy Nguyen, Anheuser-Busch and traditional spirits 4 percent of the time,” VideoMining found.

Merchandising Tips For many c-store retailers, the sheer scope of new alcoholic beverages hitting the market is almost too much to grasp, and it’s creating some merchandising headaches. As the VideoMining study notes: “With the breathtaking speed of innovation and growth in RTD alcoholic beverages, stores have simply not kept up with the changes needed to minimize shopper confusion. One of the biggest pressing questions is whether it is better to combine many of these emerging segments and treat it as a separate RTD category.” While that decision has yet to be made, there are ways to merchandise these products that will drive traffic, whatever retailers decide to carry in the limited space they have. “From a RTD cocktail perspective, the primary location should be warm with the parent category, and adjacent to the beer set to drive shopper traffic,” Nguyen said. “A shopper-centric shelf flow should be organized by ABV with light cocktails at the bottom and higher ABV mixed cocktails at the top of the shelf.” The Boston Beer team offers stores a list of five steps they can take to elevate the hard seltzer segment (several of which could apply to the overall Beyond Beer category, too): 1. Ensure proper space allocation incorporating growth rates; 2. Build assortment on lead brands first; 3. Monitor SKU performance to identify slow movers; 4. Keep pace with innovation — swap slow movers outside of standard reset process; and 5. Increase visibility to attract new shoppers through shelf position, blocking, signage and display. Ultimately, c-stores will succeed in this fast-evolving category by being open and flexible, choosing products wisely, and making the most of available space — not by taking on every product because “they don’t want to miss anything that’s hot,” Bollig concluded. CSN

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TECHNOLOGY

Pilot Co. launched a revamped program and app in April 2021 for its myRewards Plus program for drivers.

Engineering Loyalty Program Success Keeping it simple, presenting personalized offers and utilizing the newest technology can help create brand superfans By Tammy Mastroberte

THE EVOLUTION OF

loyalty programs in the convenience store space has been phenomenal, moving from physical punch cards where customers could buy 10 cups of coffee and get the 11th free to interactive digital apps featuring coupons, points redemption, fuel savings, and more.

money into creating and revamping their loyalty programs because they want to increase the frequency of customer visits, as well as the amount of money being spent each visit. But they also benefit from the data collected through these programs, noted Vikas Mehta, head of sales and operations at Velocity Logic, a rewards platform provider based in Binghamton, N.Y.

Often, the first step in converting a customer into a loyalty member in today’s retail world is getting that initial app download or sign-up. However, after that is when the real work begins, which includes not only getting them to keep the app on their phone, but also use it with more frequency — ideally spending more money than before they became a member.

“Loyalty programs allow them to engage with their customers, and it opens the door for communication and for understanding what the customer wants,” he noted. “Over the long term, they can learn where they need to go as a company, and what they need to do for their customers. Without this data, it’s more hoping they will come in and buy based on what you offer.”

The biggest change in loyalty during the past five years has been the ability to personalize experiences and offers. Once a customer joins a program, c-store “Getting the app in a customer’s phone is operators can begin to collect data, such as how many a very big thing, but the user only keeps a times a week a person visits, if they are a gas-only mobile app if he sees value,” said Saurabh Swarup, general manager at Liquid Barcodes customer, what they purchase when they visit, what products are purchased together in a single visit, etc. Inc., a marketing technology company in Fairfax, Va. “To make customers see value in your mobile app, it’s about building lasting “If a customer identifies themselves every visit through impressions. Every interaction you have with a loyalty program, you can personalize their experience the consumer has to be meaningful.” and offers. If I come in five times a week and four times, I get coffee, then coffee is a driver for me and a store can personalize offers around that, as well as what other Retailers put a lot of time, attention and

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and keeping them engaged, many c-store operators are continually evolving, revamping and upgrading their loyalty programs and apps. In April 2021, United Dairy Farmers, based in Cincinnati and operating nearly 200 c-stores across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, announced a loyalty program overhaul, moving to the Paytronix rewards platform so that it could tailor promotions to specific guests. “If you are going to spend the money and support a loyalty program, you have to use the data and your ability to message customers to deliver personalized offers,” said Hoover. “You can target a customer who comes for gas but doesn’t go in the store with an offer, but can get a lot more sophisticated with segmentation and artificial intelligence to optimize personal offers.”

Pilot Co.’s myRewards Plus program offers a fully customized customer experience based on the driver type.

customers like me are buying,” said Jeff Hoover, a strategist for convenience store brands at Paytronix, a provider of customer engagement and loyalty solutions.

Customized Experiences To keep up with all of the capabilities today’s loyalty programs can offer, while meeting the changing needs of customers

“If you are going to spend the money and support a loyalty program, you have to use the data and your ability to message customers to deliver personalized offers.” — Jeff Hoover, Paytronix

Pilot Co., headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., with a network of more than 1,000 retail and fueling locations, also launched a revamped program and app in April 2021 for its myRewards Plus program for drivers. The chain still offers its legacy card program, but now there is “a mobile-friendly way to earn more points, save more money and get assistance with tools like trip planning, mobile fueling, shower and parking reservations,” said Steven Root, Pilot’s director of loyalty. The chain added a permanent tiered points program for professional drivers, so they can earn more points faster. They begin earning four points per gallon after only six fueling fills, and can redeem their points for food, drinks and supplies. The program also offers a fully customized customer experience based on the driver type, so a professional truck driver profile is different than a regular automobile driver in the app, Root pointed out. They can also switch profiles as needed; for example, an RV profile if they need to find RV-friendly locations. “Once inside the app, guests are delivered tailored features and rewards that matter to their experience and needs,” he explained, noting that professional drivers are able to earn points with tiered rewards, earn free showers with “Shower Power,” and have access to deals on truck supplies because these rewards would be the most relevant to them. ExxonMobil Corp. is another company evolving its loyalty program over time to fit customer needs, including integrating payment and loyalty together in its Mobil Rewards+ app, and introducing the Frequent Filler bonus points program for those who drive a lot of miles.

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TECHNOLOGY

“We’ve ensured that our offer has evolved with customer demands,” said Yan Côté, U.S. marketing communications manager for ExxonMobil, based in Irving, Texas. “For Frequent Filler, whether you’re a rideshare driver or just a long commuter, if you fill up with over 100 gallons a month, you can earn Frequent Filler bonus points for savings that add up later. Once you qualify, you will earn an extra point on fuel and two extra points on convenience store purchases on qualifying purchases of Synergy fuel and eligible c-store items at Exxon and Mobil stations.” Additionally, ExxonMobil has launched innovative technology partnerships to allow for faster and more convenient ways to pay using QR codes at the pump, NFC tags at the payment terminal, and Alexa, Pay for Gas.

Creating Superfans When creating and launching a loyalty program, c-store operators must consider what the customer is looking for, how they can keep them engaged, and how they can make the program simple enough for customers to understand and use. Simply launching a loyalty program isn’t enough if the goal is to create more visits and ultimately increase the bottom line. For that, c-stores need to create superfans who continue to come back and engage — choosing their store over others again and again. “It’s important to put the guest and their needs first in order to create a loyalty program that is easy to use with features and perks that matter,” said Root. “Retailers should take the time to understand the guest’s journey and have a clearly defined purpose with goals before launching. For Pilot, it’s important that our loyalty program is achievable, engages our guests, and delivers the greatest value to more of our guests.” One of the ways to engage customers in a mobile app and loyalty program is through gamification, something both Circle K and 7-Eleven Inc. are working toward dialing up, according to Swarup, whose company Liquid Barcodes is also working with Stinker Stores Inc., based in Boise, Idaho, and operating 102 locations. Stinker Stores launched a new app-based loyalty program in June 2021, which includes exclusive discount coupons for members,

The Dos and Don’ts of Loyalty Programs Whether launching a brand-new loyalty program or reimaging an existing one, here are some of the biggest pitfalls to avoid, as well as the must-haves to include: 1. DON’T Launch & Leave A loyalty program has to be maintained and evolved, and that includes buy-in from corporate, operations and marketing to keep it going. It should be part of a “central marketing message,” according to Jeff Hoover, a strategist for convenience store brands at Paytronix, a provider of customer engagement and loyalty solutions. “Loyalty is the layer that should be involved with all your marketing communications,” he said. 2. DON’T Make It Too Complex Simplification is key when it comes to loyalty programs because when it gets too complicated, it’s not only difficult for customers to understand and use, but it also becomes difficult for employees to explain it to customers as well. “Keep it simple and focus on the main things — taking advantage of what you do well, like coffee or foodservice. Then, you can start learning and adapting.” said Vikas Mehta, head of sales and operations at Velocity Logic, a rewards platform provider based in Binghamton, N.Y. 3. DO Make It Simple to Join If joining a loyalty program is complicated or takes a lot of time, odds are consumers won’t do it. Be sure to make it simple to sign up and start participating. “You need a simple process to get customers registered, even partially at first,” said Mehta. “At BP, if a customer isn’t recognized at the pump, it prompts them to sign up for the program with a text to join.” 4. DO Think Outside the Box Working with manufacturers and community partners on giveaways, promotions and non-traditional loyalty offers will keep customers interested and participating. “Build those relationships with manufacturers to get funded offers and other unique options that are not traditional c-store rewards,” said Mehta. “You have to think about partnerships and where else you can take the program. Find other complementary brands to make what you offer more valuable, and acquire new customers.” 5. DO Get Personal Offering coupons and promotions is an important part of a loyalty program, but when you can target those promotions to the needs and wants of a specific customer, it takes it to another level. Today’s technology can make this happen. “Consumers look for loyalty programs that offer ways to save money with personalized rewards and that make it more convenient to do business with you,” said Steven Root, director of loyalty for Pilot Co.

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“For Pilot, it’s important that our loyalty program is achievable, engages our guests, and delivers the greatest value to more of our guests.” — Steven Root, Pilot Co. as well as daily and weekly games that offer members the opportunity to win free products or coupon savings. “Our IT department did extensive research on a loyalty program that would provide our customers with savings, fun engagement, and deliver a point of difference for us as a retailer,” said William J. Russell, director of operations for Stinker Stores. Once customers download the app, they are rewarded instantly with either a free coffee or a free fountain drink. The games include spinning a rewards wheel to try to win a free candy bar or other prize. “This acts as both a customer appreciation tool and also allows vendors an opportunity to sample their products and increase their own brands’ traction,” Russell noted. Offering customers “an unearned benefit,” such as the free coffee or fountain drink when downloading the app at Stinker Stores, is a great way to engage customers right from the start and impress them so that they keep coming back, said Mehta.

Building on the club model, another option is to create monthly subscriptions for beverages or car washes, where consumers are billed a flat fee that is renewed every 30 days. This allows subscribers to get a certain number of car washes, fountain drinks or coffee each month, although some retailers choose to offer unlimited subscriptions, according to Swarup. Subscriptions not only drive recurring revenue for the retailer, but also offer value to customers and gives them a reason to keep coming back to that site, he explained, noting that his company works with Circle K in the United States and Canada on a car wash subscription program. “The retailer knows in the beginning of the month how many customers they have and what the revenue is for that month, and knowing customers will visit for their beverage or car wash, and they will probably pick up something else from the store as well,” Swarup said. “You keep their card on file and it gets renewed every 30 days, just like Netflix.” Some retailers offer both unlimited beverages for a higher monthly subscription price or one beverage per day as a lower cost option. These subscriptions can be executed either through a separate app, which is what Circle K does in the U.S., or they can be incorporated into an existing app, which is how it’s done at Circle K Canada. “Typically for a car wash customer, they might visit six or seven times per year. But with the subscription plan that allows them one wash per day, or 30 per month, at $29.99, we see on average they will come four or five times a month instead,” Swarup said, noting that customers see the value and the retailer is getting them onsite more often than before the subscription. “A single car wash might be $10 or $12, so for $29.99 customers see the value. They will drive to the location with their car wash subscription — or beverage subscription — rather than go to another store, and then will often get fuel and pick up something else in-store,” he said.

And although carrying a physical punch card for a coffee club or fountain beverage club has gone by the wayside, many convenience retailers have incorporated this club feature into their mobile apps because it’s still something that is relevant to customers.

Overall, consumers are looking for personalized and meaningful offers they can use in their daily life. This can go beyond just discounts and promotions on items in the c-store.

“If you have a club, it’s a reason for customers to come in if some of your promotions don’t work as well,” Mehta pointed out.

“We work with ampm in California, and they have partnered with outside brands to offer loyalty members discounts on events, or even a sweepstakes to win NFL gear,” said Velocity Logic’s Mehta. “They continue to do things to drive that engagement and more spend and frequency.”

At Stinker Stores, an in-app stamp card replaced its manual punch cards and now, it’s all tracked in the consumer’s app for coffee, fountain, doughnut and energy drink purchases.

The ampm chain also uses gamification through a lottery scratch game. A customer can only get an entry if they spend money in-store. The engagement rate is very high on this program. CSN

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FEATURE

The eighth-annual TWIC Awards Gala recognized the largest number of winners in the program’s history.

CELEBRATING THE 2021 TOP WOMEN IN CONVENIENCE An awards gala, held against the backdrop of the 2021 NACS Show, brought together the c-store industry to applaud the achievements of 74 outstanding women By Angela Hanson in two years, top female leaders from throughout the convenience store industry were celebrated in person during Convenience Store News’ 2021 Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) Awards Gala, held Oct. 6 at the Marriott Marquis Chicago following day two of the 2021 NACS Show.

FOR THE FIRST TIME

The eighth-annual TWIC Awards Gala honored the achievements of 74 exceptional women from the industry's retailer, wholesaler and supplier communities. TWIC is the first and only convenience store industry awards program that recognizes women for outstanding contributions to their companies and the industry overall. “I’m very happy to report there is no shortage of talent in the convenience store industry,” Paula Lashinsky, CSNews’ vice president and brand director, said during her opening remarks. She listed resilience, strength, creativity and innovation as some of the common traits shared among the night’s honorees.

Senior-Level Leader Krystal Forbes (center) was one of the night’s honorees.

The 2021 TWIC class includes five Women of the Year, 31 Senior-Level Leaders, 27 Rising Stars, and 12 Mentors. The Women of the Year are Ericka Ayles, managing director and chief financial officer of Yesway; Renee Bacon, senior vice president of sales and operations for Murphy USA Inc.; Melanie Isbill, chief marketing officer at RaceTrac Petroleum Inc.; Marissa Jarratt, chief marketing officer for 7-Eleven Inc.; and Lisa Koenig, head of global communications at Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K.

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Congratulations!

We’re proud to stand together with each of you! Congratulations to all of the 2021 Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience honorees.


FEATURE

Upon accepting her award, Ayles reflected on how she has spent the vast majority of her career in historically male-dominated industries. “Despite this, it has never occurred to me that my voice should not be heard,” she said. Ayles recognizes, however, that her experience may have been different from that of others, and emphasized the impact that mentors and role models can have. “Leaders, particularly women leaders, have a responsibility to pull up the women behind us,” she said. “Find those rising stars. Find those women who need to hear they are capable, and show them the way.”

The Circle K team turned out in force to support the company’s honorees.

Bacon recounted an early interview during which a male interviewer asked if she was sure she wanted the role because, according to him, she didn’t look like she belonged there. Twenty years later, women belong and work at all levels within Murphy USA, from entry level to sitting on the company's boards, she noted. “Women are no longer the exception,” Bacon said, expressing the need for further work, but also encouragement at the progress that’s been made. “It's up to us to speak up. It’s up to us to ensure that our voices are heard, [and] truly believe without a doubt that we belong.” RaceTrac's Isbill spoke of the lessons she has learned from a range of female role models, both in and outside of her company. These include the importance of authentic leadership, how to deliver a tough message in a direct but kind fashion, and what it looks like to show strength and courage while facing ongoing difficult challenges. “It is obvious I would not be who I am today if not for these women,” she said. Jarratt credited the contributions of her team, whom she says have supported her and worked day in and day out for 7-Eleven's customers. She also expressed happiness in seeing an increasing number of women rising through the ranks while also raising families. “I’m excited to be part of this shift in business and be a champion for change,” she said. Koenig took a moment during her acceptance speech to shine a light on the disproportionate burden the COVID19 pandemic has had on women, who frequently bear the extra burden of

More than 300 members of the c-store industry joined in the celebration.

childcare and whose careers have suffered as a result. “I want to recognize every woman in this room as a top woman,” she said. “We are here, we have made it, and we have supported our colleagues and loved ones through some of the harshest days in modern history.” She concluded by saying that she hopes with all of her heart that the world soon returns to a new normal, and she also hopes that “we have bottled up the best” that has come from the worst times during the past year and a half. “No doubt Circle K has become a better, stronger company, and I have become a better, stronger woman,” Koenig said. The 2021 Top Women in Convenience Awards Gala was sponsored by founding and presenting sponsor Altria Group Distribution Co.; platinum sponsor Reynolds Marketing Services Co.; gold sponsors Anheuser-Busch, BIC USA, Boston Beer Co., The Coca-Cola Co., FIFCO USA, The Hershey Co., Mars Wrigley, McLane Co. Inc., Mondelez International Inc. and Tyson Convenience; and silver sponsors Glanbia Performance Nutrition, Molson Coors Beverage Co., Proctor & Gamble, and Ruiz Food Products. CSN

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CONGRATULATIONS ON BEING NAMED ONE OF THE TOP WOMEN IN CONVENIENCE. THANK YOU FOR BEING A TRUE INDUSTRY MENTOR AND FOR YOUR LEADERSHIP. › DONNA BARBIER Senior Chain Sales Executive Molson Coors Beverage Company

© 2021 Molson Coors Beverage Company

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STORE SPOTLIGHT

Dispelling C-store Industry Misconceptions C’s Market focuses on carrying quality products at low prices and building community connections By Danielle Romano MODERN-DAY mom-and-pop convenience stores are often overlooked in the convenience channel, which tends to be characterized by the flurry of mergerand-acquisition activity that sees some of the industry’s biggest players continually gaining in size.

At a Glance C’s Market Location: 947 Newport Ave., Attleboro, Mass. Size: 3,000 square feet Unique features: A streamlined open floor plan; freshly baked breakfast sandwiches; graband-go subs and madeto-order salads for lunch; Krispy Krunchy Chicken; health-conscious, on-the-go snacks and beverages; a tractor trailer drive-thru

One mom-and-pop operator trying to dispel misconceptions about the industry is Canaan Fuels and its C’s Market (short for Canaan’s Market). It is doing so by carrying quality products offered at low prices, and building connections within the communities where it operates. Founded in the summer of 2006 by brothers Sammy and Mike Kanan with the purchase of a rundown, two-pump full-service station in Taunton, Mass., they transformed the old CITGO station into a modern, bustling fourpump self-service station and convenience store that quickly became a go-to stop for locals in the area and today serves hundreds of regular customers. Over the last 15 years, the brothers have evolved the business into a small chain of five gas stations and convenience stores around the South Shore of Massachusetts. “The mission of C’s Market is to provide the most valuable products to motorists at the lowest market price. [Our] goal is to

carry any type of convenience need one may require while on the road at a fraction of the price that large-chain stores charge for the same products,” Sammy Kanan, president and CEO of Canaan Fuels, told Convenience Store News. “Our core demographic are locals around each station. We are small, ‘mom and pop’ owned stores which aim to build rapport and establish long-term relationships with our customers.”

Blending Modern With Traditional This past June, the company opened its newest C’s Market location in Attleboro, Mass., situated off of a busy highway. The site’s location extends the operator’s demographical reach to now include visitors to the area, in addition to locals. At 3,000 square feet, the latest C’s Market is double the size of the company’s first location in Taunton. It features a bright, clean and inviting layout with a streamlined open floor plan. The store plays family-friendly music and offers seating to accommodate weary travelers who need a safe space to regroup and get their bearings, according to Kanan. “Our goal in the establishment of C’s Market was to create a family-friendly

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STORE SPOTLIGHT

environment that offers a variety of both traditional snacks and nutritious alternatives, blending the atmospheres of major convenience store chains and mom-and-pop owned country stores,” he said. Visitors to the Attleboro store find a mix of foodservice offers that span all dayparts. There are freshly baked breakfast sandwiches in the morning; grab-and-go subs and made-to-order salads at lunch; and Krispy Krunchy Chicken as a fast, hot and ready option for dinner. Complementing its foodservice offerings, C’s Market offers healthconscious snacks and beverages for on-the-go consumption.

The latest C’s Market features a bright, clean and inviting layout with a streamlined open floor plan.

“[Our] goal is to carry any type of convenience need one may require while on the road at a fraction of the price that large-chain stores charge for the same products.” — Sammy Kanan, Canaan Fuels

At the back of the store, a tractor trailer drive-thru gives professional drivers a designated area to park and rest, while at the forecourt, motorists and professional drivers have six pumps available to them, two that offer diesel. Other amenities include gift cards, lottery, ATM, and public restrooms. In the future, Canaan Fuels plans to offer a rewards program through which members can earn points toward free fuel, food and beverage purchases. Until the program is implemented, the retailer will continue offering 5 cents off every gallon of regular-grade fuel purchased on Tuesdays for both cash and credit purchases. Kanan told CSNews that the goal for Canaan Fuels and C’s Market is to build a new site every one to two years until the company reaches its target of 10 to 15 locations over the next decade. CSN

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HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

ATM’s

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HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Gourmet Pet Treats

POS/Equipment/Supplies

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HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Age Verifier

General Merchandise

Spill Response Solutions

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CLASSIFIEDS

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Services

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ATMs

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CLASSIFIEDS

ATMs

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Plastics

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Sunglasses

Petroleum/Equiment

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ATM’s

Wholesale Refrigeration

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CLASSIFIEDS

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McLane Company..............................88

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Premier Manufacturing.....................37

Glanbia Performance Nutrition......17

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Swedish Match North

Goya Foods Inc..................................15

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Hunt Brothers Pizza LLC..................19

Swisher International, Inc................7

Island Lifestyle Importers -

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Frontier Cigar.....................................23

Transact Technologies Inc...............29

ITG Brands...........................................49

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INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND

The Conversation Around Cannabis Exclusive research shows an existing user base among c-store shoppers Legalized cannabis is finding growing support at the state level across the United States. To date, 18 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for adults over the age of 21. The number of dispensaries and authorized retail storefronts that sell cannabis products is anticipated to rise as even more states legalize the offering. While convenience stores have yet to jump into the marijuana market, there seems to be an existing customer base available should they choose to do so, according to the findings of the 2021 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle Study, which surveyed 1,500-plus consumers who shop a c-store at least once a month.

MORE millennial and

Generation X shoppers are open to purchasing cannabis at convenience stores (both at 35%) vs. Generation Z and baby boomer shoppers (both at 16%).

C-store shoppers in the

South (81%) and Midwest (80%) are the most likely to say

did not purchase cannabis

they

convenience store shoppers said they purchased cannabis in the past month.

in the past month.

WHERE CONVENIENCE STORE SHOPPERS WOULD CONSIDER PURCHASING CANNABIS Among those c-store shoppers who said they purchased cannabis in the past month, nearly a third indicated they would buy their product at a c-store were it available.

43%

CBD retailer

34%

Drugstore

33%

Online retailer/website Convenience store

31%

Grocery store

31%

Vitamin & supplement store

31%

Beauty store

19%

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