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Convenience Store News November 2022

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

MEET THE 2022 FUTURE LEADERS IN CONVENIENCE

Volume 58, Number 11

NOVEMBER 2022 CSNEWS.COM

Retailer Executive of the Year Doug Haugh has assembled a powerhouse team to grow Parkland USA’s retail business.

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EDITOR’S NOTE

Leading by Letting Others Shine Doug Haugh offers a master class in the art of empowering others A SUCCESSFUL COMPANY is not the result of one person in charge telling others what to do. Rather, it is the result of the person in charge being able to see the strengths in others, empower them to lean into those strengths, and then give them the freedom to use their strengths to better the company.

Convenience Store News’ Retailer Executive of the Year Doug Haugh gets this. I recently had the opportunity to interview Haugh, the president of Parkland USA, for this issue’s cover story (see page 32) and it quickly became apparent why his peers selected him for this award, which recognizes a retailer executive who exemplifies leadership, business acumen, dedication to the convenience channel and commitment to community service. When I asked Haugh what his leadership style is, he told me: “A lot of it is staying out of their way.” Since taking the helm of Parkland USA in November 2017, he has assembled a team of recognized leaders in the convenience store industry. Vice President of Retail Jeff Bush worked to build one of the most foodserviceforward chains in the industry, Parker’s, while Chief Operating Officer Jay Erickson has built and run chains with thousands of stores. Also on his squad are experienced commercial leaders Candace McCraine, James Stapleton and Andy Austin, who have built national and international scaled marine and commercial businesses across the U.S.; Laura Varn, a public company executive in the past who’s led thous-

ands of employees in the energy and utilities industry; Dan Dunstan, who brings 20-plus years of experience with Parkland to his role growing the dealer business; and four talented GMs Jorge Pradilla, Mark Schnittke, Trent Edwards and Jake Searle, who run the stores and the company’s branches. Bringing this incredible team together is what Haugh points to as his greatest accomplishment. It’s a team that is not only talented, but also very diverse in their areas of expertise. And he is committed to making sure his people have the support and resources they need to thrive. This month, Haugh will be celebrated as the Retailer Executive of the Year in front of his family and peers. Before accepting his award, he will spend that afternoon speaking to this year’s class of Future Leaders in Convenience (see page 40). The goal of this program is to recognize the achievements of a select few up-and-comers, and help develop the next generation of c-store industry leaders. With his genuine focus on team, empowerment of others and helping people elevate their capabilities beyond what they even thought was possible, I can think of no one better than Haugh to teach and inspire the industry’s next generation of leaders.

For comments, please contact Linda Lisanti, Editor-in-Chief, at llisanti@ensembleiq.com.

EDITORIAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS (2016-2022)

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

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

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

2022 Eddie Award, Folio: magazine Winner, Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, March 2022 Winner, Business to Business, Food & Beverage, Series of Articles, October 2021 Honorable Mention, Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, September 2021 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

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.

Jonathan Polansky Plaid Pantries Inc. Greg Scriver Kwik Trip Inc. Roy Strasburger StrasGlobal

Chris Hartman Rutter’s

NOVE MBE R

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VIEWPOINT

Back to Normal NACS Show 2022 highlighted advocacy, accomplishments and challenges IT WAS THE SECOND NACS Show (post-COVID). While that exasperating viral bug refuses to disappear completely, the important business that drives the convenience store industry was back to normal on the trade show floor last month in Las Vegas.

This was my 17th NACS Show, which sounds like a lot, but I know execs who have been to the show many more years than that. It was wonderful seeing the energy on the expo floor as retailers and suppliers were able to discuss new products, programs and strategies to overcome the many difficult business challenges facing the industry. There was plenty to talk about with continued supply chain shortages, rising inflation and impending recession.

It was wonderful seeing the energy on the expo floor as retailers and suppliers were able to discuss new products, programs and strategies to overcome the many difficult business challenges facing the industry.

NACS put on a strong educational program that touched on important topics, such as how retailers can lobby their congressional lawmakers to pass the bipartisan Credit Card Competition Act of 2022. At the Oct. 2 general session, outgoing NACS Chairman Jared Scheeler said credit card interchange fees are the second-largest line item expense on his P&L statement. The latest Convenience Store News Industry Report found credit card expenses totaled almost $113,000 per store last year, second only to wages as an expense item. The association encouraged audience members to text “NACS” to 50457 or go to convenience.org/fixswipe to make their voices heard to their local representatives. There’s probably no single thing a c-store retailer can do to boost their bottom line more than to get this legislation passed into law. Banks and credit card companies shouldn’t be the most profitable companies in the convenience store industry.

Later, Toyota’s chief scientist Dr. Gill Pratt and Parkland USA President Doug Haugh took the stage to discuss the future of electric vehicles and other energy sources. I was most impressed with the degree to which Parkland in Canada has strategically rolled out chargers at its sites. Both speakers, though, agreed that electric chargers won’t soon replace gas dispensers. A highlight of the show for many people was the annual CSNews Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) Awards Gala (see page 58). It was my ninth year emceeing this wonderful event that recognizes established and emerging female leaders making their mark on the convenience store industry. Congratulations to all 91 women recognized as Senior-Level Leaders, Rising Stars and Mentors, as well as the five Women of the Year: Holly Angell of 7-Eleven Inc., Allison Cornish of Pilot Co., Danielle Holloway of Altria Group Distribution Co., Julie Jackson of G&M Oil Co., and Colette Matthews of Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K. Kudos also to Casey’s General Stores Inc., recipient of the first-ever Top Women in Convenience Corporate Empowerment Award for its commitment to gender equality and promoting female leadership and advancement. CEO Darren Rebelez, caught by surprise, accepted the award on behalf of the company and thanked his “remarkable team.” Launching and serving as master of ceremonies for TWIC has been one of the most satisfying accomplishments of my career. This year’s gala attracted a record 437 attendees. A big thank you to everyone who made this year’s event such a success, including our keynote speaker 7-Eleven Inc. President and CEO Joe DePinto, our TWIC Advisory Board members, and our loyal sponsors. I’m already looking forward to next year’s 10th anniversary TWIC celebration. For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director Emeritus, at dlongo@ensembleiq.com.

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CONTENTS NOV 22

VOLUME 58 N UMB ER 11

28

COVER STORY PAGE 32

98 FEATURES

DEPARTMENTS

COVER STORY

EDITOR’S NOTE

32 Off & Running Retailer Executive of the Year Doug Haugh has assembled a powerhouse team to grow Parkland USA’s retail business. FEATURE

40 Making Their Mark This year’s Future Leaders in Convenience honorees are leading the way in making the convenience channel better and bolder than ever. FEATURE

3 Leading by Letting Others Shine Doug Haugh offers a master class in the art of empowering others. VIEWPOINT

4 Back to Normal NACS Show 2022 highlighted advocacy, accomplishments and challenges.

24 New Products SMALL OPERATOR

28 The Future Is in the Details Visiting the NACS Show is a bit like reading the tea leaves to see what the future holds. INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND

98 The Mobile Customer Providing a compelling mobile experience has never been more important.

10 CSNews Online

58 Celebrating the 2022 Top Women in Convenience This year’s event featured a record number of honorees and drew record industry attendance.

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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 Editor-in-Chief

Linda Lisanti llisanti@ensembleiq.com

Executive Editor

Melissa Kress mkress@ensembleiq.com

Senior Editor

Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com

Managing Editor

Danielle Romano dromano@ensembleiq.com

Editorial Director Emeritus

INDUSTRY ROUNDUP 12 GPM Investments Set to Enter Massachusetts 16 Eye on Growth 18 Fast Facts 20 Retailer Tidbits 22 Supplier Tidbits TECHNOLOGY

Don Longo dlongo@ensembleiq.com

CATEGORY MANAGEMENT TOBACCO

74 A Promising Alternative The modern oral nicotine category is gaining traction amid regulatory anticipation. ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

76 Tapping Opportunities in Today’s Tough Retail Climate Economic challenges are driving many consumers to socialize and celebrate at home.

78 Playing the Loyalty Game Points-based rewards programs are giving way to fostering emotional connections.

Contributing Editor

Renée M. Covino reneek@aol.com

Contributing Editor

Tammy Mastroberte tmastroberte@gmail.com

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

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64

Setting the Cruise Control to Success

68

Finding Success in Prepared Food

70

Finding Success in Dispensed Beverages

Colette Magliaro cmagliaro@ensembleiq.com

Advertising/Production Manager (773) 992-4418

Ed Ward eward@ensembleiq.com

Art Director (973) 607-1321

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CORPORATE OFFICERS

72 73

Chief Executive Officer

Jennifer Litterick

Chief Financial Officer

Jane Volland

Finding Success in Fresh Bakery

Chief People Officer

Ann Jadown

Executive Vice President, Production

Derek Estey

Finding Success in Intersecting Foodservice & Technology

Executive Vice President, Content & Communications

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 2022 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Convenience Store News, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631.

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CSNEWS ONLINE

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE TOP VIEWED STORIES

1

Five Consumer Behavior Trends That May Last Into 2023

The combination of rising prices, the increased cost of living and ongoing social upheaval prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in financial problems for many consumers. As a result, consumers are growing thriftier and changing their behavior, according to NielsenIQ.

2

QuikTrip Will Enter Chicago in 2023

3

Altria Takes a Step Away From Juul Labs

4

Wawa to Shutter Two Philadelphia Stores Amid Safety & Security Challenges

5

Toot’n Totum Plans Expansion Push in Northwest Texas

The Tulsa, Okla.-based convenience retailer is reportedly planning to open three convenience stores in the Chicago metropolitan area. One c-store, which is the site of a former Kmart store, will ring up customers starting next year. Altria Group Inc. will end its noncompete agreement with Juul Labs Inc., according to a filing with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission. The decision frees up Altria to make other moves within the vapor space, including acquiring another brand, or developing its own new vaping products.

The retailer will permanently close its stores located at 12th and Market streets and 19th and Market streets in Center City. According to Pennsylvania-based Wawa, the company continues “to be focused on doing everything we can to monitor and work with local authorities to address challenges impacting operations in any other stores.”

Jared Scheeler Reflects on His Year as NACS Chairman It was a year of making “enormous progress” in moving big issues forward, Jared Scheeler told Convenience Store News. Key among them was introducing a bill to address credit card swipe fees — which he calls “outrageous, especially in these inflationary times” — and advancing “truly groundbreaking” initiatives such as TruAge, an innovative, universally accepted age-verification system developed by NACS and Conexxus that makes it more accurate to verify an adult customer’s age when purchasing age-restricted products. “The role of the NACS board of directors is to provide guidance to the NACS staff to move long-term strategies and initiatives forward. These are all big, forward-thinking projects that can transform our industry,” Scheeler said. For more exclusive stories, visit the Special Features section of csnews.com.

Toot’n Totum is making a push into Lubbock, Texas, with plans to open at least 18 convenience stores in the area. Its reported store count goal is between 18 and 20 locations in the area.

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Liquid Barcodes C-StorePay Liquid Barcodes launches its latest solution, C-StorePay, which makes paying for fuel, in-store merchandise and subscription programs frictionless for customers, while lowering credit card fees for retailers. According to the company, payments are processed by payment service providers (PSPs). They are guaranteed to be safe, relying on PSPs’ track record of fraud protection and data authentication, giving customers and retailers peace of mind. C-StorePay also integrates with existing loyalty programs.

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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

GPM Investments Set to Enter Massachusetts The ARKO Corp. subsidiary inks a $230M deal for Pride Convenience Holdings GPM INVESTMENTS LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of ARKO Corp., is acquiring Pride Convenience Holdings LLC, which operates 31 convenience stores in New England. The acquisition will expand ARKO’s c-store footprint into Massachusetts, making it the 34th state in which the company will operate.

Springfield, Mass.-based Pride operates many large-format stores, including two high-volume travel centers for long-haul truckers and two modern City Stop locations that cater to shorthaul truckers. Additionally, the company operates a centralized kitchen that provides fresh baked goods and food daily to all its stores. The total purchase price for Pride is approximately $230 million, plus the value of inventory. “Our agreement to acquire Pride highlights ARKO’s continued focus on creating longterm shareholder value by growing our core convenience store business,” said Arie Kotler, ARKO’s chairman, president and CEO. “We believe Pride stores are top-tier assets, with a focus on excellent customer service and a quality loyalty program, and we further believe that we can add value to these assets through our operational and merchandising abilities and scale. “We look forward to welcoming Pride’s employees to our family of community brands

and working together to enhance the business,” he added. The deal comes less than a year after Arclight Capital Partners purchased Pride from owner Bob Bolduc. “Pride is a success because of its dedicated team members, and we are excited for the opportunity to join a growing, long-term focused convenience store company with the scale Pride needs to continue enhancing our excellent offerings and strong brand name,” said Marsha Medina, CEO of Pride. At closing, Richmond, Va.-based ARKO intends to finance from its own sources approximately $28 million of the cash consideration plus the value of inventory and other closing adjustments. The remaining approximately $202 million is expected to be funded by Oak Street Real Estate Capital, a division of Blue Owl Capital, as part of the existing $1.15 billion agreement with ARKO. Oak Street is expected to acquire the real estate assets of Pride as part of the transaction, and ARKO will lease the real estate assets. The closing of the transaction is subject to fulfillment of conditions precedent. There is no certainty that the transaction will close. BMO Capital Markets Corp. is acting as exclusive financial advisor to the seller.

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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Eye on Growth

Wawa Inc. added Georgia to its expansion agenda. The retailer plans to open its first Georgia store in 2024, with the potential for up to 20 stores in the market in the future. Stewart’s Shops is opening seven locations in seven weeks. Of the seven, four are rebuilds and three are new-to-market stores. Construction timelines have ranged from nine to 12 weeks.

The Spinx Co. cut the ribbon on its newest store in South Greer, S.C. The site, which replaces a previous location nearby, features the chain’s fried chicken and a tunnel car wash. Energy North Group is ringing up customers at a new Haffner’s gas station and convenience store in Moultonborough, N.H. This is Haffner’s second site to open in the Lakes Region. MAPCO celebrated the grand opening of its newest store in Birmingham, Ala. The 5,600-square-foot store has 16 fueling stations and boasts the retailer’s latest “Store of the Future” design, as well as a dog park.

The company plans to add RV hookups and Amazon lockers to its locations.

Love’s Travel Stops threw open the doors on its 600th travel stop in mid-October. The Perry, Okla., travel stop adds 60 truck parking spaces and 70 jobs to Noble County.

Thorntons LLC opened the doors at its newest Louisville, Ky., location in early October. With this addition, the company now operates 45 stores in Louisville and southern Indiana.

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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

FAST FACTS

9.4% 60% 44% The 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey on e-cigarette use among U.S. youth found that 2.5 million, or 9.4 percent, of middle and high school students report current e-cigarette use.

Sixty percent of drivers think charging an electric vehicle (EV) would be difficult outside of their home, and 54 percent believe EVs are less reliable than traditional gas-powered vehicles.

Lifestyle trends that increased in popularity during the pandemic are again rising in favor. These include food preparation and dining at home, cited by 44 percent of consumers.

— U.S. Food and Drug Administration

— NACS Consumer Fuels Survey

— NielsenIQ

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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Retailer Tidbits

EG Group unveiled the first three Gulf Coast locations that have completed their conversions from Tom Thumb stores to the Cumberland Farms banner. Fifty-plus Tom Thumb stores are projected to open as Cumberland Farms locations by the end of the year. 7-Eleven Inc. launched Gulp Media Network. The retail media platform leverages first-party data to help fulfill immediate consumption purchase occasions.

La Crosse, Wis. The facility has a capacity of 168 children, ages six weeks through 12 years old. Kum & Go LC is expanding its new fresh food menu to stores in the Des Moines, Iowa, metro area. The made-to-order menu will be available at all Kum & Go stores in and around the area by year’s end. Texas Born (TXB) went live with its new loyalty app. Users can convert earned points into cash that can be spent on anything in-store, or as discounted gas at the pump. Pilot Co. debuted more remodeled locations under the company’s “New Horizons” initiative, in addition to the opening of a newly built travel center in Palmdale, Calif.

In partnership with Bright Horizons, the center provides employees a better work-life balance.

Kwik Trip cut the ribbon on the Kwik Trip Kids Learning Center, an on-site childcare center at the company’s headquarters in

The Greater Houston Retailers Cooperative Association Inc. launched a new store concept, KUDOS, to celebrate the everyday hero. KUDOS will initially roll out in the greater Houston market.

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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Supplier Tidbits

Altria Group Inc. and Philip Morris International (PMI) agreed to end their U.S. IQOS pact. PMI will pay Altria approximately $2.7 billion in exchange for the exclusive U.S. commercialization rights, effective April 30, 2024. Dover Fueling Solutions partnered with Bottomline to offer an end-to-end fuel management solution. The companies are providing one aggregated fuel management solution that can save retailers 5 percent to 10 percent in costs.

The latest offer is valued at approximately $15.8 billion.

Philip Morris International increased its bid to acquire Swedish Match. The company made its final offer in midOctober and is hoping to close a deal in the fourth quarter of this year. The Hershey Co.’s Reese’s brand kicked

off a marketing campaign centered on college football. Reese’s entered into an exclusive NIL (name, image, likeness) contract by signing 12 college football athletes with the last name “Reese.” JTM Foods LLC, the maker of JJ’s Handheld Snack Pies, is expanding its manufacturing to a new facility in Wichita, Kan. This expansion marks JTM Foods’ debut outside of Pennsylvania. Old Trapper renewed its sponsorship deal with “The Jim Rome Show” on CBS Sports Radio for the fourth consecutive year. The partnership includes sponsored features and podcast integration.

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TWIX Cookie Dough Mars Inc. is expanding its TWIX lineup with a new flavor innovation. TWIX Cookie Dough combines the classic TWIX cookie bar with a creamy cookie dough flavored layer, sprinkled with chocolate cookie bits, and all coated with rich milk chocolate. According to the maker, the new variety is the perfect mashup of two fan favorites — the classic TWIX bar and the nostalgic flavors of cookie dough. TWIX Cookie Dough will be available nationwide in December in a single size (1.36 ounces per bar), a share size (2.72 ounces per bar), and a mini stand-up pouch (9.7 ounces per pouch). MARS INC. • NEWARK, N.J. • TWIX.COM

Monaco Hard Lemonades Monaco Cocktails introduces Monaco Hard Lemonades. Offered in Original and Peach varieties, the new line features two shots of vodka in every can, with a 9 percent ABV. According to the company, the timeless vodka lemonade cocktail creates the ultimate party drink of the season, delighting taste buds with flavors that embody juicy peaches and refreshing lemonade with a crisp, clean finish. Using only genuine spirits in each can, Monaco Hard Lemonades are available nationwide with a suggested retail price ranging from $2.50 to $2.99 per 12-ounce can. MONACO COCKTAILS • CHICAGO • DRINKMONACO.COM

Djeep Lighters Djeep, a BIC brand, is reigniting its presence in the United States with a new distribution strategy and fresh product collections. Four new design collections will be available at launch, including the marble-themed Elegant series, the whimsical floral graphics of the Vibrant series, the sophisticated yet understated metallic pallet of the Bold series, and the Limited Edition series, which will refresh regularly to reflect current events and consumer trends. The lighters will be available at a broad selection of convenience, e-commerce and retail stores following an initial rollout at 7-Eleven stores and on Amazon.com. BIC USA INC. • SHELTON, CONN. • DJEEP.COM/EN-US

RXBAR A.M. RXBAR now offers RXBAR A.M. The new line of protein bars includes Honey Cinnamon Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Blueberry varieties. The bars are powered by 10 milligrams of protein and made with a few simple ingredients — such as soft-rolled oats, creamy nut butter, honey, egg whites, crispy brown rice and pumpkin seeds. RXBAR A.M. bars are available for $2.49 per bar, $8.99 for a four count, or $9.99 for a five count. RXBAR • CHICAGO • RXBAR.COM

SimpliStock Peg Pusher System Retail Space Solutions launches the SimpliStock Peg Pusher System to more effectively display snacks in convenience stores. The SimpliStock Peg is easy to install using existing peg board, and keeps products conditioned with minimal staff intervention. The trays are adjustable to accommodate various product sizes. The system also can help reduce bag rips from traditional pegs, according to the company. RETAIL SPACE SOLUTIONS • MILWAUKEE • RETAILSPACESOLUTIONS.COM

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Franke Coffee Systems A400 Fresh Brew Franke Coffee Systems Americas unveils the A400 Fresh Brew, its latest innovation in hot coffee. The system enables consistent, bean-tocup, fresh coffee every time, with less waste. The machine has a small footprint of just under 13.5 inches wide and adjustable stainless-steel feet, making it an ideal fit where counter space is limited, according to the company. An 8-inch intuitive touchscreen on the fully automatic machine walks customers through the ordering process in three steps with its Advanced User Interface. With a 9-inch cup clearance, the A400 Fresh Brew can produce up to four sizes of hot coffee. FRANKE COFFEE SYSTEMS AMERICAS • SMYRNA, TENN. • COFFEE.FRANKE.COM

Country Archer Provisions New Launches Country Archer Provisions is bringing two new products to market: Zero-Sugar Smoked Sausages and Teriyaki Style Mini Pork Sticks. Available in original and fuego flavors, the Zero-Sugar Smoked Sausages contain 9 milligrams of protein in every serving, with just 100 calories and 6 milligrams of fat. The sausages are made from a combination of 100 percent natural pork and grass-fed and finished beef. The Teriyaki Style Mini Pork Sticks are made with real ingredients, including 100 percent natural, antibiotic-free pork and real chunks of pineapple. COUNTRY ARCHER PROVISIONS • SAN BERNARDINO, CALIF. • COUNTRYARCHER.COM

Sound POS Sound Payments introduces Sound POS, a cost-effective, all-in-one pointof-sale system that is designed to provide greater flexibility and more tools for convenience stores and fuel stations to run their in-store business. The technology runs on a variety of devices; it is designed to fit in any retail space, and works well for a c-store deli. Sound POS supports all major credit cards, gift cards, loyalty cards and cash discounting. In addition to being a primary device for c-stores, Sound POS can also be used as a secondary device for in-store purchase overflow for non-fuel purchases, allowing owners to negotiate lower processing fees. SOUND PAYMENTS • JACKSONVILLE, FLA. • SOUNDPAYMENTS.COM

Watchfire Customizable Price Option Display Watchfire Signs introduces a new Price Option display for gas price signs that allows fuel station operators to customize pricing for loyalty programs or different methods of payment. The Price Option features a single-line variable text display that allows operators to choose from five pre-programmed text messages, including cash, credit, debit, member and non-member, or use a factory-configured custom message to match each store’s advertising needs. They are easily paired with Watchfire’s Price Watcher gas price signs, which offer a bright fuel price display that can be changed efficiently and safely, day or night, the company noted. WATCHFIRE SIGNS • DANVILLE, ILL. • WATCHFIRESIGNS.COM

PDI Technologies New Solutions PDI Technologies presented several new solutions at the 2022 NACS Show to support industry transformation across the convenience ecosystem. Retail Site Management automates manual processes and enables companies to access data from anywhere within the business to increase efficiency, save money and allow employees to focus more on consumers. Firewall as a Service increases security to meet rising cyberthreats without adding to the IT management burden. Offer Network integrates PDI Age & Identity Verification capabilities with targeted offers to optimize retail promotions and increase visibility and sales for brands. In addition, ChargeBuddy fosters a community for electric vehicle drivers to find charging availability in real time, while serving consumers exclusive in-app offers. PDI TECHNOLOGIES INC. • ATLANTA • PDITECHNOLOGIES.COM 26 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

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The Future Is in the Details

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Visiting the NACS Show is a bit like reading the tea leaves to see what the future holds YOU CAN’T SEE

By Roy Strasburger, CEO, StrasGlobal

everything at once.

When I was a child growing up in central Texas, I would often find myself looking at the ground. Usually, this was because I had dropped something but, often, it was just because I found it fascinating. I would be on the playground or in a field and when I looked around, I could see the large objects — clumps of grass and rocks — and everything in between was barren dirt. But, if I stayed still and really focused on the ground, I would start seeing signs of life and movement. A variety of insects emerged and started going about their daily survival efforts. Passing clouds changed the shadow and light and created a kaleidoscope of landscapes. The breeze created movement and rearranged the terrain. A world existed where it looked like there was nothing. The big picture was stationary, but the detail showed the change and movement. I had the chance to attend the 2022 NACS Show in Las Vegas this year. For

me, it is the preeminent event on the convenience retail calendar. There are many reasons to attend the show: seeing friends, networking, the educational sessions, talking to vendors to take care of business, and trying to see the new products and trends that are affecting the industry. I am writing this column from the floor of the NACS Show — literally. My feet are killing me from walking around the exhibition booths, so I am actually sitting on the floor of the trade show. It’s been a great show and, for those of you who were not able to attend, I will attempt to give you an overview of my impressions during the last few days. I think it’s safe to say that the NACS Show is back in full force. There were a lot of people and a lot of activity, combining to make the trade show and its surrounding events interesting and exciting. I felt that, even though there was a show last year, many attendees are still relishing the opportunity to meet their friends and associates in person, rather than through

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a video screen — the post-pandemic buzz, if you will. The NACS Show is so large and has so many exhibitors that it is often hard to see the changes in the products, equipment and new ideas from year to year. The changes tend to be incremental rather than radical and, frankly, new trends are hard to spot. I think 2022 is one of those years. There was no big new category of products, such as CBD products in 2019, and no new major equipment or technology introductions like we saw last year with frictionless checkout. Most of what I saw was the tweaking around the edges of products and equipment, such as the addition of new flavors or more electronic devices interacting with smartphones, but nothing that was radically new or innovative. Products. The dominant theme I saw with products is “local” and “artisan.” Think this snack bar is made by hand by a flannel-wearing person in Brooklyn, N.Y., or that drink is mixed by a group living in Washington State using only organic fruit harvested during the full moon. But seriously, the underlying trend is important. Customers are looking for products they think are healthy, good for the planet and the environment, and that they can identify with and “believe” in. This is part of the story that you should be telling your customers to help differentiate you from your competition. Equipment. As I mentioned earlier, much of the innovation with equipment presented at the show focused on two things. The first was increasing frictionless interaction with the customer. For example, you can now pay for fuel at the pump with your phone or use your phone for payment inside the store. There were quite a few new companies offering this service. This is all about making it easier for customers to shop at your store and reduce the time and hassle of them making their purchase and leaving the store. The second thing is being able to customize products. Customers can mix or adjust the flavors they receive (such as shots in their drink) or select from a wider range of serving sizes that fit their desires. It is about giving customers what they want; to create the relationship between them and your store. That relationship will be important in keeping and growing your business in the future. Ideas. I heard three major topics of discussion during the educational sessions and general sessions held at the show: swipe fees, mobility and the blurring of the physical retail space with the digital retail space — the area called “phygital.” Swipe fees, the fees that credit card companies and

banks charge for processing credit card payments, is seen as a huge problem by NACS as they cost the convenience industry more than $13 billion in 2021. Part of the issue is that the fees are based on a percentage of the payment and, as prices go up (increased fuel prices and inflation), the swipe fee dollars go up, eating into the retailer’s net profits. Please go to the NACS website (convenience.org) to learn more about the situation and what you can do to help. This directly affects you. Mobility, the introduction of non-hydrocarbon fueled vehicles, continues to be a big topic, especially how it will affect the future of convenience retailing. The two main points of conversation were: whether the electrical infrastructure can keep up with the projected growth of electric vehicles and their power demands; and a reminder that there are alternatives to electricity, specifically hydrogen, and whether there is an opportunity to create networks using these fuels. Finally, in the phygital space, customers can move seamlessly between what they see and do on their phone and what they experience in the store, and vice versa. This starts with the customer being able to find you online (an issue being addressed by a new NACS initiative called Thrivr). It also includes online ordering, loyalty programs, digital offerings and discounts in-store, as well as AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) experiences in the store that give the customer either more information about what you are selling or provide a unique experience, or both. Phygital is a broad and multilayered concept that I’m not going delve into here, but plan to explore in later columns, so stay tuned. (By the way, there was an excellent session on phygital at the NACS Show, which you should be able to download.) Visiting the NACS Show is a bit like reading the tea leaves to see what the future holds. Sometimes, it is clear, but most of the time, it is obscure. The important thing, though, is to have enough curiosity to look into the teacup, as it were. If you don’t look, you will never see. The convenience store industry is huge and very fragmented. It is made up of tens of thousands of individual store owners and companies. The NACS Show is similar — large and sprawling. Take the time to sit still and look closely at your customers, suppliers and competitors to see what is happening around the edges of your business to try to get an idea as to the upcoming trends. The future is in the details. CSN

Roy Strasburger is CEO of StrasGlobal, a privately held retail consulting, operations and management provider serving the small-format retail industry nationwide. StrasGlobal operates retail locations for companies that don’t have the desire, expertise or infrastructure to operate them. Learn more at strasglobal.com. Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News. 30 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

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COVER STORY

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Retailer Executive of the Year DOUG HAUGH has assembled a powerhouse team to grow Parkland USA’s retail business

BY LINDA LISANTI

FOR PARKLAND USA President Doug Haugh,

best talents. But it also takes a lot of coaching and mentoring to get people to recognize those leadership means empowering people to recognize their strengths, and then putting them in strengths and weaknesses in themselves, and then also in their teammates. So, they can see how the a position to maximize those talents. pieces fit together and get the most out of each other,” he explained. “The impact and increase in Since joining the Charleston, S.C.-based company productivity and outcomes, and just what you’re in November 2017, he has put together a able to even try to do, it really changes people’s powerhouse team to grow Parkland USA’s retail perspectives. Now, they’re aiming for the stars business across four key regions of the country, because they have so much confidence in the and relaunch the On the Run brand as both a person to their left and the person to their right. convenience store and forecourt brand. If you can get that done, sky’s the limit.” “The opportunity to pull together such a talented team and to help them find ways of working together that leverage each of their strengths in new ways to continue elevating their capabilities is the most important responsibility I have, and certainly the most rewarding part of the job,” said Haugh, Convenience Store News’ 2022 Retailer Executive of the Year. “Team first” is his motto and he’s quick to point out that although the Retailer Executive of the Year award has his name on it, the honor is really all about the work his team has done. Haugh’s goal is to nourish that sense of teamwork and get beyond just working well with one another to a place where there is a genuine sense of care and affection embedded across the team. “My focus as a leader has always been to get people to be in a position to maximize their

NOVE MBE R

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A Skilled Apprentice Haugh came to his current role with more than 25 years of experience working in the energy and technology fields. He previously served as president and chief strategy officer for Mansfield Energy Corp. in Gainesville, Ga., and was the cofounder of FuelQuest Inc., an enterprise cloud/SaaS provider with more than 750 clients in the retail and energy industries. Although he’s been part of the industry for more than two decades, Haugh considers himself “still a bit of an apprentice in this business” and as such, he says being selected by his peers to receive the Retailer Executive of the Year award is a “humbling recognition” from an incredibly talented group of leaders that he looks up to. Making the jump from serving retailers to being a retailer himself has been a big change, but one that he’s enjoying. “I’ve always been in the middle of retail, but it’s very different as an operator. It’s a lot of fun to have your hands in the actual store,” he said. When Haugh began this journey in the fall of 2017, Parkland USA was a small subsidiary of Calgary, Canada-based Parkland Corp., the largest independent supplier and marketer of fuel and petroleum products in Canada and the Caribbean and a leading c-store operator there. At the time, the U.S. business for Parkland was a small outpost operating as Farstad Oil in North Dakota with about 20 company-operated stores, a good dealer business, and three branches serving commercial customers with diesel and lubricants. “Parkland had put a toe in the water in the U.S. to try to understand the market and figure out if it could be a growth frontier for them,” Haugh recalled. “We had a great local team with a strong competitive position in a small market, operated by long-term employees with a great connection to their local communities. We needed to improve safety, grow a professional sales team and improve the offering in the stores, but the foundation was solid and most of that team remains with Parkland, and many have progressed to senior roles as we have scaled up the company.” Under Haugh’s leadership, Parkland USA has grown from 150 team members to nearly 3,000; from 20 company-operated stores to 212; and from three commercial branches to 52. Today, Parkland USA employs team members across 15 states in the retail c-store, commercial fuels, wholesale fuels, industrial fuels, propane, lubricants and marine businesses.

Engineering the Next Generation of Leaders Outside of work, Parkland USA President Doug Haugh has several other passions in his life: his family, the engineering field, his alma mater Clemson University and college football. When not cheering on his 14-year-old son Gavin at baseball games and his 15-yearold daughter Asa at softball games, Haugh and his wife of 24 years Athena spend their time strengthening the foundation they began called Engineering Leadership. In partnership with Clemson, the foundation is aimed at developing leadership skills in the engineering profession, and building the educational curriculum that can help highlight the importance of leadership early in college when many engineers are consumed with the deep technical subjects they must master. The objective of Engineering Leadership is to help young engineers develop into leaders. Oftentimes, engineers are not associated with the skills and traits connected to leadership because they tend to be quieter, more focused and more analytical. But Haugh, a chemical engineering graduate from Clemson, believes this is an oversight. “If you look at leadership teams in most environments whether it be companies or governments, there’s always an HR person, there’s always a lawyer, there’s always an accountant. But my theme is: Where’s your engineer?” he said. “I think in today’s world, we’re all technology companies, and that disciplined thinking about how to take complex problems, break them down into small pieces and then build them back up to the answer, to be data driven, analytical — those traits are really important to have on every team.”

“While most of this growth was as a result of the 20 acquisitions we have closed in the last three-plus years, much of the revenue and earnings growth has been through organic growth, [which is] possible with a bigger platform run by a talented team,” Haugh noted.

Thanks to the efforts of the foundation, Clemson now offers a leadership track as part of its engineering program. With this exposure, Haugh hopes to see more engineers leverage their unique talents and traits and become successful leaders.

He also pointed out that despite the rapid expansion, the company has maintained its cultural foundations and continued to build upon its corporate values of community, respect, integrity and safety. “Our commitment to our employees and local communities where we work, run stores and service customers has remained the cornerstone of how we do business,” he said.

“I expect to spend many years in the future helping young engineers become not just strong technical contributors to their companies and communities, but also become strong leaders of companies and communities,” he said.

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Parkland USA will complete the rollout of the On the Run brand to its 212 company-operated stores over the next 24 months.

Building a Retail Empire From that one small outpost in North Dakota, Parkland USA has expanded over the past five years to now operate four Regional Operating Centers (ROCs): a Northern Tier ROC in Minot, N.D.; Rockies ROC in American Fork, Utah; Southeast ROC in Miami; and Pacific Northwest ROC in Nampa, Idaho. The selection of these markets was a methodical process, according to Haugh, noting that the first six months of his tenure with Parkland were spent working with his new team to lay out the strategy, gain board of directors approval and secure financing. “A lot of people ask us why we’ve chosen to enter these markets and it’s simple in the end. Each of these markets has rapid population growth,” he explained. “We like markets where we’re going to have new customers, where we’ve got a growing population to service, and that are complicated from a supply standpoint.” Miami, in particular, is “just exploding” with new residents and new companies coming into the market, Haugh said. “We really think Miami is a champion of the future. It’s the capital of the Caribbean, and we have a large retail business in the Caribbean with 790 sites. We see a lot of joint opportunities for training and the chance for our teams to learn from one another.” Each ROC has roughly 50 company-operated stores currently, with the exception of Florida at 92 stores. Haugh has his sights set on having 100 to 200 company-operated stores in each of these markets in the near future. More stores mean a better return on investment.

“While we will look at new markets, we primarily want to deepen our investments in the markets where we have invested in the U.S. today, and continue to grow in those communities,” he said. “I think we can build incredible density in the markets we’re in. We’re having great success, and it allows the team to concentrate their efforts.” A significant piece of this growth plan is the relaunch of the On the Run brand as both a convenience store and forecourt brand. On the Run was originally created by Mobil, one of the first oil companies to develop a c-store brand. “I still get some calls from those early creators of the brand who are just loving what we’re doing with it now and seeing it resurrected,” he shared. Parkland Corp. announced in September 2020 that it had acquired the license for exclusive use of the On the Run trademark in the majority of U.S. states, and planned to expand the brand across the U.S. to create a unified North American convenience store brand. The company will buy the U.S. trademark outright in the next 12 months, according to Haugh. Parkland Corp. already owns the trademark outright in Canada. In the Caribbean, the company licenses it from ExxonMobil. There are 800 On the Run stores across Canada, and about a third of the company’s Caribbean stores are On the Run branded at this time. Parkland USA has begun the process of rolling out the On the Run brand to its 212 company-operated stores. “It’s become our central focus. We are building/remodeling/rebranding stores now across the U.S. and should have 30 to 40 done this year,

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Parkland USA is focused on enhancing its offers.

with the rest completed over the next 24 months,” said Haugh, noting that he and his team have completely reimaged the brand. “We love the way the brand has turned out with the revitalization.”

Enhancing the In-Store Offer In-store, there’s a big focus on expanding foodservice. Most of Parkland USA’s stores have hot food, but there’s been a need for an integrated program to bring standards to the offers. New On the Run stores feature consistent sub-brands, such as Bites On the Run. Haugh is also bullish about Parkland Corp.’s recent acquisition of M&M Food Market, a major player in the take-home meal replacement space in Canada. He’s eager to utilize the M&M team’s award-winning chefs, recipes and decades of expertise in menu development.

larger Parkland organization. He also feels fortunate to have a great leader and mentor in CEO Bob Espey, as well as a peer group on the corporate leadership team that has been incredibly supportive. “From availability of capital to support in marketing to supply synergies with both Canada and the Caribbean, being part of Parkland makes us a much more capable company than we could ever be on our own. There is just no way I or the rest of the U.S. team could have ramped up at this incredible growth rate without their unwavering commitment and support,” he added.

“Building one of those teams from scratch is incredibly difficult. Now, we have one intact that’s done a fantastic job, and we’re taking that offering and adapting it for our stores — taking their retail food expertise, along with their position in the supply chain. It’s not only having great recipes, it’s also about can you secure your ingredients, can you get good pricing on it,” he said.

Along with its company-operated stores, Parkland USA also has 445 dealers across the country, and Haugh is enthusiastic about extending the On the Run brand and its new in-store programs to those dealers. This is another key area of focus for the company.

Other key areas of focus for Parkland USA are building a strong private label offer, which the On the Run brand hasn’t had to date; and leveraging the 3.5-million-member-strong loyalty platform that Parkland Corp. has built over the past few years.

“The traditional relationship of just helping them with the forecourt, being a fuel brand, that will continue to be important, but it’s not enough to really help them drive their success,” he said. “So, we’re spending a lot of time helping them upgrade their stores.

He believes there’s “a lot of hunger” among the dealers for much deeper in-store support.

“When we have winning programs and promos and merchandise strategies that are working in our business, we want to make sure our team is taking that into the dealer stores and helping them grow their business, grow their earnings, and be a more This is just one of the advantages of being part of the attractive outlet,” Haugh added. CSN “We’re excited to roll that out across the U.S. We have test stores launched, but the big effort comes over the next couple years to get the loyalty platform fully deployed,” Haugh said.

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FEATURE

MAKING THEIR MARK

This year’s Future Leaders in Convenience honorees are leading the way in making the convenience channel better and bolder than ever By Angela Hanson & Danielle Romano

simple word with a complex meaning. In the convenience store industry, leaders do everything from exceeding their role expectations and KPIs, to coming up with innovative initiatives their companies can use to gain a competitive advantage, to mentoring colleagues and more. What sets leaders apart is their ability to think differently, act decisively and never stop looking for ways to improve.

LEADERSHIP IS A

Whether they’re part of a big company or a small chain, are involved in category management, marketing, operations or other areas, the next generation of c-store industry leaders are proving they have what it takes to make the convenience channel better and bolder than ever. This year, Convenience Store News recognizes a class of Future Leaders in Convenience (FLIC) that is not only the largest group yet, but also the first to include young leaders from retailer,

distributor and supplier companies. Their spheres of influence touch nearly every aspect of convenience and fuel retailing, and they are already making significant positive contributions to their companies and the convenience store industry at large. Now in its fifth year, the goal of the FLIC program is to celebrate and help develop the next generation of c-store industry leaders by providing a forum for talented young businesspeople to hone their leadership talent, while recognizing the achievements of a select few up-andcomers, aged 35 or under at the time of nomination. This year’s 33 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 2022 Future Leaders in Convenience Summit, taking place Nov. 21 in Charlotte, N.C. The 2022 Future Leaders in Convenience are:

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FEATURE

Kristine Anderson MARKETING MANAGER

Casey’s General Stores Inc. • Heading up integrated marketing planning and in-store advertising for Casey’s 2,400 stores, Anderson oversees store signage and digital menuboards, along with the development of TV, billboard and radio campaigns. She is often brought in to assist with special projects, such as brand refreshes and remodels in select markets. • Anderson received Casey’s Marketing Leader Award in 2021. She is lauded for spearheading integrated promotional planning for the retailer’s launch of its first-ever breakfast menu, as well as its annual “Summer of Freedom” sweepstakes. • Anderson’s career in convenience retailing began at Kum & Go LC. There, her key contributions ranged from simplifying store communications through an online intranet, to streamlining the retailer’s monthly signage program, to managing and growing P&L for various segments within the packaged beverages category.

Nathan Arnold DIRECTOR OF MARKETING

Englefield Oil Co./Duchess Convenience Stores • Arnold is responsible for the marketing efforts of Englefield Oil, Duchess Convenience Stores and Tic Tac Taco Mexican Kitchen. This encompasses 120 locations across Ohio, and one store in West Virginia. He joined Englefield Oil in 2018 as marketing manager and was promoted to director of marketing in 2020. • According to his nominator, Arnold has become an integral part of Englefield Oil’s team by leading the way with innovations in loyalty, new customer attraction and customer retention. Under his leadership, Duchess Convenience Stores earned the 2019 Paytronix Loyaltees Award for Exceptional Customer Engagement. • Arnold was a founding board member of the Young Leaders of Licking County and has served as its board chair president since 2020.

Joseph Bortner SENIOR CATEGORY MANAGER

Rutter’s

• Bortner joined Rutter’s in 2016 as a category manager and was recently promoted to his current role. This

Now in its fifth year, the goal of the FLIC program is to celebrate and help develop the next generation of c-store industry leaders.

promotion expanded the categories he oversees to include the center store and packaged beverages. He also manages the merchandising team for all of Rutter’s 82 convenience stores. • The sphere of his responsibilities includes marketing, sales forecasting, pricing, space planning, vendor management, contract negotiations and inventory control. Under Bortner’s direction, product selection, programming and merchandising achieved double-digit CAGR growth across all categories. • Because of his career working in sales at Mondelez International prior to joining Rutter’s, Bortner is uniquely positioned to understand the complexities of working for a large corporation and developing solutions. “Finding solutions and creating new methods to overcome challenges are Joe’s strengths, earning him accolades from his vendor community,” his nominator noted.

Makayla Bowling ACCOUNTING CLERK

Sutey Oil Co./Thriftway Super Stops • Reporting directly to the chief financial officer (CFO), Bowling assists accounts payable, oversees all of the company’s rebates and has her hands in other financial accounting matters. She is currently in line for a staff accountant position. • Under guidance from the company’s One Leadership Consulting initiative, Bowling has learned what it means to be a leader and embodies that philosophy. According to her nominator, Bowling will be a CFO of a company at some point. “It may be this one, or it may be another one, but she will be a CFO,” he emphasized.

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FEATURE

• Bowling is one of 10 2021-22 NACS Foundation Future Fund Scholarship recipients. She will receive her accounting degree from Montana State University Billings in December.

Courtney Carter INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS

Buc-ee’s

• Carter joined Buc-ee’s in 2017, where she maintains internal communications for the company. In this role, she ensures organizational initiatives and projects are successfully conveyed to employees and field leadership through communication that is consistent across all mediums and different departments of the organization. • Most recently, she oversaw the rollout of Opterus’ OPSCENTER, a multimodular cloud solution that is designed to streamline communication and task management to align with the geographical growth of an organization. The integration of the platform has led to effective store preparation, as well as increased employee satisfaction, which ultimately leads to reduced change management. • Prior to Buc-ee’s, Carter worked for Dollar Tree for seven years, overseeing promotional programs, seasonal execution and visual merchandising.

Angelle Cloud, RDN, LDN DIRECTOR OF FOODSERVICE COMPLIANCE/CORPORATE DIETITIAN

ShopRite Inc./Bourbon Street Deli

Billy Colemire DIRECTOR OF MARKETING

Stinker Stores

• In his role as director of marketing, Colemire leads the category management, brand marketing, field merchandising and pricing teams. Additionally, he has direct management of the fresh food and dispensed beverage categories, where he assisted in curating Stinker Stores’ in-house concepts, Pete’s Eats and 1936 Coffee Bar. • Over the course of a decade in convenience retailing, Colemire has held various category management, marketing and operational roles. It is in these positions that he has been lauded for creating and streamlining food and beverage programs that generated more robust and QSR-comparable programs for c-store chains. • Colemire is a standout contributor to the industry because of his passion, leadership and enthusiasm, his nominator commented.

Mason Cowan

DIRECTOR OF MANAGED SERVICES

BandyWorks

• Cowan is responsible for creating solutions to address changing retail needs. The breadth of his reach comprises regulatory and vendor promotional requirements, sales optimization, product effectiveness, shrink control and age-based selling compliance. Among the key developments he has overseen at BandyWorks are quick loyalty and advanced analytics.

• Cloud supports menu development, maintains nutritional labeling, and assists in creating foodservice marketing plans for 30-plus locations. She is responsible for the continued compliance and menu development of EatFit, a program run by Oshner Health Systems and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana.

• He is co-author of “The C-Store Growth Mindset – Making Peace with Accountability,” which outlines how to incorporate a data-based accountability system within an organization. The book is the foundation of a workshop series Cowan leads, along with numerous live and online presentations and webinars for c-store management.

• Among her achievements, Cloud helped meet the needs of rural and inner-city communities that had limited access to affordable and nutritious food by installing cold grab-and-go cases that offer fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables, plus salads and wraps.

• During his tenure with BandyWorks, Cowan has received multiple accolades, including Highest Shrink Detection in 2022 and 2021, Best New Product Design in 2020, and Top Sales in 2019.

• Cloud was a 2022 finalist for Retail Dietitian of the Year, awarded by the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance. She was also selected as a social media ambassador for Dairy Max Inc., a nonprofit dairy council representing more than 900 dairy farms across eight states.

Tim Cox

SENIOR PRODUCT DEVELOPER OF PROPRIETARY BEVERAGES

7-Eleven Inc.

• Cox is tasked with developing innovative equipment and product

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11/1/22 1:57 PM


FEATURE

solutions to upgrade and enhance the beverage experience for 7-Eleven customers. He joined the company in 2021 as the product development manager of coffee, a role in which he focused on improving existing and new coffee products and sourcing. • He has spent more than a decade evaluating the quality of coffee and specialty drinks. Throughout his career, he has owned and managed signature beverage concepts, overseen business development and served as an independent consultant. • Cox holds multiple licenses and certifications in the industry from organizations such as Barista Guild of America and Specialty Coffee Association of America. He is a member of the 7-Eleven Young Professionals group.

Carly Deitrich

VICE PRESIDENT, STRATEGIC ACCOUNTS

Stuzo

• Deitrich oversees Stuzo’s customer success team, which supports the design, implementation, operation and analysis of customer engagement programs for the convenience and fuel retailing industry. Her ability to educate and advocate for Stuzo has directly impacted the company’s continued year-over-year growth, her nominator noted. • Thanks to her leadership and support, Deitrich has played an integral role in the success of retailers’ programs and ultimately, their digital transformations. For example, powered by Stuzo’s Open Commerce Product Suite, the CEFCO Rewards program experienced a 115 percent gain in incremental transactions per day, a 228 percent lift in member enrollment and a 461 percent lift in active members. • Promoted ahead of the normal scheduled windows at Stuzo, Deitrich is regularly recognized as a rising star internally.

What sets leaders apart is their ability to think differently, act decisively and never stop looking for ways to improve.

Stan Farrington CATEGORY MANAGER, GROCERY & BEVERAGE

Harbor Wholesale

• Farrington leads the charge for developing the small-format grocery store supply chain into full-service community stores. His leadership in innovating the beverage space at Harbor Wholesale has resulted in double-digit growth for the past two years. • The category manager joined the company in 2021 as a senior buyer and exhibited strong leadership with the launch of the distributor’s new forecasting software, Blue Yonder. Farrington received the 2021 Harbor President’s Award, which recognizes outstanding performance and a passion to live the Harbor values every day. • Prior to Harbor Wholesale, Farrington was a purchasing agent for The Odom Corp., where he spearheaded the acquisition of Coca-Cola Hawaii from The Coca-Cola Co.

Victoria Hammer CREATIVE LEAD

OnCue

• Recognized as an integral part of the marketing department, Hammer leads all creative services at OnCue, overseeing signage, advertising, package design and brand management. She also manages all digital assets, including electronic signs, OnCue’s website and mobile app, online food ordering, kiosks, social media and more. • She has focused her time on transforming OnCue’s customer experience in the digital age with new displays such as electronic menu signs, digital window screens and electronic shelf tags. Hammer was lauded by her nominator for helping transform OnCue’s food ordering kiosks into a customerfriendly process. • She’s received recognition in the form of OnCue’s coveted Standing O Award, a district two corporate recognition award by the area’s general managers.

Jack Hogan

VICE PRESIDENT OF STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS

Mashgin

• Hogan has oversight of Mashgin’s sales efforts and existing customer relationships in verticals including convenience stores, corporate cafeterias, sports stadiums and universities. His reach spans more than 1,500 locations globally.

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FEATURE

• He spearheaded Mashgin’s entry into the c-store market, expanding the company’s offerings to include capabilities for loyalty programs, and cash and fuel sales. He recently helped close Mashgin’s 7,000-location deal with Circle K, making it the largest self-checkout deployment in convenience store history, and the largest physical buildout of computer vision-powered hardware. • Hogan was Mashgin’s top salesperson in 2020 and 2021. His efforts helped the company secure a $62.5 million Series B funding round, which catapulted Mashgin to a $1.5 billion valuation.

Faheem Jamal

DIRECTOR OF C-STORE OPERATIONS

CPD Energy Corp./Chestnut Markets • Jamal has been an integral part of the growth of the Chestnut Market c-store brand since its early beginnings, and contributed to the brand growing to more than 75 locations in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut since engaging full time in the family business in 2015. • His talent for the execution of seamless new store openings, development/recruitment of a strong frontline store managerial base, and outstanding merchandising and purchasing skills has helped to move Chestnut Market forward with in-store sales growth well above current NACS industry averages. • He participates in the ExxonMobil Brand Ambassador Program, and actively engages in community events with local leadership. Recently, he was recruited by New York Westchester County Executive George Latimer to sit on the county’s business advisory council.

• Throughout his career, Jordan has worked in customer-forward or sales positions, ranging from some of the largest companies in the world to retailers with less than a dozen locations. The singular theme has been him having a true passion for serving customers.

Aisha Khan

COMPANY OPERATIONS & ACQUISITIONS

Shahani Inc.

• Khan spearheads company operations and acquisitions for Shahani Inc., her family’s business. This includes commission agent pricing, new site development, supply contracts, tenant relationships and employee training for 35 sites in Connecticut and Rhode Island. • Over the past four years, she has grown the business from 4 million fuel gallons a year to more than 20 million, and expanded the company from being just a Gulf distributor to now Gulf, BP and Phillips 66. She is working closely with Connecticut’s governor-elect candidate to bring fuel and energyrelated opportunities to the state. • Khan also oversees all office operations and since joining the family business full time, has digitized the back office to make the entire operation more efficient.

Sarah Leffew Montgomery DIRECTOR OF STRATEGIC ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES

Upshop (formerly Applied Data Corp.)

Rob Jordan

MARKETING SPECIALIST

R.L. Jordan Oil Co./Hot Spot Convenience Stores • Jordan started with the familyowned business at the age of 10 stocking shelves. Now, as marketing specialist, he is responsible for the sales and gross profit of Hot Spot’s 41 locations, as well as store conditions, vendor communications and employee relations. • According to his nominator, Jordan is a team player who works hard and is goal oriented. He’s also described as a servant leader who cares about his team members. As a member of NACS, he attends many industry events and shares ideas with other c-store operators.

• Leffew Montgomery manages UpShop’s account executive team, which solves clients’ foodservice operational challenges through technology, while building lasting relationships that help grow their business. • According to her nominator, she is adept at educating the c-store market and delivering value to brands by identifying opportunities to synthesize, automate and optimize foodservice data. Her seasoned operations knowledge enables her to pinpoint key store-level growth potential and provide insight into value-added services and technology.

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FEATURE

• Leffew Montgomery also led the client success team through a transition that enabled account management and sales to collaborate on product implementation and project management. She is regarded as the go-to person for many customers, and has steered some of the largest new deals in company history.

Christine Loukota DIRECTOR OF EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K • Loukota owns the product roadmap for Circle K’s Smart Checkout Program and Next Generation Retail Platform. She took the program from pilot to scale, positioning the company to deploy 10,000 Smart Checkout machines over the next three years and boost the number of store transactions eligible for machine processing from 25 percent to more than 90 percent. • She is known as a natural leader who understands every dimension of technology in the c-store industry and can manage large amounts of intense detail while developing solutions. • Loukota has used her collaborative leadership style, innovative mindset and ability to engage with teams to launch several other game-changing projects for Circle K, including its Fuel Price Guarantee and EasyWay, the company’s artificial intelligence-based full frictionless store experience.

Alyx Marsh

ASSISTANT MANAGER, PM WAREHOUSE

Harbor Wholesale

• Marsh leads warehouse operations during order selection, and is responsible for managing internal deadlines, maintaining order quality and accuracy, and ensuring customer satisfaction. • As a leader, she values dedication, honesty and transparency in order to build trust and demonstrate commitment. She provides training and coaching to help her employees meet goals for productivity and accuracy; works to maintain a safe, injury-free environment; and sets a high example for her team. • Her nominator noted that Marsh is determined to make every individual on her team successful, from new hires to veteran team members. She is regarded as the weathervane for her team’s positive attitude and morale.

Hailey Miller

ASSOCIATE CATEGORY MANAGER, SNACKS & TRAVEL CENTER

RaceTrac Inc.

• Miller oversees contract negotiations and implementation of new items and opportunities for the snacks and center store categories, among other duties. Since being promoted to her current role, she has made a significant impact in a short time by implementing new merchandising strategies to drive profitable growth despite unforeseen hurdles. • She also helped to ensure that multiple new stores in several states opened on time by working with vendors on space and products, while ensuring that guests’ expectations were met upon opening and beyond. • Miller actively participates in events, workshops and volunteer opportunities put on by RaceTrac’s LEAD program, which is designed to talk business, create networks, build future leaders, and focus on women in the workplace. According to her nominator, she has passion, a willingness to learn and a strong work ethic, which have led to her exceeding all expectations.

These young leaders are already making significant positive contributions to their companies and the convenience store industry at large.

Trent Moore MARKETING MANAGER

Yesway

• Moore is responsible for the strategic direction, vision, growth and performance of the marketing department for Yesway and Allsup’s convenience stores, leading his team to help maximize store profitability and the in-store experience. • In addition to overseeing advertising, signage, in-store execution and digital consumer engagement for both brands, he coordinates with suppliers and the merchandising team to deliver profitable sales growth across all stores and e-commerce; works with operations, merchandising and senior

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FEATURE

management to ensure brand marketing plans are executed with excellence; and oversees package design for the company’s private brand portfolio. • Moore’s nominator describes him as a highly motivated marketer with a keen ability to make things happen. In a short time, he implemented digital advertising across all stores, helped increase loyalty penetration, and worked to complete numerous marketing projects that boosted sales growth.

• According to his nominator, Nuzum has an ability to look for creative solutions around traditional obstacles and provide a strategic vision of his goals and objectives. He is recognized internally as a top-performing category manager, and was honored as a monthly winner of Casey’s Ultimate Performer Award.

John Phelps Jr.

VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING

Ryan Nelson MANAGER, PRODUCT MANAGEMENT

Casey’s General Stores Inc. • Nelson partners with Casey’s digital teams to drive digital transformation across the company’s network. Through strategy development, creative solutioning and advancing product management, he has a focus on delivering great experiences for Casey’ guests and team members. • Nelson consistently brings different perspectives, approaches and toolsets to solve complex challenges and achieve desired outcomes, while building and supporting a strong team of product and engineering professionals. • A recent graduate of Casey’s Leadership Excellence Program, he was chosen to represent the technology team at the company’s first-ever C3 field leadership conference. He is also a recipient of the Quarterly Team Member Spotlight, and regularly acknowledged by his peers for his collaboration and engagement to drive cross-functional initiatives.

High’s

• Phelps sets the strategy for High’s merchandise and marketing activities, while directing the activities of its pricebook team and working directly with suppliers to negotiate contracts for the company. • He is known to lead by example and be the first person to roll up his sleeves and pitch in on any initiative. Phelps has helped the company achieve double-digit sales growth for multiple years by thinking outside the box and quickly pivoting when needed. • His nominator stated that Phelps is a servant leader who asks nothing of anyone else that he is not willing to do himself, and is always open to hearing and trying new ideas brought forward by his team. He gives credit where credit is due and celebrates the successes of the people he leads.

McKenzie Pritchard

TERRITORY MANAGER

Brian Nuzum

SENIOR BRAND MANAGER, PREPARED FOODS

Casey’s General Stores Inc. • Nuzum has a wide range of responsibilities encompassing all aspects of the hot and cold foods category, including the development of marketing programs, negotiation of trade vendor contracts, oversight of planograms and balancing store simplification efforts with driving innovation. • In his less than four years with Casey’s, Nuzum has progressed from an entry-level, non-foods position to roles with increasing responsibility and greater sales impacts. This past year, he was heavily involved with the high-priority private label side of Casey’s business and contributed to significantly positive results.

Global Partners LP

• Pritchard oversees 12 New Hampshire sites and is responsible for the supervision and management of their ongoing day-to-day convenience store and food concept operations. She also focuses on maximizing store profits and ensuring a high level of customer service, store appearance and environmental compliance. • She oversees the hiring, training and morale for 100-plus employees in her territory and makes a point of sharing knowledge with her peers. She has established herself as a go-to point person for additional responsibility within the region. • According to her nominator, Pritchard’s contributions and hard work during her career growth reflect the spirit of an emerging leader, as she looks for new challenges and champions new initiatives.

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11/1/22 1:59 PM


FEATURE

Alisha Seeley

CYBERSECURITY MANAGER, GOVERNANCE, RISK & COMPLIANCE

Casey’s General Stores Inc.

• Seeley oversees a team that specializes in Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance, enterprise vulnerability management and third-party vendor risk. Her team also manages enterprise-wide security awareness training for more than 1,600 end users. • Her accomplishments include launching Casey’s Vendor Security Office (VSO). In addition to selecting and onboarding a tool to provide automated risk scoring on thousands of vendors, Seeley collaborated with partners in procurement and legal to register upwards of 500 vendors in the VSO database, greatly reducing the company’s risk exposure. • Seeley is also responsible for growing and guiding a skilled team that has successfully reduced security vulnerabilities, while taking steps to better support and protect the company, its stores and its guests. Her peers consistently recognize her as an outstanding cybersecurity professional.

Scott Smith

SENIOR DIRECTOR OF IT

Parker’s

• Smith leads Parker’s IT operations, taking responsibility for everything from retail technology to corporate technology. This includes overseeing the Parker’s Rewards app, which must remain secure, up to date and able to efficiently serve loyalty program members. • He manages Parker’s self-checkout technology and has been instrumental in expanding its use in more Parker’s stores. Smith also spent months developing the round-up technology that allows Parker’s customers to round up their transactions for charity, making him integral to the program’s May 2022 launch. • Known as a people-first leader, Smith ensures each of his team members understand the important supportive role that technology plays in Parker’s daily success. His professionalism, expert knowledge and leadership serve as a prime example of how to evolve with the times while keeping customers front of mind.

Renan Serafim

Drew Whitefield

Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K

7-Eleven Inc.

FUEL & CAR WASH MANAGER

• Overseeing Circle K’s Gulf Coast Business Unit fuel team, Serafim provides internal and external guidance for market and supply levels, while developing and administering retail pricing strategies. • His achievements include creating the Mislift Report, which helped the unit save more than $60,000 through analysis of carriers’ mislifts by brand/ terminal. He also worked with human resources to form a partnership with local universities, putting together a leadership accredited program for eligible employees that includes courses in entrepreneurship, organizational behavior and leadership. • According to his nominator, a significant part of Serafim’s success is his ability to live by Circle K’s values, including “One Team” and “Do the Right Thing.” He believes it is essential for young team members starting their careers to know it’s not about age, but rather passion and purpose, and makes a point of mentoring others.

CATEGORY MANAGER

• Whitefield led 7-Eleven’s cold beverage business before moving over to coffee and iced coffee. He supports the field staff and stores with product, promotions and initiatives that enable the retailer to offer customers innovative dispensing solutions, strategic pricing and promotions, and an on-trend product assortment. • He led a companywide refresh of 7-Eleven’s fountain assortment, making it an industry leader in non-traditional fountain options. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitefield worked with suppliers to ensure stores remained stocked and that prices and promotions remained competitive to lessen the burden of inflation on customers. • During his 16 years with 7-Eleven, Whitefield has led numerous key initiatives and been formally recognized for his performance multiple times. Past honors include Rookie of the Year and the company’s Special Achievement Award.

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PepsiCo proudly celebrates

its Top Women in Convenience and the integral role

they play within our industry.

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FEATURE

Bonnie Woods DATA INSIGHTS STRATEGIST

Paytronix Systems Inc.

• Woods serves as the day-to-day point person who supports and advises some of the largest c-store brands on how to optimize and measure the performance of their loyalty programs. She has a hand in everything from program design and launch plans to operational engagement, guest segmentation, and campaign strategy. • She is known for combining expertise and insight to help Paytronix clients understand how to leverage tools and technology in an ever-changing business landscape. She also formed an internal task force to increase adoption of existing features. • During her less than three years with Paytronix, Woods has become a trusted guide in helping clients navigate new technology adoption, according to her nominator, who also emphasized that she is making a difference daily.

Tony Woodward SENIOR ACCOUNT MANAGER

McLane Co. Inc.

• Woodward launched his career in the industry with McLane, starting out as an independent sales representative and steadily moving up to take on roles with increasing authority and responsibility. He now oversees McLane’s strategic customer initiatives to expand product offerings that help achieve sales goals. • According to his nominator, Woodward is a hard worker who is highly regarded by McLane senior management, his customers and others in the industry; and he is viewed as someone with a bright future ahead of him. • As a leader, he prioritizes being receptive to the thoughts and ideas of others, while encouraging them to take chances; has the vision and determination to seek improvements; and demonstrates a strong commitment to training and developing teammates.

Kylie Wroge

MANAGER, TALENT ACQUISITION

Casey’s General Stores Inc.

uptowncocktails.com © 2022 Southern Champion, Carrollton, TX. All Right Reserved. Please Drink Responsibly.

• Wroge oversees the sourcing, recruiting, hiring, relocation and onboarding of talent for Casey’s merchandising, marketing, legal, IT, finance, human resources and field service teams.

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She also oversees the corporate office intern programs, manages all software used for talent management initiatives, and consults and negotiates with vendors. • Her recent achievements include hiring nearly double the number of roles this fiscal year compared to the previous one, launching IT and driver referral and sign-on bonus programs, and implementing the Casey’s Careers Instagram to share careers-focused content. • According to her nominator, Wroge is a major reason people sign on with Casey’s. Her always-positive attitude, organizational skills and time management make the company a desirable place to work. She is clear, concise and not afraid to have tough conversations in a positive manner.

The

Perfect

S tocking Stuffer!

Lane Zesiger SENIOR ASSOCIATE CATEGORY MANAGER

Maverik — Adventure’s First Stop • Zesiger was recently promoted to overseeing the candy category. He previously oversaw profit and loss for service categories and health and beauty care, negotiating vendor contracts, setting retail pricing and promotions, and serving as the decisionmaker regarding equipment and purchases. • After starting out as a summer intern, he was hired in a full-time role while finishing his bachelor’s degree. Since then, he has moved up through several roles, taking on more responsibility and becoming a crucial employee for Maverik. • His nominator noted that Zesiger is a trustworthy person who exemplifies Maverik’s leadership standards, treating others even better than they expect to be treated. He regularly steps in to help his teammates and other departments. CSN

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NOVE MB E R

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FEATURE

CELEBRATING THE 2022 TOP WOMEN IN CONVENIENCE This year’s event featured a record number of honorees and drew record industry attendance A Convenience Store News Staff Report

is known for its spectacle, so it was only fitting that the 2022 Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) Awards Gala was a record-breaking event, celebrating a record number of honorees and drawing a record number of attendees from across the industry.

LAS VEGAS

This year's TWIC class comprised 91 honorees, including 40 Rising Stars.

TWIC is the first and only c-store industry program that spotlights the integral role women play in convenience retailing and celebrates individuals across retailer, distributor and supplier businesses for outstanding contributions to their companies and the industry at large. The Oct. 2 awards gala, held at the Renaissance Las Vegas following day two of the 2022 NACS Show, honored the ninth-annual TWIC class comprised of 91 honorees, including five Women of the Year, 36 Senior-Level Leaders, 40 Rising Stars and 10 Mentors, all chosen based on impressive nominations received from their peers. Paula Lashinsky, vice president and brand director for CSNews, noted that this year's honorees distinguished themselves in ways that go beyond achievements that can be neatly listed on paper. “While this year's nominations were replete with details of individual accomplishments — the ‘whats’ — it was the ‘hows’ that were so impressive,” she said. “The descriptions

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Thirty-six Senior-Level Leaders were lauded for their contributions to the convenience store industry.

of how these women used innovation, inspiration, motivation and empathy to shape and grow the convenience store channel.” Featured speaker and 7-Eleven Inc. President and CEO Joe DePinto addressed the largestever group of award winners during his remarks. “You are an extraordinary, talented and diverse group of leaders, and these awards underscore your dedication and your commitment to your businesses and this industry,” he said. “You should be extremely proud of all that you've accomplished, and I can tell you that we certainly are.” DePinto reflected on how things have changed from the start of his career, when the c-store industry didn't have many women in leadership roles who could positively influence their organizations and the industry at large.

Colette Matthews (center) is one of five Women of the Year.

“Take a look at this room. Look around,” he said. “We do now. Congratulations.”

Words of Wisdom From the Women of the Year This year’s Women of the Year honorees included Holly Angell, senior vice president of construction, engineering & facilities, 7-Eleven Inc.; Allison Cornish, vice president of store modernization, Pilot Co.; Danielle Holloway, senior director of industry engagement, Altria Group Distribution Co.; Julie Jackson, president, G&M Oil Co.; and Colette Matthews, global vice president of customer experience, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K. Upon receiving her award, Angell described how “team is the heart of everything that I do for convenience retail,” and that she is both proud to be among the TWIC winners and grateful that she can help lift other women in the industry. She noted that in the world of construction, engineering and facilities, women are not always expected to be there, but she is excited to see how the industry has changed so that all types of leaders can have a place in it. “I like to be a

The ninth-annual event drew a record number of attendees.

champion of that and an example of that,” she said. “I know you are also champions of that.” Cornish expressed how much “I absolutely love this business,” and advised up-and-coming leaders to travel and spend time in different stores while learning about different roles. One can't learn or lead a business unless they go out to experience it and spend time with those who live it every day, she said. She also encouraged attendees to step out of their comfort zones. “I sincerely believe you can only grow

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FEATURE

when you're challenged and uncomfortable,” she said. Holloway reflected on a time a decade ago when she was hesitant to lead an employee resource group (ERG) for women when her company's CEO asked her to; an inner voice was telling her it was a bad idea. With the persistence of her boss, she stepped forward despite her doubts and launched the ERG, created additional leadership experiences, developed content for members and paved the way for her eventual successors. She also worked to control her inner voice, who Holloway jokingly named Renée. “Now, she cheers me on,” she said. “She's not a voice of doubt.” Holloway advised attendees to "check on your inner Renée, make sure he or she is supporting you, and ask what you can do to support others." Jackson highlighted the difference that people can make to someone else's career path, expressing appreciation for those who encouraged her and gave her opportunities, but also pushed her, challenged her and gave her honest feedback. This makes it all the more important that leaders surround themselves with the best people. “It's important to be resilient and present with what you're doing,” she said. She encouraged other women to take risks, ask questions and learn everything they can. They should evolve and change, but ultimately stay true to themselves. “Always be your authentic self — there's no one else like you,” Jackson said. “Be the best 'you' you can be.” Matthews shared a lesson taught to her by her grandmother: Anything is possible if she acts continuously to make it so. She acknowledged that while inequities continue to exist, real progress is being made and brave leaders, activist allies, meaningful mentorships and audacious corporate mandates can make a significant difference in having more women present at every level of leadership. “It is crucial to build the necessary infrastructure to support and drive change,” she said. Matthews pledged to continue working to help the c-store industry move from dreams of equality to a reality in which it exists, and asked audience members to do the same — to work individually and with their respective companies and the industry at large to make it so. “I recruit you, you and you,” she said.“Let's do this together.” Supporters of the 2022 Top Women in Convenience program include: founding and presenting sponsor Altria Group Distribution Co.; platinum sponsors ITG Brands, PepsiCo Inc. and Reynolds Marketing Services Co.; gold sponsors BIC USA, The Boston Beer Co., The Coca-Cola Co., The Hershey Co., Juul Labs, Mars Wrigley, McLane Co. Inc., Molson Coors Beverage Co., Mondelez International, Proctor & Gamble, Swedish Match and Tyson Convenience; and silver sponsors Anheuser-Busch InBev, Constellation Brands, Diageo, FIFCO USA, Glanbia Performance Nutrition, Premier Manufacturing Inc. and Ruiz Food Products. CSN

Casey’s CEO Darren Rebelez (right) accepted the Corporate Empowerment Award on behalf of the company.

Casey's Receives First-Ever Corporate Empowerment Award The 2022 Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) Awards Gala also featured the presentation of the first-ever Corporate Empowerment Award. Casey's General Stores Inc. took home this new award, which honors a convenience retail company that commits to gender equality and promotes female leadership and advancement. Based in Ankeny, Iowa, Casey's operates more than 2,400 convenience stores. Across the company, 60 percent of Casey's team members identify as female, and nearly 25 percent of supervisory roles are female. Additionally, one-third of Casey's extended leadership team (vice presidents and above) and half of its board of directors identify as female. Casey's is one of only 6 percent of Russell 3000 companies with a genderbalanced board of directors. Upon accepting the award on behalf of the company, Casey’s CEO Darren Rebelez said he was humbled by the honor, and used the moment to thank his team. “It's a remarkable team of fantastic women leaders. You've heard all the stats, but it's just a special group. It's what makes Casey's, Casey's," he said. Nominations for the Corporate Empowerment Award were open to any convenience store industry organization that paves the road to empower women in leadership roles and is a champion for the inclusion of women in the goals and vision of the enterprise. Casey’s was selected from a pool of five finalists, which also included Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc., RaceTrac Inc., Rutter’s and Yesway.

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GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE

WHEN THE COVID-19 pandemic

hit, foodfocused retailers everywhere had to pump the brakes on their plans for investment, innovation and expansion in favor of just keeping the business going. Even as the convenience channel began to recover, complicated challenges like supply chain woes, the labor shortage and inflation have kept operators from slamming their foot on the gas pedal. But with resilience, creativity and focus, they are now in a position to effectively navigate the traffic jams enroute to their destination: foodservice success. Whether it involves menu expansion, new programs or alternative ways for customers to order and receive their purchases, c-stores are making significant investments in the foodservice category. It’s money well worth spending: after suffering a major blow during the height of the pandemic, prepared food and hot, cold and frozen dispensed beverage sales have all rebounded in a major way, and foodservice is once again growing in share of in-store sales. “Foodservice continues to matter a lot to c-stores,” said Shamus Hines, CEO of Tampa, Fla.-based Upshop, which provides convenience retailers with an array of software-as-a-service solutions for fresh item management. “It should be a major focus for any c-store.” As much as 36 percent of c-store profits can be attributed to foodservice, and the closing of 15 to 20 percent of restaurants during the pandemic means more dollars are up for grabs, he noted. Although channel lines are blurring and most consumers make at least occasional trips to buy c-store food and beverages, competition for share of stomach remains strong. It is vital that operators understand consumers’ evolving reasons for choosing where they eat. Along with convenience, shoppers value quality of food, value for the price, and alternative shopping methods such as mobile ordering and drive-thru service. C-store retailers must also take differing generational priorities into account. For example, recent research indicates that older Generation Z consumers gravitate toward the focused menu and value of quick-service and fast-casual restaurants, and often decide on the type of food they want before they consider which brand to visit. They also care more about dietary alternatives featuring low-calorie, organic, plant-based and sustainable options.

Ensuring a Foundation of Excellence In the post-pandemic world, c-store operators have the opportunity to stake out a stronger position in foodservice than ever before, but doing so means revisiting every aspect of the category and not relying on assumptions or nostalgia for legacy products that may no longer be as strong. “Our business changed completely during COVID — now what?” Joe Chiovera, a convenience retail industry veteran and executive consultant to Premium Brands Holdings, parent company of Buddy’s Kitchen, posed during a presentation at the recent 2022 NACS Show. C-store retailers must take a phased approach to foodservice program development that will set them up for long-term success, according to Chiovera. Phase one — foundation before differentiation — involves planning, product specifications, quality assurance standards, training and culture. These basics set c-stores up to position themselves well with products, brands and innovation. Neglecting them in favor of more eye-catching initiatives is dangerous. “Lots of companies fail here because they don’t have a foundation. They didn’t spend time on the base,” Chiovera cautioned. “Start from the bottom up.” Phase two — building a culture of simplicity — involves menu rationalization, product refinement and optimization, design modification, and labor optimization. This sets retailers up to focus on performance and enhancement during phase three: nurturing greatness. Chiovera also recommends that operators segment the categories within foodservice to determine whether they intend to dominate, compete or participate. Each category has different criteria and different potential outcomes and benefits. For instance, when a brand seeks to dominate in a category, they will want to maximize market share and focus on offer, equipment and delivery to achieve operational excellence and maximize both gross profit dollars and unit growth. Participation categories, on the other hand, should stay the course with competitors, managing costs and maintaining a flat to slight uptick in sales. As a matter of prioritization, innovation should be reserved for those categories where c-stores aim to dominate or compete.

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GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE

Finding Success in Prepared Food THE MOST IMPORTANT segment of the convenience foodservice category is also one of the most challenging, as retailers continue to grapple with labor shortages and rising costs. Snags in the supply chain are a major problem as well, as they block innovation and slow menu development; there’s no point in rolling out a great new item if it can’t be offered reliably.

“There is a distinct difference between selling items and profitably selling items,” Kay Segal, president and managing executive of Business Accelerator Team, explained during a 2022 NACS Show education session focused on foodservice analytics.

The most practical step c-store retailers can take as they develop their prepared food strategy for the coming year is to think creatively and act efficiently. Existing ingredients that are still regularly available can serve as the foundation for a new twist on an old classic, such as La Plata, Md.based Dash In’s quesadillas-piled-high “Stackadilla.” Additionally, interesting sauces can add bold new flavors to burgers, wraps and other staple menu items.

Delving into foodservice analytics can help retailers understand on a deep level what is selling when; how much profit an individual item generates; what time food production should be happening, and how much labor should be devoted to it; and other key insights.

Inspiration for this kind of limited resource innovation can be found close to home. C-store operators can consult their store-level employees, who are the day-to-day experts in food prep and in-stock ingredients, to generate ideas. They can even bolster enthusiasm by holding a contest with rewards for the winning recipe ideas. The company’s executive foodservice team can explore the feasibility of the best suggestions.

When analyzing prepared food data, it’s recommended that retailers focus on the top five or so statistics that stores actually use, and make it so that everyone can understand them.

Brand-building is another key component of strengthening a prepared food offering. Experts recommend building a program around signature items that are strongly associated with the brand. It’s not good enough to have a product that is just fine — a standout signature item needs to be something consumers can’t get in the same flavor or quality somewhere else.

Paul Servais, retail operations foodservice director at La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip Inc., also advocates for detailed recipe management, noting that recipes serve as the baseline for margin analysis, production tools and retail pricing. C-stores can use software or go with an old-fashioned spreadsheet, as long as the data is useful and the information gets into the hands of employees who can make impactful decisions based on it.

The flip side of prepared food creativity is something much more objective, but just as important: hard numbers.

“It doesn’t have to be complicated, but you have to look at it all the time,” Servais said.

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GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE

Finding Success in Dispensed Beverages AFTER TAKING A hit

in 2020, dispensed beverage sales have rebounded across the board. Although the impressive turnaround from two years ago can be viewed as more of a return to normal than a spontaneous surge in demand, that doesn’t change the fact that convenience stores are in a prime position to be the go-to destination for new beverages, offering tasty and creative dispensed drinks at a lower price than cafes or quick-service restaurants. While hot dispensed beverages continue to generate the most sales within the segment, some c-stores are still contending with reduced commuter traffic as more people work from home at least part-time. Retailers can counteract this by enhancing their coffee offering to deliver quality at a value price. Bean-to-cup machines that guarantee freshness are increasingly popular, and nitro coffee is on the rise in some markets. Single-origin coffee such as 7-Eleven Inc.’s 7-Reserve line is also effective at drawing in java fans who care about sustainability and want to try new flavors, especially when rotated as limited-time offers. Meanwhile, cold and frozen dispensed beverages are especially well-positioned to drive trips and build baskets when c-stores set their offerings as high-value propositions. For example, Circle K parent Laval, Quebecbased Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. reports ongoing positive results from its Circle K Sip & Save beverage subscription program, which lets customers get a daily fountain drink, slushie, coffee or tea for $5.99 a month. QuikTrip Corp. also boosted beverage trial and mobile app orders through its fall “Drink HQ” promotion, which gave customers the chance to win digital vouchers for a wide range of beverages. C-store retailers shouldn’t be afraid to get creative. Salt Lake City-based Maverik — Adventure’s First Stop has

positioned itself as the destination for anything-goes beverages through its soda mixology program, which also serves as a value alternative to Utah’s popular but higher-priced soda shops. Maverik customers can create endless combinations with soda, flavor shots, creamers, lime wedges and more for a single base price, and often add to their baskets as they go. Not only do the chain’s customers keep coming back to try new mixes, but the program also has received noticeable social media attention on TikTok. Convenience store operators likewise report a positive customer response to playing up the “theater” of the fountain area through eye-catching graphics, signage, and other ways of catching customers’ attention once they’re already in the store. Even the fountain units themselves can generate interest. The average customer attention span is 2.8 seconds to 8 seconds long, according to Jose Salinas, director of the C&G channel at Marmon Foodservice Technologies. This gives retailers “more reasons to have screens communicating what you have going on in regard to flavors and programs,” he said. By upgrading to fountain units with digital screens atop the dispenser station, retailers can use video imagery to draw customers in. These screens can change based on daypart to appeal to different customer need states during the day.

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GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE

Finding Success in Fresh Bakery is a small piece of in-store real estate that represents a big opportunity for convenience foodservice retailers to distinguish themselves from the competition.

THE BAKERY CASE

While most c-stores offer doughnuts, muffins and other items, the variety and quality of fresh bakery items can vary significantly from one retailer to another, and the case itself can serve as a striking and appealing image to customers who pass by. Even c-stores that can’t offer brand-specific baked goods can take advantage of turnkey programs, such as thaw-and-finish doughnuts that can be uniquely decorated. Many fresh bakery items work well bundled with coffee to boost morning sales. Plus, the blurring of daypart lines and the ongoing evolution of daily consumer routines means that this segment is no longer a morning-only opportunity. “Bakery has evolved beyond special occasions,” said Alyssa Barrett, customer marketing manager, convenience, at Rich Products Corp., headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y. “Consumers are looking for an everyday treat, at any time of day — a morning pick-me-up, an afternoon snack or a late-night treat.” Category experts recommend c-store retailers experiment with offering a variety of craveable, snackable, fresh bakery items that cater to different occasions. Granular SKU data can help them learn which items perform best at which times. Freshness is a key purchase driver, as no one wants to leave the store with a stale doughnut. And if they do, it will likely be a one-time-only purchase. At the same time, c-stores want to avoid their bakery cases having a halfempty, picked-over appearance. This has prompted baked goods suppliers to invest in the development of extended

shelf-life recipes for certain products. There’s also untapped potential in helping consumers balance their desire for indulgence with their desire for health and wellness. C-stores can fulfill this need. “[Consumer] preferences in indulgence have been updated,” said Anu Fisher, marketing manager at Lantmannen Unibake, a global bakery company. “The bakery category has plenty of opportunity for growth by creating updated flavor combinations using organic and premium ingredients and fresh fruit inclusions to satisfy the ‘modern indulgence’ trend.” Economic pressures will likely present a challenge to fresh bakery in the coming year. “With inflation, labor costs and supply issues continuing through 2022 and into 2023, the premium pricing that is associated with fresh baked items will be a hurdle to overcome,” Fisher pointed out. “The challenge will be to find the balance between providing a premium product at a price consumers are comfortable with.” The good news is that consumers are willing to pay a higher price for fresh bakery products than some other foodservice items due to the perception that these products are healthier, organic, sustainable and fresher, while satisfying their desire for indulgence.

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Finding Success in Intersecting Foodservice & Technology NOW MORE THAN EVER, foodservice and technology are inextricably intertwined. A convenience store operator that offers the tastiest menu at the best value possible will still find themselves left behind if they fail to take advantage of technology, whether that means upgrading equipment, adding mobile ordering and delivery, or investing in analytics.

To fully take advantage of the many benefits of technology, c-store retailers need to understand where they are currently lacking and what they want to improve. This doesn’t always mean customer-facing technology. Art Sebastian, vice president of digital at Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey’s General Stores Inc., pointed to the advantages of technology that can simplify processes for store-level employees. For example, the Midwest-based chain’s order management system consolidates all orders, whether they are received through Casey’s website, mobile app, delivery partners or the phone, and helps streamline the preparation process. “In addition to the guest-facing experience, really lean into what’s happening in your store and in your kitchen. When you dig in there, you find many [manual] processes that might be taking too much time,” Sebastian said. “With technology, you can automate, you have data.” Labor simplification also should be a major factor when operators are choosing new foodservice equipment. Beverage equipment is a good starting place; self-service units such as bean-to-cup coffee brewers, fountain machines and smoothie/milkshake machines appeal to customers given their capacity for quick, fresh production and customization. Additionally, self-checkout units are not foodservice exclusive, but they enable customers to get out of the store while their orders are still hot, and free up employees to focus on other duties. In terms of customer-facing technology, c-stores that want

to offer mobile ordering should focus on what Ryan DiLello, a content specialist with Paytronix, refers to as the four “Ps”: • Products — Can customers order from a full or limited menu? • Price — When working with thirdparty partners, consider all aspects of associated costs and order handling. • Place — C-stores should have a specific area in the store to pick up orders with ample signage to guide foot traffic. • Promotions — The goal is always to get customers to the app. Finally, c-store operators should take advantage of the vast information gathered when a brand’s app incorporates both mobile ordering and a loyalty program. Analysis of a customer’s food and beverage purchasing history through integrated point-of-sale data, down to individual SKUs, allows a retailer to build a complete view of the customer, make predictions about future behavior, and provide individualized offers that resonate with them, such as sending a coupon for a new variety of breakfast burrito to a frequent breakfast burrito buyer. “Once you connect loyalty to the various touchpoints where your customer interacts with you, the possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to creating personalized, timely foodservice offers that will resonate,” said Lori Stout, vice president of marketing at customer loyalty and engagement solutions provider Punchh, headquartered in Austin, Texas. CSN

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TOBACCO

A Promising Alternative The modern oral nicotine category is gaining traction amid regulatory anticipation By Renée M. Covino

industry experts about the modern backbar, one category in particular is consistently cited as a bright beacon. Modern oral nicotine — made up primarily of pouches, tablets, gum and lozenges — is attracting a lot of attention these days.

TALKING TO TOBACCO

“Modern oral is again expected to be the tobacco category with the strongest growth in 2022,” said Don Burke, senior vice president of Management Science Associates Inc. (MSA), a Pittsburghbased company focused on analytics and informatics. Looking at wholesale to retail shipment data, MSA tracked modern oral’s growth levels in 2021 at nearly 80 percent. While the segment’s 2022 gains are not predicted to be anywhere close to that, they are still forecasted to reach well into the double-digits. “We expect this growth level to slow to somewhere in the 20 percent to 40 percent level this year, as most convenience and tobacco outlet stores have now added this category to their product set,” Burke told Convenience Store News,

noting that the category is dominated by nicotine pouch products such as tobacco-free ZYN by Swedish Match, on! by Helix Innovations LLC (an Altria joint venture) and VELO by R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. Despite the slowing distribution gains, MSA reports strong same-store sales — stores that have consistently sold modern oral products for the past 18 months showed a growth rate of 18 percent during the first half of this year vs. the first half of last year. “This is a general indication of strong repeat purchase levels, indicating high levels of consumer acceptance of this new category,” Burke stated. Bonnie Herzog, managing director at Goldman Sachs, echoes the positivity for the modern oral category and its reduced-risk potential. She told CSNews that the segment is “very promising, but still in the very early days.” In Goldman Sachs’ second quarter Nicotine Nuggets survey, retailers and wholesalers expressed optimism for modern oral nicotine and predicted continued robust growth for modern oral brands, which is offsetting the declines they are experiencing in other traditional oral categories, such as moist tobacco. Some retailers indicated they are experiencing “all-time-high sales” of oral cans per week per store. At Boulder, Colo.-based Smoker Friendly, “the oral nicotine products are just exploding like crazy, and I

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“The oral nicotine products are just exploding like crazy, and I don’t see those stopping anytime soon.” — Mary Szarmach, Smoker Friendly

don’t see those stopping anytime soon,” reported Mary Szarmach, vice president of trade marketing. She noted that the pandemic inspired tobacco consumers to try shopping at tobacco outlet stores and to try different forms of nicotine products such as modern oral, which has now taken hold as a permanent alternative. Ben Brooks, category manager at Worcester, Mass.-based Nouria Energy, also reports strong sales in modern oral. “We have large value in how that product is taxed in the Northeast and the advantage it gives over traditional products,” he said.

Helping Consumers Along the Nicotine Journey Today, many backbars around the country are being dominated by innovative products in modern oral and vapor, observed Leila Medeiros, senior vice president of new categories for R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. She says the key is for each convenience store to recognize its unique position. “Ultimately, you need to meet your adult consumers where they are in their nicotine journey and your backbar should reflect their needs,” she advised. Matthew Hanson, chief financial officer/chief growth officer for Black Buffalo, strongly encourages c-store retailers to allow for the introduction of modern oral products into their backbar space as “an incubator space of sorts.” Black Buffalo launched in the first quarter of this year as a modern oral nicotine product that Hanson says delivers “the ritual and experience of moist smokeless tobacco in long cut and pouches, just without the tobacco leaf.” He also highlighted innovative packaging and display solutions being brought to the market, such as framed sections in the backbar to differentiate modern oral as a segment, LED lighting, digital headers and

displays at checkout or on/above the backbar. Similarly, Medeiros advocates for “exploring additional creative disruptions highlighting potentially less harmful products on the backbar.” In particular, she mentioned digital displays both inside and outside of retail locations. “Digital signage provides a dynamic way to showcase brand content to engage, inform and connect consumers with brand platforms,” she said.

The Regulatory Picture Of course, the regulatory landscape holds both promise and potential pitfalls for the modern oral category. All modern oral nicotine products in the United States are included in the Premarket Tobacco Product Application (PMTA) regulatory framework of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Tobacco-derived items/pouches were part of the PMTA process outlined in 2016 and then earlier this year, the loophole for synthetic nicotine oral products was closed when Congress extended the FDA’s jurisdiction to nicotine made in labs. This legislation caused some non-tobacco nicotine (NTN) players to exit the market rather than attempt to apply for a PMTA. Synthetic nicotine product manufacturers were required to submit PMTAs within a short 60-day period ending on May 14, 2022. Now, the modern oral industry waits, along with the electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) industry. The FDA has been widely criticized for taking years, rather than the mandated months, to render PMTA decisions on ENDS. “It appears to me the FDA has prioritized its review of ENDS products and is pushing modern oral nicotine products on the back burner,” said Bryan Haynes, a partner with the Troutman Pepper law firm and head of its tobacco law practice. “And other than the FDA’s general standards for PMTAs, we don’t have a sense of how the FDA is going to evaluate these products. There are limited precedents out there.” Nevertheless, Haynes made an educated guess that the modern oral industry could start seeing some Marketing Granted Orders issued by the FDA by mid-2023. In the meantime, modern oral innovation won’t be forthcoming until the agency works through its backlog of PMTAs. “We’re sort of in limbo right now,” said Herzog, acknowledging that innovation is dependent on what the FDA decides to allow moving forward. For now, if a retailer questions whether they can sell a particular modern oral nicotine product, the solution is simple, according to Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets. “The retailer can contact the manufacturer and inquire if the company has received a Marketing Granted Order, allowing the product to be sold; a Marketing Denial Order, prohibiting the product from being sold; or if it has a PMTA pending with the FDA and is waiting for a decision from the agency,” he advised. Oral nicotine items that don’t fall into any of these categories should be considered illegal, along with ones that have received Marketing Denial Orders, Briant added. CSN

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ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

Tapping Opportunities in Today’s Tough Retail Climate Economic challenges are driving many consumers to socialize and celebrate at home By Kathleen Furore THERE AREN’T MANY positives to the labor shortages, supply chain issues and rising prices plaguing convenience store retailers and their customers today. But there is at least one bright spot: these challenges are driving many consumers to socialize and celebrate at home, presenting the opportunity for c-stores to capture a larger slice of the alcoholic beverage pie.

"Consumption trends continue to fluctuate with the impact of supply chain challenges and rising inflation, but opportunities for growth remain,” Scott Scanlon, executive vice president of the beverage alcohol vertical at IRI, noted in the company’s 2022 Midyear Alcohol Update. “Consumers are looking to indulge and create entertaining experiences at home, and retailers should emphasize premium products and products with unique attributes in this space.” Keeping abreast of the latest trends, optimizing their product mix, and merchandising and marketing popular alcoholic beverages can enable convenience store operators to tap the current opportunities and boost their sales in this category.

Spotlighting Trends While beer continues to dominate the total alcohol landscape in convenience stores — accounting for more than 87 percent of total alcohol dollars, while wine and spirits have 4 percent and 9 percent share, respectively — hard beverages are “the hottest trend in c-store at the moment,” Craig Koehler, director of category development at Anheuser-Busch, told Convenience Store News. “This is a category that consumers define as not quite beer, not quite wine and not quite spirits. [It is] essentially where seltzers, ciders, FMWBs [flavored malt/wine-based beverages] and RTD [ready-to-drink] cocktails play,” he explained. “It’s a $4.6 million category in c-stores, currently growing at 4.7 percent vs. year ago. In other words, it makes up only 19 percent of category dollar share, but [is] contributing to over 37 percent of total category growth.” FMWBs, as well as spirit-based seltzers and cocktails, are leading the growth in hard beverages, creating opportunities that all c-store retailers should be aware of, Koehler advised. Jay Hornback, manager of convenience channel sales at Beam Suntory, echoed that spirit-based prepared cocktails are showing significant growth so far this year. He predicts the momentum will continue in 2023, pointing to Nielsen year-to-date trends that show the segment up 80 percent. “In recent weeks, trends have been even stronger,” he added.

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In the liquor category, tequila in particular is showing strong growth in the convenience channel when compared to total spirits. According to Hornback, Nielsen year-to-date data shows tequila in convenience growing 24 percent, while total spirits growth in the channel is 9 percent. “The opportunity we find within tequila is that many convenience stores carry a limited assortment. Typically, a customer can find a midtier brand and an ultra brand, but little to no premium brand selection,” Hornback explained, noting that the company’s Hornitos tequila brand can provide a trade-up over a mid-tier brand. Better-for-you options and alternative alcohol products are also doing well, the IRI Midyear Alcohol Update pointed out. “As consumers adopt healthier habits, better-for-you beverage alcohol options are gaining traction,” the report stated. Attributes such as no- and low-alcohol, lower calorie, lower sugar, added benefits and options that support lifestyle diets are among the products seeing dramatic sales gains, according to the report. Hornback also pointed out that there are two trends happening on different ends of the price point spectrum. “Due to inflation and price increases, some consumers are trading down to stretch their disposable income. On the other hand, we are seeing an increase in super-premium and ultra segments with consumers buying more premium brands but less often,” he reported. “At Beam Suntory, we are experiencing a 10 percent increase in sales with our super premium segments vs. our premium and below segment items.”

Managing Merchandising & Marketing No matter the product mix c-store retailers decide to carry, how those products are merchandised and marketed will also determine how successful their alcoholic beverage sales will be. “Merchandising is key, specifically with spirits, as letting the consumers know you are carrying them is important,” Hornback stressed. “As the consumer enters the store, they generally have a good idea that beer is available from looking at the cooler section. In some stores, without asking if they sell spirits, the consumer wouldn’t know. In these situations, the retailer could be missing out on numerous purchase opportunities, and causing the

“C-store retailers should focus on carrying well-known, trusted brands that shoppers rely on. It’s important to stay in stock on shoppers’ favorite products, and then leverage innovation for incremental sales.” — Craig Koehler, Anheuser-Busch consumer to make another stop elsewhere.” Hornback and Koehler shared several tips that can support convenience store operators in creating a sales-generating merchandising and marketing strategy: Stock leading brands. Well-known, established brands typically are strong sellers in the convenience channel. “With limited space in many stores, offering lead brands within each segment, and then having brands that represent each price tier, will allow for a more diverse selection for customers,” Hornback said. “C-store retailers should focus on carrying well-known, trusted brands that shoppers rely on,” Koehler echoed. “It’s important to stay in stock on shoppers’ favorite products, and then leverage innovation for incremental sales.” Offer a variety of spirits, with trade-up options. Hornback cited On The Rocks Premium Cocktails, a RTD brand, as one example that shows the bottom-line benefit that taking this approach can deliver. “The average 375-milliliter single retails for $12.99 vs. the average 355-milliliter single can [retails for] below $5,” he noted. Merchandise high-performing hard beverages in one place. “Given the limited cold space in c-stores, retailers need to be more choiceful and only leverage cold space for high-performing spirits-based seltzers and cocktails,” Koehler advised. “Lower performing SKU wine-based hard beverages should be placed in a warm section if available.” Carve out a small amount of space for flex or seasonal items. This is key, according to Hornback, who explained that by doing so, retailers can react to quickly changing trends and support seasonal sales during key holidays. “For example, this space could be for innovation items or supporting a VAP package for Cinco, Father’s Day or holiday gifting,” he said. Stressing the importance of merchandising, Hornback said it is the all-important link between product selection and sales in the alcoholic beverages category. “As convenience stores continue to evolve as a one-stop shop destination for food, beverage and snack, they need to ensure they are merchandising all segments within their stores,” he concluded. CSN

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TECHNOLOGY

Playing the Loyalty Game Points-based rewards programs are giving way to fostering emotional connections By Melissa Kress WITH HIGHER FOOD prices and fluctuating gas prices hitting consumers in their wallets, it is no surprise that shoppers are turning to loyalty programs to ease the pain.

The top loyalty guests overwhelmingly represent the highest spenders and the most frequent visitors, and they offer a lifeline during an economic downturn, according to the 2022 Paytronix Annual Loyalty Report. Looking at the convenience channel, the top 8 percent to 10 percent of loyalty members visit an average of 32 times a month, more than once a day and four times as often as the next highest tier. Additionally, the spend per check for c-store loyalty members increased by about 25 percent last year, and the annual spend for convenience loyalty members increased nearly 40 percent, according to Newton, Mass.-based Paytronix Systems Inc. "The Paytronix Annual Loyalty Report shows that the potential of loyalty to build relationships between customers and their favorite brands has never been greater. Between the ongoing generational shift and the critical importance of the top tier of 2 percent to 3 percent of guests, it has become increasingly clear that growing cadres of loyal customers are vital for the health of brands," said Lee Barnes, chief data officer for Paytronix.

Shaking Up the Loyalty Game There’s no doubt that c-store retailers must have a loyalty program to succeed in today's environment. And it's not just about ringing up the incremental

dollars from repeat, loyal customers, but also creating and maintaining a direct and meaningful relationship with the customer. In a recent Convenience Store News webinar, a senior executive with LedgerPay, a payments intelligence platform and data insights company, noted that loyalty programs come in two forms: behavioral and emotional. Behavior loyalty represents actions that can be seen and measured, and are the result of rational decision-making. Emotional loyalty is the result of perceptions, attitudes and values that work in tandem with behavioral loyalty and go beyond rational reasoning in terms of the level of attachment. Taking the emotional approach to a loyalty program is the key to success for c-store operators. This type of loyalty is where the market has shifted, explained Tom Byrnes, senior vice president of marketing at Irving, Texas-based LedgerPay. Every brand thinks about loyalty in the same way: How do you take existing customers and make them do more things? "The reality is, most of the time, the existing customers that are willing to play that game are self-selected. Customers who are already loyal take advantage of the loyalty program," according to Dennis Becker, CEO of Mobivity. Phoenix-based Mobivity is ready for the next evolution of loyalty. The company's cloud-based Connected Rewards technology delivers offers

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Mobile game users are rewarded for gameplay achievements as part of a partnership between Mobivity and P97 Networks.

and promotions, building large, owned audiences for some of the world's biggest brands. Through partnerships with game publishers, digital operators and ad networks, Mobivity connects consumers to its broad network of brands.

Thinking Outside the Box

The company is combining its experience in the rewards space with Houston-based P97 Networks, a leader in forecourt payment technology, to think outside the box to attract a new customer base and turn them into loyal customers.

"We looked at the broader space and asked: Why can’t you earn a free sandwich if you play a mobile game, or why can’t you get points in your favorite mobile game for the more fuel you buy at Circle K?" Becker posed. "It's not just mobile games, but any situation where you can create that cross-brand affinity."

"At the end of the day, it is about brands driving higher value to their customers. Points-based loyalty programs reward you for every dollar spent, but a lot of times, they just reward consumers for existing behavior. They were going to come in anyway, so you are discounting ambiguously and not really changing the consumer behavior," Becker pointed out.

The opportunity lies in cross-brand affinity, similar to credit card and airline rewards programs. For example, airlines offer their frequent flyers discounts on hotels and rental cars.

To that end, Mobivity and P97 Networks are teaming up to offer mobile game users rewards for gameplay achievements. The partnership has two pilot programs underway, one with a regional convenience store chain, and the other with a national fuel brand. "Instead of rewarding your guests with your products, why not reward them at other brands, and those brands will pay for your referral — and vice versa," Becker said.

“Everyone has their loyalty program, and everyone has 10 percent to 15 percent of their customer base that uses it. Now is the time to look outside those walls for the other 85 percent and bring loyalty to the activities consumers do outside of the brand.” — Dennis Becker, Mobivity

The program presents a new opportunity for fuel brands to reward consumers in a way that doesn’t necessarily require them to bear the cost of the discount of the loyalty program because there is also value being delivered to the mobile game publisher, he noted. "It is rethinking how we can bring more value to the consumer without having to track all their purchase behaviors or issue them straight discounts," he said. "How can we create an exchange and bring two brands together? It’s a new way of thinking how to drive guest traffic and, ultimately, loyalty." Previously, the marketplace lacked the technology, but that is not the case anymore. "Everyone has their loyalty program, and everyone has 10 percent to 15 percent of their customer base that uses it. Now is the time to look outside those walls for the other 85 percent and bring loyalty to the activities consumers do outside of the brand," Becker said. CSN

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INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND

The Mobile Customer Providing a compelling mobile experience has never been more important In today’s noisy and distracting world, it is harder than ever before to capture a customer’s attention, and then maintain that attention over time. But one advantage convenience store retailers can leverage is that most people are never very far from their mobile devices, even when traveling. According to the 2022 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle Study, which surveyed 1,500-plus consumers who shop a c-store at least once a month, several convenience channel mobile services receive high marks from shoppers. However, there is room for improvement in providing a more compelling mobile experience.

Convenience channel shoppers say they’ve experienced these mobile services at a c-store:

73%

55%

Mobile pay at the pump

46%

38%

Mobile coupon

Mobile pay in-store

Contactless shopping using app

Those shoppers who have experienced these services at a c-store describe their current usage vs. one year ago as: MOBILE PAY AT THE PUMP More

37%

About the same 55% Less

8%

MOBILE PAY IN-STORE 41%

More

About the same 53% 7%

Less

MOBILE COUPON More

42%

About the same 51% Less

CONTACTLESS SHOPPING USING APP 52%

More

About the same 44%

7%

4%

Less

Overall, few shoppers indicate they are using c-store mobile services less today compared to a year ago. Contactless shopping using an app has the biggest rise in frequency.

Customer satisfaction marks for mobile services at c-stores are favorable: 84%

84%

80%

76%

say they were very satisfied/ satisfied with mobile coupons.

say they were very satisfied/ satisfied with contactless using an app.

say they were very satisfied/ satisfied with mobile pay at the pump.

say they were very satisfied/ satisfied with mobile pay in-store.

However, nearly a quarter of c-store shoppers indicate that there’s room for improvement in paying for their purchases inside the store using mobile payment. 98 Convenience Store News CSNEWS.com

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