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

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Convenience Store News December 2020

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

UNDER FIRE: OUR 2020 GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE

THE LIFELONG LEARNER Hall of Famer GREG PARKER has never backed away from either education or a challenge.

Volume 56, Number 12

DECEMBER 2020 CSNEWS.COM


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

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

TAKE SURVEY CLICK HERE

Provided on behalf of Philip Morris USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., John Middleton, and Helix Innovations. Š2020 Altria Group Distribution Company | For Trade Purposes Only


VIEWPOINT

2020: A Year to Remember The past year’s experiences will fuel next year’s success 2020 WAS A YEAR marred by the coronavirus pandemic and the economic and social chaos it caused. However, we’d be remiss to forget the positives that came out of this strange year.

health care workers, donating personal protective equipment, and giving back to their communities in other ways. I’m proud to say that this year brought out the best in convenience retailers.

Twenty-seven retailers filed for bankruptcy this year, including JCPenney, Neiman Marcus, Modell’s, Brooks Brothers, GNC and Lord & Taylor. But no major convenience store retailers. In fact, convenience and fuel retailing has performed well enough during the pandemic that merger and acquisition activity, although slowed, has continued. 7-Eleven, GPM Investments, Refuel, Kwik Trip and Yesway are just a few of the retailers that have made significant acquisitions. Others continued to grow organically, including Wawa, Casey’s, Circle K and Parker’s.

This also has been a year to remember for Convenience Store News. As in previous years, we continued to be the industry pacesetter for thoughtful, in-depth analysis of the most important developments and trends affecting convenience and fuel retailers. Our editorial team took top honors in the 2020 Folio: Eddie & Ozzie Awards national journalism competition for Best Series of Articles and Best Microsite/Content Marketing, and we were honored for publishing one of the Top 25 Best Full Issues in the world in the 2020 Tabbie Awards.

Despite the financial and operational strain of the pandemic, convenience stores have sped up their implementation of programs that enable touchless shopping. C-stores would probably be utilizing services like mobile ordering, delivery and curbside pickup anyway, but it’s impressive how quickly so many operators have pivoted and accelerated their development of these oncethought-to-be-future amenities.

Like many of the companies we cover, CSNews pivoted to meet the informational and partnership needs of industry retailers and suppliers. We transformed two of our most popular events — the Technology Leadership Roundtable and the Top Women in Convenience Awards — into fun, engaging digital experiences that received high marks from attendees and sponsors.

Retailers also have stepped up and delivered for their employees and customers. They’ve added additional layers to their normal safety protocols. Many increased the hourly pay of their frontline workers and hired thousands of new employees during the pandemic. And several others have served their neighbors by feeding essential

So, yes, I’m glad 2020 is coming to an end, but I’m grateful for the experience and wisdom we gained in this most trying of years. For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director, at (201) 855-7606 or dlongo@ensembleiq.com.

EDITORIAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS (2013-2020)

EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD Brett Atherton Bolla Management

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

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

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

2020 Eddie Award, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Series of Articles, September 2019 2018 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Website Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2017 Business to Business, Editorial Use of Data, June 2017

Rick Crawford Green Valley Grocery

2017 Eddie Award, Folio: magazine Winner, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, May 2017 Honorable Mention, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, June 2016

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

2016 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2015 Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, August 2015 2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Bronze, Best Original Research, June 2015 2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Silver, Best Original Research, June 2015

2015 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2014

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

Jim Hachtel Eby-Brown Co.

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

Chris Hartman Rutter’s

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

Ray Johnson Speedee Mart

2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014 2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best Special Supplement, November 2014 Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014

Laura Aufleger OnCue Express

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

Jack Lewis GPM Midwest

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

DE CE MBE R

20 20

Convenience Store News 3


CONTENTS DEC 20 COVER STORY

28

VOLUME 56 N UMB ER 12

76

78

FEATURES

DEPARTMENTS

COVER STORY

VIEWPOINT

28 The Lifelong Learner Hall of Famer Greg Parker has never backed away from either education or a challenge. 38 The Journey Along Candy Lane Supplier Hall of Famer Dave Onorato reflects on nearly 40 years in an ever-changing industry.

3 2020: A Year to Remember The past year’s experiences will fuel next year’s success. 8 CSNews Online 20 New Products

TOP WHOLESALERS REPORT

SMALL OPERATOR

72 Coping With COVID The pandemic’s impact is being felt across the entire distribution landscape.

24 How to Stay in Compliance Put into place a system that works for you all the time and is easy to use. TWIC TRAILBLAZERS

76 People First Krause Group works to create a culture where all its associates feel welcomed and valued.

20 4 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

STORE SPOTLIGHT

78 A Beacon for Good Casey’s new visual identity embraces its heritage, while promoting its contemporary offers. INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND

94 The Age Effect A look at how the different generations of c-store shoppers are reacting to the pandemic.

94


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CONTENTS DEC 20

VOLUME 56 N UMB ER 12

12

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

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

Don Longo dlongo@ensembleiq.com

Editor-in-Chief (201) 855-7608

INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Linda Lisanti llisanti@ensembleiq.com

Senior News Editor (201) 855-7618

66

12 Yesway to Spark Growth With $235M Equity Raise 14 Latest M&A Play Brings Alimentation Couche-Tard to Asia 14 Fast Facts

Melissa Kress mkress@ensembleiq.com

Associate Editor (201) 855-7619

Angela Hanson ahanson@ensembleiq.com

Associate Managing Editor (201) 855-7604

Danielle Romano dromano@ensembleiq.com

Contributing Editor (303) 741-3377

Renée M. Covino reneek@aol.com

Contributing Editor (201) 280-2614

Tammy Mastroberte tmastroberte@gmail.com

ADVERTISING SALES & BUSINESS

16 Retailers Tidbits 16 Eye on Growth 18 Supplier Tidbits

CATEGORY MANAGEMENT

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

FOODSERVICE

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

54 Specialty Sips Beverage retailers turn up the craveability factor with trendy, emerging flavors.

18 In the Public Eye

TECHNOLOGY

TOBACCO

56 2021: The Year of the Menthol Ban? Massachusetts and California are the first two states to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes.

66 The Digital Roadmap C-store tech executives talked priorities, the global pandemic and what the future holds during Convenience Store News’ 2020 Virtual Technology Leadership Series.

Rachel McGaffigan rmcgaffigan@ensembleiq.com Ron Lowy rlowy@ensembleiq.com

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

MeritDirect Marie Briganti

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

contact@csnews.com

PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART

CBD

60 CBD University Eight key lessons for navigating the current cannabidiol world.

Vice President, Production (877) 687-7321 Creative Director (973) 607-1320

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

Advertising/Production Manager (773) 992-4418

Ed Ward eward@ensembleiq.com

2020 GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE

Art Director (973) 607-1321

Lauren DiMeo ldimeo@ensembleiq.com

44 Safeguarding Your Foodservice Business

CORPORATE OFFICERS

Convenience stores should react to COVID-19 by revisiting their overall food safety culture.

50 More Layers of Protection It’s essential to add COVID-19 protocols to your existing food safety practices.

52 The Consumer Reponse

The foodservice category is feeling the effects as shoppers visit c-stores less these days.

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

CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS AFFILIATIONS Premier Trade Press Exhibitor

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

Convenience Store News (ISSN 0194-8733; USPS 515-950) is published 12 times per year, monthly, by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscription rates: Subscription rate in the United States: $125 one year; $230 two year; $14 single issue copy; Canada and Mexico: $150 one year; $270 two year; $16 single issue copy; Foreign: $170 one year; $325 two year; $16 single issue copy. Periodical postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631, and additional mailing addresses. Copyright 2020 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Reprints, permissions and licensing, please contact Wright’s Media at ensembleiq@wrightsmedia.com or (877) 652-5295. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Convenience Store News, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631.

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



CSNEWS ONLINE

TOP VIEWED STORIES

1

7-Eleven Parent Divesting Up to 300 Locations as Part of Speedway Acquisition

As the sale of Speedway LLC moves toward a first-quarter 2021 closing, the convenience store chain’s new owner may be preparing to sell off some locations. Japan-based Seven & i Holdings plans to sell as many as 300 Speedway locations once the deal is complete. The company is reportedly working with investment bank Nomura Holdings Inc.

2

Casey’s General Stores Inks Deal to Acquire Buchanan Energy

3

The Top 10 Gas Station Brands According to USA Today’s 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards

4

ExxonMobil Brings New Contactless Payment Technology to the Pump

Casey’s General Stores Inc. is growing its reach in key Midwest markets with an agreement to acquire Buchanan Energy, owner of Bucky’s Convenience Stores, in an all-cash transaction for $580 million. The purchase price includes tax benefits valued at $80 million for a net after-tax purchase price of $500 million.

Twenty brands were hand-selected by 10Best editors and travel experts, chosen for their ability to meet and exceed the expectations of today’s convenience store customer. During a four-week duration, the public voted for their favorite brand, narrowing the list to the top 10 chains in the country, with La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip Inc. topping the list.

The company is rolling out a new two-in-one contactless payment solution using Near Field Communication technology and QR codes. According to the company, more than 11,500 Exxon and Mobil stations across the United States will have this new technology at gas station pumps by the end of this year enabling customers to “point and pay” using their smartphones.

5

ONLINE EXCLUSIVE

New NACS Chairman Kevin Smartt Hopes the Convenience Channel Will Continue to ‘Lean Forward’ Kevin Smartt is taking over the torch as NACS chairman for 20202021 during one of the most interesting times for the convenience and fuel retailing industry as it continues to adapt to and combat the novel coronavirus. In a recent interview, Smartt — who is CEO of Spicewood, Texas-based Kwik Chek, operator of more than 47 c-stores across Texas and Oklahoma — sat down to talk to Convenience Store News and reflect on his journey in the industry, as well as the road ahead. Smartt wants to use his platform as NACS chairman to promote the industry’s efforts surrounding technology, noting that while the channel has done a tremendous job in advancing in this field, there is still a ways to go. For more exclusive stories, visit the Special Features section of csnews.com.

Marathon Petroleum Moves Forward in Three-Pronged Strategic Plan

As the convenience and fuel retailing industry grapples with the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Marathon Petroleum Corp. (MPC) continues to focus on three strategic areas for the near-term. According to President and CEO Michael Hennigan, the three pillars are strengthening the competitive positions of MPC’s assets, improving on its commercial performance, and lowering the company’s cost structure.

EXPERT VIEWPOINT

What Convenience Stores Learned From the Pandemic Convenience store executives have been on the front lines of consumer demand during the pandemic. However, “convenience” has taken on new meaning in the current era of product shortages, supply chain logjams, and rising consumer demand for items like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, which may outlast the pandemic itself, writes Ryan Yost, vice president/general manager for the Printer Solutions Division at Avery Dennison Corp. For convenience stores accustomed to predictable product inventory, pinpointing how to meet new, unpredictable consumer demands is becoming essential data.

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

MOST VIEWED NEW PRODUCT

OH SNAP! Sassy Bites Sassy Bites are the newest addition to the OH SNAP! line of single-serve pickles and pickled veggies. Sassy Bites are single-serve pickles that are sweet with just enough heat. They are gluten free, fat free, and made with non-GMO cucumbers. Fresh packed with no added brine, the product delivers superior crunch, great taste and less mess, according to the maker. GLK Foods Appleton, Wis. (920) 915-6222 ohsnappickles.com


7 OUT OF 10 USERS SAY NICORETTE GUM TASTES BETTER THAN STORE BRAND* *Overall taste preference between coated gum flavors based on initial taste (1 minute of use).

Now Available At The consumer profile of convenience stores continues to shift to a younger demographic (Millennials (22%) and Gen X (22%) now make 44% of C-store shoppers), and those consumers are increasingly seeking healthier options at convenience stores from food and beverage to products to improve their health and well being. As a convenience retailer that prides itself on having a variety of products for everyone, Wawa has been expanding options for customers, now including access to a full-line of smoking cessation products. Since early July, Wawa now stocks a robust lineup of Nicorette smoking cessation products in 900 stores, including Nicorette Gum (4mg) in Cinnamon Surge, Fruit Chill and White Ice Mint and Nicorette Coated Ice Mint Lozenges (2mg and 4mg). Wawa is the first convenience store to provide a full chain launch with five Nicorette SKUs. For more than 20 years, Nicorette has been a leader in helping smokers fight cravings so they can successfully quit. Studies show that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) products combined with behavioral support can double one’s chances of quitting smoking and the availability of Nicorette products at Wawa may help consumers finally start on their quit journey.

Behavioral support program increases chances of success. Read and follow label directions. ©2020 GSK group of companies or its licensor. All rights reserved.

CONTACT YOUR LOCAL NICORETTE SALES REPRESENTATIVE ON HOW TO ORDER OR EMAIL SCOTT.F.BREISINGER@GSK.COM


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$6 million in revenue per week will be lost with disposables being removed from the market by order of the FDA.1 The vapor brand that tops profitability, share, sales per week and units per week can help your stores recover potential losses.2 Source: 1. Nielsen; Total US Convenience; 13 Weeks Ending 7/18/2020. 2. Nielsen AOD, $ and Unit Sales and ACV % > 1.0%, L13W weeks ending 05/23/2020.

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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Yesway to Spark Growth With $235M Equity Raise The financing will fund raze-and-rebuilds as well as acquisition activity IN LATE OCTOBER, Yesway completed the private placement of an additional $235 million of equity that will be used to fund an extensive raze-and-rebuild and store remodel campaign across its portfolio. The convenience store chain will also use the capital to pursue complementary acquisitions to further expand the presence of the Yesway and Allsup’s brands.

Beverly, Mass.-based Brookwood Financial Partners LLC, the private equity firm that founded Yesway, was the sole private placement agent for the offering. In total, it has raised more than $642 million in equity capital for its Yesway affiliate, in addition to arranging more than $237 million in sale-leaseback proceeds. “Since founding Yesway approximately five years ago and acquiring the Allsup’s convenience store chain last November, we have been extremely pleased with our integration efforts and how well the company has performed,” said Yesway Chairman and CEO Tom Trkla. “Given this success, we decided to raise additional capital to accelerate our real estate capital programs and to finance additional

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

portfolio acquisitions. In addition, we will likely further de-lever the company’s balance sheet by prepaying a significant amount of our Term Loan B debt.” According to Trkla, the company identified more than $135 million in real estate capital projects within its portfolio while integrating the Allsup’s chain. Those projects include razing and rebuilding 27 existing Allsup’s stores, performing upgrades to more than 100 Allsup’s stores, converting several Yesway stores in Texas to the Allsup’s brand, significantly upgrading some existing Yesway-branded stores, and adding new-to-market stores. “In particular, these improvements will allow us to offer the complete Allsup’s foodservice program to Yesway customers, including, of course, the world-famous Allsup’s Burrito,” Trkla said. Over the past several years, Allsup’s has completed more than 100 raze-and-rebuilds of existing stores, increasing their size from an average of 2,400 square feet to more than 4,800 square feet, allowing for an expanded selection of in-store merchandise and private label offerings.


sWeet leAdeRsHip:

How HeRsHey Tops THe CaTegory With the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19, c-store owners are scrambling to maximize returns from confections and snacks. In fact, since the start of the health crisis, Hershey has consistently outpaced the average category performance. Relying on powerful marketing insight, smart pricing strategies and savvy product innovation, Hershey remains ahead of the competition — helping businesses survive and thrive.

A Big Hit WitH RetAileRs

tHe Amplified Voice

Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, Hershey’s “Strike Zone” implemented planograms are performing +8.2% better than planograms that don’t implement the Strike Zone.

By activating national advertising campaigns and events, Hershey has become the go-to partner for retailers, driving sales and store traffic.

Testing has shown that the vertical merchandising of Standard Bars can improve Packtype productivity. Sales numbers are proving the Strike Zone advantage. EvEryday IC* PaCktyPEs, dollar % ChangE:

Total IC + 8.2%

King size + 6.7%

IC Candy + 7% standard size + 10.6%

LEAD WITH BOTTLE PACK GUM

FOLLOWED BY SINGLE GUM AND FUN GUM

MINTS UNDER BOTTLE PACK

STRIKE ZONE CHOCOLATE KING SIZE VERTICALLY BLOCKED BY BRAND

CHOCOLATE STANDARD SIZE VERTICALLY BLOCKED BY BRAND

NON CHOCOLATE KING SIZE VERTICALLY OVER STANDARD

• Promoting national programs for shoppers • Leveraging advertising assets for c-stores • Creating exclusive shopper marketing events

Reese’s LoveRs — How the amplified voice translates to revenue. • On track to becomes the biggest Limited Time Offer ever! ▶ YTD $23M in c-store sales ▶ +16% vs. PY in convenience channel ▶ 68.8% of MULO+C IC

* Instant ConsumablEs

multiple pRicing stRAtegies Hershey’s smart pricing programs are increasing the take rate for c-stores. • King Size Candy: 2 for $4 (single unit $2.19) • Standard Size Candy: 2 for $3 (single unit $1.59) These Everyday Multiples are driving high category conversion rates. • King Size unit conversion: 103.8% using 2/$4; 98.5% without • Standard Size unit conversion: 101.2% using 2/$3; 92.4% without

foRWARd-tHinking BRAnds Product innovation and packaging renovation are driving new revenue in convenience. Reese’s Take 5 • Delivering +$10M growth for c-stores • 51.4% of MULO+C growth

Kit Kat Duos • $26.7M YTD in c-stores • 50.9% of MULO+C dollars

expAnding WitH moRe innoVAtions New products continue to create new revenue opportunity. avaIlablE now! • Chocolatey PayDay • Hershey’s White with Whole Almonds • Jolly Rancher Gummies — Original Flavors and Sours • Kit Kat Duos Mocha + Chocolate Wafer Bar • Reese’s Big Cup with Pretzels ComIng soon! • Reese’s Snack Cakes

Convenience stores continue to rely on Hershey to achieve category success. To learn more, visit www.thehersheycompany.com

All sources: IRI CYTD 11-15-20


INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Latest M&A Play Brings Alimentation Couche-Tard to Asia The convenience retailer is acquiring Circle K Hong Kong for $360 million is taking on Asia. The company inked an agreement to acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares, on a fully diluted basis, of Convenience Retail Asia Limited (Circle K HK) for approximately $360 million.

ALIMENTATION COUCHE-TARD INC.

Circle K HK, a subsidiary of Convenience Retail Asia Limited, operates a network of Circle K licensed convenience stores, with 340 company-operated sites in Hong Kong and 33 franchised sites in Macau. According to Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard, which currently has a worldwide network of close to 14,350 stores, this transaction gives it a platform in Asia to launch its regional growth ambitions. “I have followed Circle K Hong Kong’s progress closely for decades and deeply admire its leadership team and retail expertise,” said Alain Bouchard, founder and executive chairman of Couche-Tard’s board of directors. “I look forward to welcoming their team members and stores into the Couche-Tard family and have no doubt that together we can reach millions more customers in Hong Kong and across Asia as we move forward in our journey to become the world’s preferred destination for convenience and fuel.” Circle K HK currently holds the second-largest market share in Hong Kong, Couche-Tard noted in a release announcing the deal. Circle K HK also has developed solid expertise in loyalty, with approximately 1.6 million “OK Stamp It” members, and has established a strong private label program, as well as advanced merchandising, technology and supply chain capabilities.

“Circle K Hong Kong is one of the best convenience store operators in Asia and will be an excellent fit within our company,” said Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of Couche-Tard. “We are excited to partner further with their highly advanced team in terms of innovation, loyalty, private label, retail execution and ability to grow market share.” The transaction is expected to close by Dec. 31.

FAST FACTS

57

%

More than half of all convenience retailers (57 percent) now offer some form of last mile fulfillment. — Last Mile Fulfillment in Convenience Retail Study, NACS

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

During the first six months of the coronavirus, 26 percent of Americans craved more baked goods and 28 percent ate more baked goods. — Harris Poll survey commissioned by General Mills Foodservice

COVID-19 has shifted Americans’ grocery shopping behaviors — by May 2020, 40 percent of shoppers ordered edible groceries online vs. 28 percent of shoppers in May 2019. — Eating Patterns in America, The NPD Group


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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Retailer Tidbits

7-Eleven Inc. added three of the largest U.S. ordering platforms to its delivery offering: Uber Eats, Grubhub and Instacart. The latest pacts bring 7-Eleven’s total number of delivery options to seven.

Wawa Inc. launched a “Free Coffee Tuesdays, Because It’s Not Monday” campaign. Every Tuesday from Nov. 3 through Dec. 29, Wawa Rewards members can receive one free, any-size selfserve coffee.

Love’s plans to open

Love’s Travel Stops & 10 more Naf Naf locations over the Country Stores launched next five years. a new food concept with the opening of its firstever Naf Naf Middle Eastern Grill. The restaurant is located inside the Love’s Travel Stop in Greenup, Ill. GPM Investments LLC relaunched its fas REWARDS loyalty program with new features. The enhanced program rolled out to most stores on Nov. 4 and will be available at all locations by the first quarter of 2021.

Eye on Growth

EG Group expanded its software partnership with PDI. The retailer is rolling out PDI’s enterprise resource planning fuel pricing and logistics solutions to sites across North America, Europe and Australia. Yesway expanded its Hospitality Heroes program to all of its Yesway and Allsup’s stores. The program honors the service and commitment of its essential workers.

Mac’s Convenience Stores LLC, a subsidiary of Alimentation CoucheTard Inc., acquired Pride C-Stores Inc. The deal includes seven stores in northeast Indiana.

Murphy USA intends to develop a fit-for-purpose food and beverage model for its portfolio.

Murphy USA Inc. will build up to 50 2,800-square-foot locations annually. Its 2021 agenda also includes plans to raze and rebuild 25 existing kiosks and turn them into its smaller formats in Walmart parking lots.

Stewart’s Shops is expanding its footprint with an agreement to buy Red-Kap. Under the pact, Stewart’s will acquire eight stores, three car washes, a 75-plus dealer network, and a fuel distribution business. High’s of Baltimore LLC and its parent company Carroll Independent Fuel LLC are acquiring 11 locations in Pennsylvania from Speedway LLC. Carroll Independent will operate six of the stores, while High’s will operate the remaining five.

Refuel Operating Co. LLC is buying Holmes Oil Co., which operates the Cruizers chain of 26 c-stores, as well as a wholesale distributorship for ExxonMobil and Valero motor fuels.

EG Group is buying Schrader Oil Co.’s c-store business for an undisclosed sum. The 18 locations in northern Colorado will be rebranded to the Loaf ‘N Jug banner.

Majors Management LLC purchased Regal Oil Inc. As part of the deal, Majors will pick up Regal’s chain of 14 convenience stores, as well as numerous dealer supply accounts.

Parkland Corp. is expanding its footprint across the United States with the acquisition of Sevier Valley Oil Co. Inc. As part of the deal, Parkland USA will pick up seven c-stores and 20-plus retail dealers.

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


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INDUSTRY ROUNDUP

Supplier Tidbits

Mars Inc. signed a deal to acquire KIND North America. Under the pact, KIND North America will join KIND International to create one organization, functioning as a separate business within the Mars Family of Cos. The Hershey Co. launched the Hershey Insights Network for its retail partners, a virtual experience offering insights, analysis and expertise to provide solutions to engage shoppers. Core-Mark International has become Skip’s exclusive distributor partner in the wholesale channel. The partnership opens up a contactless mobile payment checkout system to Core-Mark’s 40,000plus c-store customers. Paytronix Systems Inc. launched Paytronix Subscriptions, a loyalty platform component that streamlines the process for a convenience store brand or restaurant to launch and manage a subscription program. Chester’s Chicken introduced a new website as the first glimpse of its

rebranding efforts. The site features a simplified corporate logo, all new food photography and nutritional information, and a new domain. Molson Coors Beverage Co. entered into an exclusive agreement with The CocaCola Co. to manufacture, market and distribute Topo Chico Hard Seltzer in the United States.

The experience offers retailers interactive Hussmann Corp. kicked demonstrations within a off a roadshow to show53-foot-long, 700-squarefoot trailer. case its retailing solutions. The Shop the Future Mobile Experience started in St. Louis and will hit 40 stops.

Aptos acquired Revionics in September. The companies’ blended customer base includes more than 1,000 retail brands in 65 countries.

In the Public Eye

Marathon Petroleum Corp., Findlay, Ohio Marathon Petroleum Corp. reported a net loss of $1 billion for the third quarter of 2020, compared with net income of $1.1 billion for the third quarter of 2019. Third-quarter 2020 results included net pretax charges of $525 million. Adjusted net loss was $649 million for the quarter. Adjusted EBITDA was $1 billion, compared to $3.1 billion a year ago.

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

Murphy USA Inc., El Dorado, Ark. Murphy USA Inc.’s net income for the third quarter of 2020 was $66.9 million, compared to net income of $69.2 million in Q3 2019. Total retail gallons sold during the third quarter declined 11.9 percent year over year. Total fuel contribution dollars decreased 2.6 percent, while retail fuel margins were 3.3 percent higher than a year ago. Samestore sales volumes fell 12.7 percent, while merchandise contribution dollars increased 6.2 percent.

TravelCenters of America Inc., Westlake, Ohio For the third quarter of 2020, TravelCenters of America Inc. (TA) saw overall fuel sales volume increase by 8.5 percent and fuel gross margin for the three-month period tick up 1 percent vs. the same period in 2019. On the non-fuel side of TA’s business, the company’s overall revenue dipped 3.7 percent vs. the prioryear quarter. For TA’s convenience stores, revenues increased by 3.7 percent vs. Q3 2019. For its quick-service restaurants, revenues in the quarter improved by 4.2 percent vs. the prior year.


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1. Bidi Pouch The Bidi Pouch provides a tobacco-free nicotine formulation packed in an easy-to-go tin can. Engineered to provide a premium nicotine experience to users minus the smoke, the Bidi Pouch contains natural fibers and a chew-base filler in six flavors: Winter, Arctic, Summer, Solar, Regal and Haze. Each can retails at $3.25 with a suggested retail price of $4.99. Bidi Vapor Grant, Fla. bidipouch.com

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2. AriZona SunRise Hard Seltzer

3. Reese’s Big Cup With Pretzels

4. Talking Rain Essentials Hydration

Heineken USA is teaming up with Hornell Brewing Co., an affiliated entity of AriZona Beverages, to bring AriZona SunRise Hard Seltzer to the U.S. market. Launching in the first quarter of 2021, AriZona SunRise Hard Seltzer will come in four flavors: Mucho Mango, Cherry Punch, Lemon and Grapefruit. Available in both single-serve cans and 12-can variety packs, the beverages contain 100 calories per 11.5-ounce can and have an ABV of 4.6 percent. They are also gluten free and low in carbs.

The Reese’s Big Cup With Pretzels is a twist on the classic Reese’s cup that’s bigger, saltier and packed with delicious pretzels. Debuting in November, the new product is now available in a 1.3-ounce standard size/simple cup for a suggested price of $1.49 or a 2.6-ounce king size/two cups for $2.09. Additionally, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with Pretzels Miniatures will be available in January 2021 for a suggested price of $3.79 per package.

New from Talking Rain, Essentials Hydration is an alkaline water with a 9.5pH level and minerals and electrolytes for taste. Offered in a convenient one-liter bottle, the water is now available in Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and the Pacific Northwest, and will be expanding to wider markets in 2021. To support the launch, Talking Rain is partnering with Waterboys, a charity that focuses on providing clean, accessible drinking water to communities in need, and has pledged to donate 20 cents for every 12pack case purchased.

Heineken USA Inc. White Plains, N.Y. heinekenusa.com

The Hershey Co. Hershey, Pa. thehersheycompany.com

Talking Rain Beverage Co. Preston, Wash. talkingrain.com

5. Alcohol Cell Wipes Alcohol Cell Wipes are aimed at consumers with cellphones who are concerned about contaminants. The formula, which contains 70 percent isopropyl alcohol, is recommended by major cellphone manufacturers. The wipes are purposely sized just for cellphones, measuring 2.5 inches by 2.5 inches. They are individually sealed and can be safely kept in a car, pocket, purse or even a toolbox. The wipes come in packs of six with a price point starting at $1.99. They are also available in a 100count box. FMCG Corp. Hawthorne, Calif. (800) 827-6143 alcoholcellwipes.com

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

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6. Dos Equis Lime & Salt Dos Equis has long been enjoyed with lime and salt, and the brand is now putting this combination into a can. Dos Equis Lime & Salt arrived in select launch markets in November, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Florida and Louisiana. Line-priced with Dos Equis Lager, the new product is initially available in 24-ounce cans, to be followed by 12-ounce sixpacks starting in spring 2021. Lime-flavored beer attracts different shoppers than traditional beer, and lime is the second-largest flavor in beer behind chelada, according to the maker. Heineken USA Inc. White Plains, N.Y. heinekenusa.com

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7. Johnsonville Premium Breakfast Sausages

8. BreathIQ Breathalizer Keychain

Johnsonville Foodservice introduces its first-ever premium breakfast sausage line for foodservice operators. The portfolio includes fully cooked links in original, maple and turkey varieties; ready-to-cook links in maple and original varieties; and fully cooked patties in original and turkey varieties. Johnsonville breakfast products are prepared using a higher meat-to-fat ratio, which provides a better yield, less shrinkage after cooking, and better overall flavor and texture, according to the company.

The BreathIQ Breathalizer Keychain contains a single-use disposable alcohol breathalyzer that’s designed to allow someone to test another person’s sobriety. Made in the U.S. and cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, it is 99.9 percent accurate, weatherproof, and refillable for future uses. The glowin-the-dark material makes the keychain easy to find. Merchandised in a small, eye-catching countertop display, the keychains sell for a suggested price of $11.99 each.

Johnsonville Foodservice Sheboygan Falls, Wis. (800) 837-5391 foodservice. johnsonville.com

BreathIQ St. Petersburg, Fla. (800) 876-9395 breathiq.com

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9. Sparkling Ice Spiked Sparkling Ice Spiked is a full-flavored hard seltzer with 4 percent alcohol, zero sugar, 1 gram of carbs and only 80 calories. Gluten free and infused with blends of natural fruit flavors, Sparkling Ice Spiked is available in 12-ounce slim cans in a variety 12-pack featuring four flavors: Cherry Lime Cooler, Lemonade Refresher, Ruby Fizz, and Strawberry Citrus Smash. The new hard seltzer is currently available in select launch markets including Tampa, Fla.; Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis; Buffalo, N.Y.; Seattle; and Southern California. Talking Rain Beverage Co. Preston, Wash. sparklingicespiked.com

10. CBD Living Energy Shot The CBD Living Energy Shot is a two-ounce shot that combines 30 milligrams of Broad Spectrum Nano CBD with 200 milligrams of caffeine, about the amount found in two cups of black coffee. Available in a Mixed Berry flavor, the shot is sugar free, negating the later sugar rush and crash. All CBD Living products are manufactured using 100 percent organic hemp grown on state-licensed hemp farms in Oregon and Colorado, and are triple-tested by third-party independent labs. CBD Living Corona, Calif. cbdliving.com

10 22 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


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Put into place a system that works for you all the time and is easy to use a retail business, there is a scenario that you have either come across or have thought about.

IF YOU ARE RUNNING

By Roy Strasburger, President, StrasGlobal

It’s a Friday afternoon during the summer — possibly before a big holiday weekend. Your store is humming: people are coming in to buy things to go to the lake; fueling up the car and buying snacks to head out on a road trip; a woman is stopping by the store to pick up a few things while she is heading home from work. It looks like it’s going to be a good weekend for business. (OK, OK, maybe in your mind, this is pre-COVID.) Then, a woman comes into the store and starts walking through the aisles. You can tell she is looking, but not shopping. She walks by the coolers, eyes your beverages and then disappears into the beer cave. A few minutes later, she comes out and starts heading toward the cash register. The woman identifies herself as an inspector from the state alcohol control board and shows you her ID. Your first thought is that you’ve been involved in a “sting” operation and that you, or one of your staff, has sold beer to an underaged person with a fake ID. Visions of fines, reprimands and additional training flash through your mind in a split second. The woman speaks. She tells you that the state is doing a series of random inspections around the county to make sure that alcohol permit holders are following the rules when selling beverages, storing and displaying them properly, and having the proper signage in place. She says that you are doing a good job and asks to see your permit and paperwork. You look up at the wall where the permit is supposed to be displayed, but it is not there. You remember that everything on that wall had to be taken down when there was water damage from the big storm during the spring. You also realize that you don’t have a clue as to where the permit is. As the inspector stands in front of the counter watching, you start clawing through every stack of paper you can find — under the counter, in a drawer, on a shelf.

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

Finally, after seven or eight minutes (or was it 17 or 18?) you recognize the state logo and colors of the permit. Triumphantly, you present the permit to the inspector, blinking away the sweat from your eyes. The inspector looks at the permit, looks at you and then looks back at the permit. She regrets to inform you, she says with a hint of sadness in her voice, that this permit expired 30 days ago. Do you happen to have the renewed permit? You smell something in the air. It is the scent of something burning. You are becoming toast. The inspector says you must stop selling all alcoholic beverages immediately until you get a new permit. She also writes on a pink piece of paper and hands it to you. It is a notice stating that you are going to be fined for selling without a license. When you ask, the inspector says that the field office is closing in 15 minutes and is 45 minutes away. Therefore, the first opportunity to speak with someone in the office will be Monday morning. So much for the holiday weekend. The economic impact of an unforced error such as this can be huge: lost sales, fines, and the cost of defending any administrative penalties. That’s the best-case scenario. Worst case is that your permit could be suspended indefinitely. At StrasGlobal, we operate stores around the country. Multiple jurisdictions in multiple states means that we always have an exposure to a permit or license being out of compliance.



SMALL OPERATOR

“Back in the day,” we tracked our permit renewals using spreadsheets, calendars and sticky notes. It was a fragile system, at best. If the person looking after the system got sick or quit, confusion reigned. For us, there were two big consequences of not renewing a permit in time. The first, of course, was the cost of the fines and the lost sales and profits. The second was the loss of face. At StrasGlobal, we contractoperate stores for people and companies who own or control the properties but don’t want to operate the sites themselves. We provide a turnkey professional operations service that includes getting all of the appropriate permits and licenses and keeping them up to date. Needless to say, having one expire, and our clients losing revenue, is not a good professional look. To overcome this, we created a system that we call the Compliance Cycle. There are six steps: plan, implement, anticipate, respond, review and repeat. I’ll give you a brief overview of each step. 1. Plan — The first thing you need to know is what is required of you. What parts of your business need permitting or certification? The easy ones to identify are alcohol, tobacco, lottery, health/foodservice and underground storage tanks. The ones that are not so obvious are propane canisters, ATMs, and weights and measures. (Note: different jurisdictions require different permits and licenses; this is not a complete guide.) So, how do you find out what is required? The best place to start is with whatever associations you belong to — NACS, SIGMA, EMA, your state association or your local buying group. They should have information on current and future requirements. The next best source of information is your peer group, other operators who run a business similar to yours in the same area. Ask them what they do. Once you gather the information, put it together in one place so that you know all of the deadlines involved. Do an inspection of your business to make sure everything onsite is in compliance. Check equipment and permits to ensure they are up to date and note when they need to be renewed. Put a plan together outlining what you need to do. Store this information somewhere safe and easily accessible. Make sure someone on your team knows about the plan and where the information is. 2. Implement — Put your plan into action. Make sure all permits and licenses are renewed. Ensure that all regulated equipment is inspected and/or certified. If someone is doing this for you, inspect the work and make sure it has been done properly. Taking care of the details is one of the most difficult aspects of compliance, and the thing that usually gets you into trouble.

3. Anticipate — Think about what may go wrong and make plans to fix the problem. If you have equipment that you are concerned about, identify the maintenance or tech support people ahead of time. Tell them what you may need them to do so that they are prepared and have the supplies in stock. This will save you time and money if you have an equipment failure. Do preventive maintenance. Is the equipment old? Perhaps you should think about replacing it. Are there parts that wear out regularly? Have a maintenance program in place to replace them before they fail. Does a piece of equipment have a battery backup? Make sure the batteries are fresh and charged. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cash. 4. Respond — If something goes wrong, respond according to your plan. Call the people you identified earlier. If something goes wrong and you didn’t plan a response for it, know what your end goal is so that you can come up with a solution to get back in compliance. 5. Review — Once the event is over, look at what happened and what could have been done to either prevent the accident or fix it faster. Change your plans to reflect what you’ve learned and to cover the different scenarios that you’ve experienced. 6. Repeat — Once you’ve done the review, start the cycle over again. Revise your plan, implement it, anticipate problems, respond to issues, and review what happened. Then, repeat the cycle again. With each repetition, your plan is going to be stronger and more robust and you will have less downtime, repair costs, lost revenue and fines. An important tool that we use at StrasGlobal is Compliance Safe, a software program that we initially developed for our internal use to keep track of our permits, licenses and important documents and that we now offer to other retailers for their use. The status of every permit at every site is easily viewed on the Compliance Safe dashboard. It automatically reminds us when the renewal dates are coming up, and we can store copies of all the documents online so that they are available anywhere, at any time, on any device. We can also share our information with other companies who need to know about our business, such as our bankers. We’ve gone from spending three or four hours a week on permit compliance issues to about 10 minutes per week. However you stay in compliance, make sure the system works for you all the time and is easy to use. Staying in compliance will keep you legal, in business, and out of trouble. If that inspector comes, you’ll be ready. CSN

Roy Strasburger is president 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. 26 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m


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COVER STORY

The Lifelong Learner Hall of Famer Greg Parker has never backed away from either education or a challenge By Angela Hanson

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ACCORDING TO AN OLD FRIEND of his, Greg Parker always knew he would be a success. He claimed he would go from one store to one hundred and be a billionaire one day. In his memory, however, the road ahead was never guaranteed to be smooth.

"I swear I don't remember," Parker said with a laugh, stressing that when he opened the first Parker's convenience store in Midway, Ga., in 1976, he "never imagined" what it would become: a highly regarded chain of 66 locations in coastal Georgia and South Carolina that is known for both its foodservice program and its habit of pushing the envelope in retail technology. Parker wasn't without advantages: a graduate with honors from the University of Georgia, he learned from his father, who was a jobber for Amoco and negotiated with a dairy farmer for the land on which to build that first store, strategically located near an interchange for the newly built I-95. Once the store opened, though, Parker worked for the next three and a half years without taking a single day off and oversaw every aspect of the business, from marketing to accounting to cooking. Working from pre-sunup to sundown in a small town that "had more dogs than people" wasn't a glamorous life, but Parker put in the hours and the effort in hopes that it would pay off. "I just put one foot in front of the other," he told Convenience Store News. "I learned by doing."

The Early Days Forty-four years after founding his company, Parker has gone from learning the ropes to solidifying himself as an industry leader and the 2020 retailer inductee into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame. But in all that time, he hasn't stopped seeking knowledge. "I'm a continuous learner," he said. His methods of education have ranged from management school to books on leadership to NACS and other members of the industry. His early work as a single-

Parker's has grown from a single-store operation into a chain of 66 stores.

store operator also provided him hands-on knowledge of the business’ everyday needs and challenges. His constant drive to improve himself is fueled by what Parker calls a "profound" fear of failing. "I'm a person who is driven by fear of failure and insecurity," he acknowledged. "I was so terrified of failure that I wasn't always the best boss, and I didn't always have the right tone — I was a challenging boss. Thank goodness these incredibly talented people stuck with me." His current team includes several people who have worked at Parker's since they were teenagers. Parker counts the company's history of continuity and longevity as an attribute that has contributed to its long-term success. In particular, he credits the contributions of recently retired Chief Financial Officer Terri Heidman.

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From his very first store to now, Parker has always focused on "an elevated shopping experience."

"She's been so important to me," he said. "We would not be the company we are today if not for Terri."

the most important aspect of the business and focusing on improving that set up the company well for today, Parker says.

Although Parker's has gone through considerable evolution since its founding, in some ways it was always ahead of its time. How c-stores can attract more customers outside of trips to fuel up or buy cigarettes has been a frequent topic of discussion in recent years, but gas prices in the 1970s forced Parker’s to consider the same topic back then.

This is particularly true for its foodservice program. Decades ago, Parker's didn't offer dispensed beverages due to the lack of a soda company willing to supply a fountain machine. Today, the chain is known for its award-winning fried chicken and made-from-scratch, Southern-inspired food. Two-thirds of its current stores have a full kitchen.

The "enormous" price Parker's paid for gas meant that "as a result, I had to get really good at operating a store," the Hall of Famer said. "I started out with a focus on an elevated shopping experience." To give the store a distinct look back then, Parker added bicentennial-themed red, white and blue carpet — which his mother helped him pick out — as well as paneled walls and nice bathrooms. The specific look of Parker's store interiors has changed significantly since then, but the understanding that customers should be able to look around and instinctively feel good about where they are has not. "The thing that's made us different is that we've always understood the backcourt was more important than the forecourt," Parker said.

Differentiating With Deliciousness Identifying the customer experience as

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

The success of the Parker's Kitchen concept is based on a change in framing: instead of staying a convenience store chain that sells food, Parker's has worked to become a foodservice company that also sells convenience items. It’s transformed into a fried chicken specialist that differentiates itself by the use of hormone-free, antibiotics-free, never-frozen, hand-selected chicken tenders cooked in premium oil with frequently filtered fryers. This led to Parker being named the 2018 Convenience Store News Foodservice Leader of the Year, although he is quick to credit Chief Operating Officer Brandon Hofmann as the initial driving force behind the change. Based on the full kitchens alone, Parker is satisfied that his company has been successful in its foodservice transformation. "They're as nice as any kitchen in Savannah," he said. In addition to the use of quality ingredients, Parker's foodservice operations stand out for use of technology. The two categories are the chain's major focuses for the foreseeable future. Technological advances inside the kitchens include automatic filtration of the frying oil at regular intervals, and screen prompts that alert cooks when it's time to drop a new batch of chicken tenders.


Congratulations! The bar just got higher.

Congratulations to the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame Retailer of the Year

Greg Parker


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COVER STORY

What truly makes Parker's kitchens smart kitchens, however, is the use of machine learning that helps the retailer offer just-in-time foodservice. Tracking the level of traffic, sales from the same data in prior years, whether it's a holiday or not, and plenty of other data allows the company to estimate how many chicken tenders it will sell at any store in any 15- to 30-minute period. "Over time, the data cleans up, gets better and better and better," Parker said. His goal is 97 percent accuracy, with the understanding that 100 percent accuracy isn't attainable; though, he wants to get as close as possible. "Our goal is when you bite into a tender, it's crunchy outside, moist and juicy inside and was cooked no longer than 15 minutes ago."

On the Cutting Edge of Technology Using technology to stay competitive is key to the future of convenience retailing, according to Parker, who was also named Convenience Store News' Top Tech Executive in 2013. Ten years ago, the company launched its private label PumpPal debit card, which allows Parker's to offer lower fuel prices to card users — more than $15 million in savings since the program debuted. Today, Parker wants to use technology to save not just money but also time, which he believes is what convenience stores truly sell. Using predictive analytics to make sure the right number of customer service representatives are in a store at any given time helps the company save money by

avoiding over-staffing, while making sure there are enough associates to meet customers' needs. Other tech-related initiatives include adding multiple selfcheckout units per store, including one card-only unit, and an overall move toward digitization in operations. Technology is a "huge, huge" focus for the company, which launched a technology innovation department three years ago. "We like to be on the cutting edge of the things we see happening in the retail marketplace," Parker said. He keeps in mind a famous quote by Bill Gates that discusses how people always overestimate the changes that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the changes that will occur in the next 10 years. Despite that, he believes that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have given the industry a peek into the future. "We're mindful of how the world around us is changing," Parker said, noting that the diminished transactions and lower gas consumption during the pandemic will also occur as the automobile industry moves toward electrification. Like many operators, Parker's is making plans for mobile foodservice purchases. The chain already launched a mobile payment option several years ago, and it will implement mobile ordering in the near future. Parker envisions a future whereby customers can pull up to the fueling station, use their phones to get gas, order food from their phones, walk inside to pick up the food and then return outside, remove the gas nozzle and leave. "That is as frictionless as we can make it," he said.

Industry Leadership Parker's approach to leading his company has been continually shaped by his involvement with industry trade association NACS. He credits convenience executive Woody Woodruff and Family Express Corp. founder Gus Olympidis for encouraging him to get involved with NACS, which eventually led to him serving as vice chairman of

Current plans calls for Parker's to double in network size in the next five years.

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COVER STORY

Parker believes customers should be able to look around and instinctively feel good about where they are.

research and delivering the State of the Industry keynote address for five straight years. "NACS has been really important to me," he said. "It had a profound impact on our company." Getting to know Dae Kim, former NACS vice president of research, was particularly enlightening for Parker because it helped him understand how he could use metrics to improve his business. "I believe if you can make something measurable, you can make it achievable," he said. Taking part in a NACS Study Group, which Parker calls his "band of brothers," was another major benefit for him. Not only did the other members become close friends, but they also challenged each other and held one another accountable. This was especially true when group member and former Ricker Oil Co. President and CEO Quinn Ricker issued him a very particular challenge. Parker's numbers were very good, leaving Ricker little to criticize when it came to metrics, but he wanted to see Parker "professionalize" the company, recounted the Hall of Famer, who recalls having a very smart leadership team but a "discombobulated" organizational structure. Prior to then, company leadership would take on whatever needed to be done, but reorganizing the company's architecture — down 36 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

to people's roles and responsibility — led to significant improvement. "When he proposed this challenge to us as a company, it was just a godsend to us," Parker said. He believes retailers can get a lot out of NACS if they reach out and make an effort. "If you want to get involved and get engaged, I highly encourage people to put their hand up," he said. While Parker has already achieved a great deal in growing his company from a single store to a thriving c-store industry leader, his ambition hasn't slowed down yet. He predicts confidently that the chain will double in size in the next five years. "We have a goal to build a store every month for the next 60 months," he said, noting that this means new-toindustry sites rather than acquisitions. Parker's will also continue to focus on using foodservice and technology to enhance its offering. "We'll continue to try to be the best-in-class, delivering the best products in the quickest, most frictionless way possible," he said. "And we're going to use technology to have a greater understanding of customers, so we can better satisfy their need states." The c-store industry may be going through a period of tumultuous change now, with more to come, but no matter what is on the horizon and no matter how much he's learned, Parker expects that his company's slogan of "Fast, Fresh & Friendly" will continue to be relevant. "People who are doing the best job at delivering immediate consumables to consumers the freshest and friendliest and fastest way possible are going to be the long-term winners," he said. CSN


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COVER STORY

The Journey Along Candy Lane

Supplier Hall of Famer Dave Onorato reflects on nearly 40 years in an ever-changing industry By Danielle Romano AS DAVE ONORATO REFLECTS on

nearly four decades with The Hershey Co., he fondly thinks back to his mother’s own burgeoning career in sales. She sold Avon and Tupperware door to door before going on to become a divisional manager at Rubbermaid. Upon her promotion, she shared wisdom with Onorato that he carries with him to this day. She told him: “People do business with people they like and trust.” “No relationship works without trust, and being in business is all about relationships,” said Onorato, this year’s supplier inductee into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame. “If you can establish trust with those around you, who really believe you are working together as a team rooted in trust, there isn’t anything you can’t do.” This advice has served Onorato well over the past 37 years working for one of the largest candy companies in the world. Throughout his tenure, the executive has held varying degrees of sales and managerial roles, spanning multiple retail channels. Today, he serves as vice president and general manager for Hershey’s small format stores division. In 2000, he was entrusted with the task of building the sales department around Hershey’s convenience store division from the ground up. He considers this the most rewarding journey of his career thus far “because we had to build plank by plank this sales organization into what it is today.” “I believe we are at the top in our industry because we attract talent who have the passion to make this company what it is. As I look at our convenience store sales organization, I am proud of what we built and what we continue to build,” he said. “When I look at those team members and how they approach their work every day with retailers and distributors throughout the country, I am so proud and excited to see [how] they evolve as new ways to do things develop in the future.”

A Career Built on Passion After graduating from Albright College

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

in Reading, Pa., in 1983 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Onorato was working in the supermarket industry and coming in contact with various consumer packaged goods (CPGs) companies. Inspired by the way sales representatives from these businesses spoke for and represented their organizations, Onorato found himself applying to and interviewing with different CPGs, looking for the right fit. He was drawn to Hershey for a number of reasons. For starters, he knew the renowned company could provide him with opportunities to grow both personally and professionally. But, above all else, Onorato connected with the organization’s culture and the history of Milton Hershey and the Milton Hershey School, which operates as a cost-free, private, co-residential school and home for children from lower-income families in Hershey, Pa.


of

A Jack of All Trades Dave Onorato began his career with The Hershey Co. in 1984 as a sales representative. Over the past 37 years, he has held a multitude of roles within the organization, including: • 1984–2001: Sales positions as Reading District Sales Manager, Philadelphia District Sales Manager, Sales Planning Manager, Mid-Central Business Development Manager, Detroit Region Sales Manager, and Director of Sales Development

While much has changed in the retail industry, Onorato says the one constant is people's reliance on confections.

“The culture is what really drew me. At the end of the day, our largest shareholder is the children who are educated and taken care of with the Milton Hershey School,” he said. “I was always proud of that when I went out into the marketplace and told people who I worked for and represented.” In 1984, Onorato, who grew up in Philadelphia, joined Hershey as a retail sales representative. That same year, he married his wife, Angela, and together the couple has raised two sons, David and Steven, and one daughter, Nicole. For nearly four decades, Onorato’s roles and responsibilities at Hershey have necessitated conversations and relationship-building with convenience store chains and distributors, whom he acknowledges have “a real passion for business.” “The convenience channel is collaborative and finds a way to forge a path forward. It has so many attributes and the industry is so agile, which is a tremendous strength,” he said. “If you can be agile, if you can be responsive and quicker than your competitors in other channels, then you put yourself in a position to be the first with an innovative idea. I think c-stores have done that throughout their history.” To maintain a decades’ long career at one company, a person must possess passion and agility of his or her own. Onorato recognizes that in today’s landscape, it’s difficult to come by people who remain in corporate positions. The obstacle, he notes, is challenging yourself to change in relevant ways, to accept new ways of getting the work done, and putting your A-game front and center.

• 2001–2002: Vice President of Special Trade Class Sales • 2002–2003: Vice President of National Convenience Stores • 2004–2005: Assumed responsibility for Specialty Retail, TelAssist and U.S. Lorena Hispanic Sales • 2005–2006: Vice President of Global C-store Sales • 2006–2015: Assumed responsibility for Special Trade Classes (Vending, Fundraising and Concession) as well as Food Service and Dollar Store Sales • 2015–Present: Vice President and General Manager of the Small Format Stores Division Onorato has been honored multiple times by Hershey, having received the President’s Cup for Sales Achievement in 1984, 1998 and 2002. He was recognized as Candy Salesperson of the Year by the Southern Association of Wholesale Distributors in 2005. He’s also been honored for promoting diversity awareness, receiving the Champion of Diversity Award from the Network of Executive Women in 2004. He was elected to the National Confectionery Sales Association Candy Hall of Fame in 2012. Additionally, Onorato is a member of the National Confectioners Association, NACS, Convenience Distribution Association, and National Automatic Merchandising Association.

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COVER STORY

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Hershey's culture of giving back is one of the key things that attracted Onorato to the company.

“When you work at an organization for as long as I have, there is a tremendous amount of change, and there is a tremendous amount of new talent coming, so there’s a challenge to make sure you are changing with the times and that you are making yourself more relevant every day by learning and growing,” he explained.

Leaving His Mark Onorato has had a front-row seat to change over the last four decades. The two most notable shifts in retail, according to the Hershey executive, are continued consolidation and the evolution to omnichannel experiences. On the flip side, the one constant that has remained is people’s reliance on confections. “Candy is a ubiquitous industry. It can be sold anywhere there is a register and, with COVID, we’re seeing more than ever people’s emotional connection to it,” he said. “Candy plays an important role in helping people and bringing a smile to their face. We call it ‘bringing moments of goodness to people,’ and we really do believe in that.” Reaching this point in his career and attaining Hall of Famer status, Onorato says, has prompted him to think about his journey and how some people are in such a rush with expectations to advance in their careers. He advises up-and-coming leaders to enjoy the voyage and learn something new every day, so they can grow and prepare for the next role ahead. “We talk about the definition of success is when opportunity meets preparedness, so continue to prepare yourself every day, 40 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

so when that opportunity hits, you’re ready to go,” he expressed. “I always tried to be the very best I could be in every job I had, and I think that served me well. At the end of the day, when I got into that next role, I knew I would be ready.” When asked what achievement he is most proud of, Onorato didn’t need long to respond. He immediately pointed to his family as his greatest achievement. “To be married nearly 37 years and see how our children choose to live their lives has been the greatest joy of my life,” he told CSNews. “Then, to represent a company of this caliber in as many years as I have is a source of pride. The company has become more of a family and many of the people in key roles have either been people who I’ve hired or who have worked for me. It’s cool to watch them grow within Hershey and flourish.” CSN


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2020 GUIDE TO

FOODSERVICE

UNDER FIRE The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the prepared food and dispensed beverage categories hard



FEATURE

Convenience stores should react to COVID-19 by revisiting their overall food safety culture By Angela Hanson WHILE FOODSERVICE has been one of the most important categories to the convenience store industry for several years now, the arrival of COVID-19 raised the stakes even further. It isn't just the health and safety of both customers and employees on the line; if a food safety incident erodes trust in a brand now, it could prove incredibly difficult to ever regain it.

To keep their foodservice programs flowing while maintaining safe practices, many c-store operators have put lower-contact and fully contactless options into place. Chains such as Casey's General Stores Inc., Wawa Inc. and Cumberland Farms launched curbside pickup, while 7-Eleven Inc. and Kwik Trip Inc. expanded their delivery programs. Additionally, mobile ordering — previously part of many retailers' future plans — has rapidly gained traction. Meanwhile, c-store retailers are also changing their food packaging practices. Shortly after opening a brand-new expansion of its bakery distribution center, Family Express Corp. transitioned its bakery program to an all-packaged model, a practice that can be adopted for numerous fresh items that would otherwise sit in a warming case. "The open-case concept did not make sense in a COVID environment," said Family Express President and CEO Gus Olympidis. Rather than view similar measures as a purely defensive safety enhancement, retailers should consider how packaging changes could also be an opportunity. While Family Express’ conversion took significant time and effort, the chain’s packaged baked goods model "is proving to be more dynamic than the previous model," according to Olympidis. Using distance and barriers to make purchasing food convenient while preventing disease transmission is important, but experts agree that cultivating a broader food safety culture is the most important part of keeping a program safe and maintaining consumer trust. "Food safety culture used to mean 'what you do when no one is watching.' In 2020 and going forward, you need to assume everyone will always be watching," said Kari Hensien, president of quality management software provider RizePoint. "Organizations with a strong food safety culture will consistently demonstrate to employees and customers that making safe food is a top priority in each location. In our current environment, one incident can turn a customer away forever, so food safety culture is key to helping your customers feel safe."

Staying on Guard As time goes by during the pandemic and people grow more accustomed to the new normal, it's even more important that c-store operators stay on guard against potential breakdowns in food safety. Because human beings naturally fall into routine habits, incorporating specific safety practices into the daily workflow makes it more likely they will be performed consistently. "A culture of food safety awareness is critical for employees to take handwashing seriously. Handwashing will minimize cross-contamination," said Francine Shaw, president of Savvy Food Safety Inc. "It is also imperative that single-use gloves must be changed frequently. They need to be changed if interrupted from a task, or they get soiled or torn. It is not permissible to reuse or wash reusable gloves."


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FEATURE

Workers should be able to expect a sufficient amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) during every shift. If they are providing their own PPE, its quality and fit should be verified.

words matter, too. Communicating with employees and making sure they understand the benefits and weak points of various safety measures is more likely to result in proper compliance.

Standard cleaning routines should include testing the strength of the sanitizer and the frequency at which the sanitizer is changed; a common mistake is not making sure the sanitizer is the correct strength to reduce the bacteria on food contact surfaces to safe levels, according to Shaw. If the chemicals are not mixed properly or tested frequently, the results will be ineffective. Additionally, when cleaning, associates should pay attention to other high-touch points than just the obvious ones such as door handles and credit card scanners.

"Education and training are two very different things; employees must be BOTH educated and trained to obtain optimal results," Shaw stressed.

"It is important to remember that many people will push on the door frame rather than using the door handle because they think it's a cleaner surface, thus making the door frame a high touchpoint, too," Shaw pointed out.

Starting From the Top While much of the day-to-day implementation of food safety measures falls to hourly workers, the actions of higher-ups are absolutely critical to achieving consistency at all levels. "Food safety culture begins with the senior management of an organization. If leadership dictates that employees must wear personal protective equipment, they should wear masks themselves," Shaw said. "Leaders must 'walk the walk,' modeling proper protocols and behaviors." As important as leaders' actions are, their

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

Managers can encourage food safety culture by having employees take part in self-assessments and store audits that remove punishment and offer support and assistance. For example, they should make sure employees feel comfortable highlighting any issues that prevent them from following food safety policy, such as a non-functional handwashing station. Leadership should update the company's crisis management plan if they have not done so recently, and include relevant changes prompted by the pandemic. This should include specific plans for what to do if an employee tests positive for COVID-19. If an employee tests positive and it has been less than seven days since they were in the facility, retailers should close off any areas where that employee spent prolonged periods of time, such as the food preparation area, and wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting, according to Chirag H. Bhatt, president of CHB Food Safety Consulting. Opening doors, windows and other openings can help


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FEATURE

"Food safety culture used to mean 'what you do when no one is watching.' In 2020 and going forward, you need to assume everyone will always be watching." — Kari Hensien, RizePoint airflow circulation in case of lingering virus particles. If it has been more than seven days since a COVID-positive employee was present in the facility, no additional shutdowns or extra cleaning is necessary, although Bhatt said workers should be cleaning and disinfecting all high-touch surfaces routinely. Overall, to elevate food safety culture and feel confident in both its overall acceptance and its practice in the day-to-day operations of the business, Hensien of RizePoint recommends that c-store operators ask themselves four questions: • Does your organization treat location employees like assets rather than liabilities? Employees are the first line of defense when it comes to customer experience, store-level food safety and brand protection. "This means that they have the potential to be an amazing asset or your weakest link. When you show them the purpose behind all the rules, regulations and standards, you help them understand the 'reason why'

their tasks are important," Hensien said. "And as you reinforce the right behaviors consistently, new positive habits will form quickly." • Have you made the move to seeing audits as supportive, not punitive? A key way of treating employees as valued assets is taking away punishment for noncompliance and instead rewarding them for asking questions, reporting problems and offering suggestions for improvement. Punitive programs encourage store-level employees to do just enough to stay under the radar instead of continuously improve, whereas a positive system has the potential to help them have more work satisfaction, which could also reduce turnover. • Do you have tools that give you a 30,000-foot perspective? In combination with seeking deeper insights into locations, regions and the business as a whole, such a perspective makes it easier to see trends and hotspots, helping operators know where their attention is needed most, from employee training to supply issues. • Does your quality management system software support your location employees as well as your quality/ operations teams? "I cannot emphasize enough how the right software for your business will set you up for success with your food safety culture, your quality management systems, and your food safety programs," Hensien said. Retailers should look for software that lets them gather data quickly, aggregate it from many sources, store it in one place, create a single source of truth, and automate corrective action. CSN

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


A snack break from the routine. Go beyond the expected with sophisticated, protein-packed snacks.


EXPERT’S VIEW

More Layers of Protection It’s essential to add COVID-19 protocols to your existing food safety practices

By Francine L. Shaw, President, Savvy Food Safety Inc.

CONVENIENCE STORE owners and managers must continually emphasize the importance of food safety practices to their employees. Regular cleaning, avoiding cross-contamination, holding foods at proper temperatures, etc., will help c-stores avoid food safety breaches, including foodborne illness outbreaks, norovirus incidents, etc. Now, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means every foodservice business must add additional layers of safety protocols to their routines.

Convenience store employees must embrace the new COVID-19 protocols, including more frequent/thorough cleaning and disinfecting, enforcing social distancing, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), implementing one-way traffic patterns, and limiting store capacity. These new COVID19 protocols are in addition to basic food safety practices. Every employee, across every location and shift, must comply with these safety protocols to minimize risks. COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a new, highly contagious disease that is asymptomatic in some people, but can cause serious symptoms or even death in others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that COVID-19 is spread by respiratory droplets released when people talk, cough or sneeze. The virus may also spread to hands from contaminated surfaces.

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

COVID-19 is clearly a long-term problem, requiring new protocols and ongoing vigilance. Convenience stores, like all food businesses, must make significant and continuous changes to help protect their employees and guests from contracting coronavirus. Minimize risk by doing the following: Elevate your food safety culture. It’s not enough just to instruct employees to follow the rules. Instead, explain why the rules are so important, and employees will be more likely to comply. Leadership must embrace and model this elevated culture and “walk the walk” by following the rules themselves (e.g., wearing PPE in the store, washing their hands frequently, etc.). Wash your hands. Handwashing is the No. 1 way to prevent the spread of disease, including COVID-19. Employees must wash their hands with soap and warm water for a minimum of 30 seconds. Wash hands frequently, including after using the restroom; coughing or sneezing; using cleaning products; or touching money, garbage, cellphones, doorknobs, or any other potentially contaminated surface. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol can be used in between customer interactions (e.g., at the cash register), but isn’t a substitute for proper handwashing.


Train employees regularly. Ongoing training is essential and should include all protocols, from food safety basics to the new COVID-19 requirements. Be certain that all employees are compliant and take immediate corrective actions if they aren’t. Don’t let employees work when sick. Don’t allow employees to work if they have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, or are showing symptoms of COVID-19, norovirus or other contagious illnesses. If employees have been exposed to COVID-19, they should self-quarantine for 14 days, per CDC guidelines. Elevate cleaning and disinfecting efforts. Clean and disinfect your entire store — especially high-touch areas — throughout the day, using chemicals that meet Environmental Protection Agency standards for killing COVID-19. Frequently clean surfaces such as counters and high-touch items such as doorknobs, refrigerator door handles, coffee pots and credit card keypads. Implement COVID-19 safety protocols. Require personal protective equipment (PPE) — including masks — based on recommendations from the CDC and your local jurisdiction. Limit store capacity to avoid crowds of people gathering. Enforce social distancing, ensuring that employees and customers remain 6 feet apart. Implement one-way traffic patterns. Place hand sanitizer (that contains at least 60 percent alcohol) throughout customer service areas. Use digital tools. Digital tools help ensure that critical safety protocols are being followed correctly, providing numerous advantages over pen and paper systems. Going digital will help your store(s) increase accuracy and transparency, collecting and analyzing key data across the enterprise. This allows your leaders to make more informed decisions based on data, identify trends, see hot spots, and take corrective actions as necessary. Today’s digital tools are widely accessible, affordable and user-friendly. Encourage customers to use touchless payment options. Minimize handling cash, credit cards, reward cards and mobile devices whenever possible. Disinfect the counter and use hand sanitizer between each customer.

Train employees around COVID policies while also reinforcing the importance of basic food safety rules. Post signs, barriers and other reminders of the COVID-19 protocols. Signs should reiterate social distancing guidelines, remind employees and customers to wear PPE, and encourage frequent handwashing. Add floor markings to reinforce proper social distancing and one-way traffic flow. Eliminate shared objects. Discontinue salad bars and shared fountain/drink stations. Offer single-use condiment packets instead of shared ketchup/mustard bottles. Don’t allow customers to bring in potentially contaminated items from home, such as reusable cups. Ensure proper ventilation. Be certain that your facility’s ventilation systems operate properly. Increase circulation of outdoor air whenever possible by opening windows and doors. Stay informed on the latest COVID-19 information. Information on coronavirus changes often, so stay up to date via reputable websites like the CDC, Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health. Design a COVID-19 point of contact for each location and shift, who can communicate with their teams, answer questions, and handle any issues that arise. Be certain that all employees receive — and understand — updated information on COVID19 protocols, coronavirus symptoms, etc. While COVID-19 is obviously top of mind right now, don’t lose sight of other important food safety protocols. Train employees around COVID policies while also reinforcing the importance of basic food safety rules. It’s important for convenient stores to mitigate COVID-19 risks, as well as other food safety breaches, to keep employees and guests safer.

Francine L. Shaw is president of Savvy Food Safety Inc., a company that offers a robust roster of services, including consulting, food safety education, food safety inspections, crisis management training, developing norovirus policies, and more. She is also helping companies develop COVID-19 policies, response plans, training programs, and employee pre-shift health assessments. Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.

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FEATURE

THE CONSUMER RESPONSE The foodservice category is feeling the effects as shoppers visit c-stores less these days By Linda Lisanti THE CONVENIENCE STORE industry has spent much of 2020 playing defense against the coronavirus pandemic, rapidly changing in-store protocols to meet consumers’ heightened safety and cleanliness expectations, and rolling out new services like delivery, curbside pickup and mobile/online ordering to fulfill the demand for contactless shopping options.

Still, more than half of consumers (52 percent) say they are shopping at c-stores less during the pandemic than previously, while only 14 percent are shopping more, according to an exclusive shopper study conducted by Convenience Store News on changes in shopping frequency and behavior in the convenience channel during the pandemic.

Among the top reasons why consumers say they are shopping less at c-stores these days is because of changes in their daily routine due to the pandemic (many are working from home on a full-time or parttime basis); they’re not filling up their vehicles with fuel as often; they’re not traveling as much for leisure; and they’re not eating out as often. While nearly every c-store product category has been impacted in some way by COVID-19, the foodservice category has been among the hardest hit. Along with the decreased foot traffic, many retailers in the early days of the pandemic either opted to or were forced to shut down their fresh food and dispensed beverage programs to adhere to local COVID-19 safety precautions. While these programs have started to come back online, it’s proving to be a slow climb to get the foodservice category back to where it was previously.

CSNews’ exclusive shopper study also revealed the following:

Convenience Store Shopping by Occasion Before vs. During Pandemic Not surprising given changing work routines, morning occasions — breakfast and morning snack — have seen the largest increase during the pandemic of shoppers saying they rarely or never purchase from c-stores during these occasions. Conversely, the lunch and dinner occasions have both seen a bump during the pandemic in the percentage of shoppers saying they regularly purchase from c-stores for these occasions. Regularly

Occasionally

Rarely/never BEFORE PANDEMIC

25% 34% 41%

Breakfast

21% 34% 45%

Morning snack

27% 38% 35%

Lunch

23% 36% 41%

Afternoon snack

26% 27% 47%

Dinner

21% 32% 47%

Evening snack

18% 28% 54%

Late night snack

DURING PANDEMIC

23% 29% 48%

16% 29% 55%

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

29% 33% 38%

18% 37% 45%

30% 23% 47%

17% 31% 52%

17% 27% 60%


Beverages Purchased at Convenience Stores Before vs. During Pandemic With shoppers making fewer c-store visits during the pandemic, most beverage types have seen a drop in purchases (with the exception of bottled water multipacks). However, the dispensed beverage categories have experienced the largest decreases. Before pandemic

During pandemic

Cold dispensed

58% 43%

Bottled water (single)

Milk

Frozen dispensed

52% 49%

52% 36%

49% 46%

Beer

Packaged non-alcoholic (single)

Packaged non-alcoholic (multipack)

Bottled water (multipack)

38% 38%

Hot dispensed

38% 32%

36% 32%

40%

27%

Flavored malt beverage

30% 26%

30%

19%

Prepared Foods Purchased at Convenience Stores Before vs. During Pandemic Like beverages, all c-store prepared food types have seen a drop in purchases during the pandemic. Grab-and-go single meals posted the largest decrease (down 8 points). Made-to-order family meals have withstood the pandemic the best, dropping just four points from its pre-pandemic level, further underscoring that households are using c-stores more now for dinner solutions than they did before the pandemic. Before pandemic

During pandemic

Grab-and-go (single meal)

45% 37%

Made-to-order (single meal)

38% 33%

Made-to-order (family meal)

Grab-and-go (family meal)

36% 30%

32% 28%

The survey was fielded from Aug. 20 to Aug. 24, and responses were gathered from 504 convenience store shoppers nationwide. In order to qualify, shoppers were required to be over 18 years old, reside in the U.S., and have shopped at c-stores during the COVID-19 pandemic. A mix of those who have shopped c-stores more, same or less were included.

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FOODSERVICE

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

Specialty Sips Beverage retailers turn up the craveability factor with trendy, emerging flavors WHAT SAYS INDULGENT more than hot chocolate on a cold day? Sure, there are a ton of trendy beverages like kombucha, matcha lattes and milk tea, but we can’t forget about the classics. Specialty coffee and other hot and cold beverages carry a high degree of craveability that can be amplified with trendy, emerging flavors.

Hot Chocolate What’s not to love about hot chocolate? This nostalgic drink hits all the right notes — sweet, rich and chocolatey. While it’s an American classic, this drink has been consumed for centuries dating back to the Mayans and Aztecs, when the fruit of the cacao tree was roasted and then mixed with water and chilis. Hot chocolate can be found in many forms throughout foodservice and retail. In the past four years, Mexican hot chocolate has experienced a slight lift of 6 percent on hot chocolate menus, as operators incorporate cinnamon, chili and cayenne. Operators are also swapping out milk chocolate for dark or white chocolate, depending on the desired flavor profile, for yet another twist on this classic. Playing on childhood favorites, hot chocolate has been reimagined into “unicorn” hot chocolate using a white chocolate that has been dyed blue, pink or purple and then topped with lots of colorful marshmallows, sprinkles, and maybe even a candy or cotton-candy unicorn horn.

Dessert-Inspired Coffee While pumpkin spice pioneered the way when it comes to dessert-infused coffee, the category has evolved as operators now take inspiration from nostalgic flavors to global desserts. Coffee is the perfect vessel for innovation, and there is no shortage of dessert-inspired specialty beverages, like cookie infusions. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s limited-edition Tiramisu Ice Blended Drink took an Italian coffee-based dessert, blended it with cream cheese, dark chocolate and sweet vanilla, and then topped it with Speculoos cookie crumbs. According to Datassential’s International Concepts report, 76 percent of U.S. consumers say they are interested in seeing more concepts from global coffee and tea chains on U.S. menus. There is no shortage of new ideas when it comes to international coffee concepts, from a ruby chocolate chai latte, to a hojicha red bean frappe, or a brown sugar bubble milk. CSN

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81

52%

definitely or probably would buy

unbranded PI

75

95

95

versus other QSR items

versus other non-alcoholic beverages

versus other items from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

93

67%

definitely or probably would buy

branded PI

--

--

93

versus other QSR items

versus other non-alcoholic beverages

versus other items from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

99

60%

extremely or very unique

uniqueness

99

99

100

versus other QSR items

versus other non-alcoholic beverages

versus other items from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

90

24%

would order the item all the time

frequency

86

81

83

versus other QSR items

versus other non-alcoholic beverages

versus other items from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

99

56%

would visit somewhere just for this item

draw

98

99

99

versus other QSR items

versus other non-alcoholic beverages

versus other items from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

56

38%

excellent or good value for the dollar

value

27

49

79

versus other QSR items

versus other non-alcoholic beverages

versus other items from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

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

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


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2021: The Year of the Menthol Ban? Massachusetts and California are the first two states to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes By Melissa Kress IN LATE 2013,

New York City became the first major metropolitan area to raise the minimum legal age to buy tobacco products to 21 when then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg put his signature on a Tobacco 21 measure. Little by little, the Tobacco 21 movement began to hopscotch around the country — slowly moving through the local level at first before reaching the state level less than two years later, when in June 2015, the movement notched another milestone when Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a Tobacco 21 measure into law, making it the first state in the United States to prohibit the sale, purchase, possession or consumption of cigarettes, other tobacco products and electronic smoking devices to anyone under 21. The law took effect Jan. 1, 2016. California soon followed suit, enacting the second statewide Tobacco 21 law in June 2016. By the end of 2019, the federal government fell in line when President Donald Trump officially raised the national tobacco buying age from 18 to 21. With the legal purchasing age tackled, some local officials began pushing flavored tobacco bans as yet another means to keep tobacco products out of the hands of underage consumers — a goal everyone agrees with, even if they object to the methods. In June 2017, San Francisco became the first major metropolitan area to take the flavor ban a step further by including menthol cigarettes — a topic that’s been long-debated since the Food and Drug Administration’s 2011 Tobacco Products Scientific Advisory Committee menthol report.

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

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which has joint jurisdiction over the city and the county, unanimously approved an ordinance prohibiting the sale of all flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes. However, the legislation was blocked by a grassroots organization, setting the stage for a ballot question in the June 2018 general election. Voters overwhelmingly approved what was known as Proposition E, with more than 100,000 saying yes to the measure. Little by little, cities and towns across the United States began debating their own flavored tobacco bans. Known for its patchwork of aggressive tobacco legislation, Massachusetts moved to the forefront of this trend and in November 2019, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill into law making the Bay State the first to enact a statewide ban on the sale of flavored tobacco products including menthol cigarettes. The measure took effect June 1, 2020. California soon followed. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a flavored tobacco ban including menthol into law on Aug. 28. The governor’s stamp of approval came after the California Senate voted 34-0 in favor of the move and the California Assembly voted 58-1 in favor. Sound familiar? Is it just a matter of time now before there’s federal movement on menthol?

Is This a Pattern? While it is probably too soon to know if menthol bans will follow the same pattern of Tobacco 21 and wash over the country, the convenience channel can takes some cues from what is already happening at retail to prepare themselves from any potential change. During McLane Co. Inc.’s virtual 2020 National Trade Show, Greg Tradup, product director, cigarettes and tobacco at McLane, took a look at what’s happened in San Francisco. “Just prior to the ban going into play, consumers in San Francisco and the surrounding areas all gravitated toward



TOBACCO

San Francisco Flavored Tobacco Ban • With enforcement beginning January 1, 2019, San Francisco banned all flavored tobacco, including menthol and mint. San Francisco

Surrounding Areas (Alameda & Daly City)

40% +19%

20% 0%

Ban Enforced 1/1/19

-20%

-27% -34%

-40% 3Q17

4Q17

1Q18

2Q18

Ban Begins 7/20/18

3Q18

-24%

4Q18

1Q19

2Q19

3Q19

4Q19

Source: MSAi wholesale shipments data through 6/27/2020

stocking up on flavored products. We saw quite a big growth just before the ban happened in purchases of flavored products,” he explained. Once the ban occurred, cigarette volume dropped in San Francisco while it began to rise in the surrounding areas of Alameda and Daly City, according to data from Management Science Associates Inc. (MSA). Specifically, MSA’s numbers show that by the first quarter of 2019, when enforcement began, cigarette volume in San Francisco dropped 24 percent vs. the same quarter in 2018. Conversely, cigarette volume in Alameda and Daly City increased 19 percent year over year. About a year into San Francisco’s ban, the volume in surrounding areas began to level off as consumers weren’t traveling around as much, according to Tradup. “We started to see consumers move from a preference of flavored tobacco to non-flavored tobacco, and you see that uptick continue in sales of tobacco,” he said. “It shows consumer patterns will change over time. They will rush to an area where they can buy the products

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they are looking for, but on several occasions, consumers will convert themselves over to a non-flavored product.” MSA’s data illustrates this shift. In the fourth quarter of 2019, cigarette volume in San Francisco began to tick up closer to pre-ban levels, while cigarette volume in the surrounding areas began to tick down.

Statewide Impact Massachusetts is only a few months into its ban, but some notable numbers are already emerging. From a cigarette tax stamp sale perspective, the state is losing $10 million a month. Neighboring New Hampshire is picking up a significant amount of that. Through September, New Hampshire picked up $5.5 million a month and Rhode Island picked up about $2.2 million a month, according to Jon Shaer, executive director of the New England Convenience Store & Energy Marketers Association (NECSEMA). “That’s just in tax stamp sales. We see Massachusetts losing this money, and we see New Hampshire and Rhode Island picking up about 80 percent of that, without tracking Connecticut,” Shaer said, adding that it’s hard to know, of the balance, how much is going to the black market and how much is being purchased online. “Those are the most telling numbers. And that’s just cigarettes; it does not include OTP [other tobacco


products]. When you start to factor in smokeless, pipe or cigar just in excise tax, Massachusetts is on pace to lose $150 million from June 1, 2020 to May 30, 2021,” he said. “Then, when you factor in the sales tax and market basket losses, it’s far north of $150 million. It’s an unmitigated disaster for the state,” Shaer continued. “Massachusetts is losing all the revenue, but cigarettes are still coming back into the state. It’s unlikely that smokers in New Hampshire and Rhode Island started smoking more.”

At the Store Level From a retail perspective, retailers in Massachusetts are seeing year-over-year losses of 25 percent in total cigarette sales. Non-flavored smokeless sales in Massachusetts are actually up 500 percent, and non-flavored cigarette sales are up 13 percent, so some tobacco users are migrating to non-flavored products, according to Shaer. At the same time, New Hampshire is seeing total cigarette sales up 65 percent, flavored cigarette sales up around 100 percent, and flavored smokeless sales up about 175 percent. “It gives you an indication of what is happening,” he explained. “In this region, over the past four months, we saw significant drops in Massachusetts in flavored, lifts in non-flavored, and we are seeing a tremendous amount of those flavored sales go over the borders.” New Hampshire also has a lower state cigarette excise tax, $1.78 per pack, compared to Massachusetts’ $3.51-per-pack levy, so there have always been crossborder sales. However, now there is a significant incentive beyond just the savings. “If you are a c-store chain with locations in multiple states, the sales balance out. But I’ve spoken to a number of independent operators along the Rhode Island border and a number along the New Hampshire border and they are really worried. They have to make some really hard decisions,” Shaer said. While it is still early, if those sales are lost consistently over a long period of time, there isn’t a new product waiting to replace 30 percent of the store, he added. “At some point, they will start to feel

“...Consumer patterns will change over time. They will rush to an area where they can buy the products they are looking for, but on several occasions, consumers will convert themselves over to a non-flavored product.” — Greg Tradup, McLane Co. Inc. those lost sales and they are not quickly replaceable by another category. It’s not like people are suddenly drinking more soda or buying more packs of gum,” he said.

The Next Possible Issue Now that Massachusetts has a higher tobacco buying age and a statewide flavor ban, what’s next for the state when it comes to tobacco legislation? Well, it could eventually phase out the sale of tobacco products altogether through the Tobacco Free Generation movement. According to Shaer, the initiative started in the late 1970s as a way to establish a date whereby if you were born after that date, you cannot buy tobacco products. It is an issue Brookline, Mass., is currently debating. Various committees and boards have voted against it, and it was slated to go before the Town Meeting members on Nov. 17. “Certainly, the Tobacco Free Generation is the next frontier in Massachusetts, which already passed a menthol ban,” Shaer pointed out. “I would say to anybody in California or any other state, certainly be vigilant of menthol bans, but don’t sleep on Tobacco Free Generation.” CSN

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CBD

Earlier this year, VERC Enterprises opened its first CBD Wellness Center.

CBD University Eight key lessons for navigating the current cannabidiol world By Renée M. Covino SHOULD C-STORE now stand for cannabidiol

store? Not quite, but more convenience stores have made the jump into the CBD category, and those that have already been in it are expanding and refining their sets. Des Moines, Iowa-based Yesway recently increased its presence in the CBD space by adding four new packaged beverage CBD brands — Kill Cliff, Defy, Weller and CBD Living Sparkling Water — for a total of 14 new SKUs. Yesway now touts having the largest assortment of CBD beverages in the c-store industry, with a mission to create a destination for the growing circle of wellness-conscious CBD consumers. The chain, which is the retail arm of BW Gas & Convenience Holdings LLC, operates 415 stores in Iowa, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. Along with beverages, it also offers CBD in the form of supplements, topicals, shots, confectionery, smoking and non-smoking. Earlier in the

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year, it partnered with BettermentRS, a health and wellness company also based in Des Moines, for procurement, distribution and training in the CBD space. “CBD is yet another example of Yesway’s continued dedication to introducing health and wellness products to our consumers,” said Alan Adato, the retailer’s merchandising and procurement manager. “Further, it is important to our social commitment to bring health and wellness items, in a meaningful way, to areas that do not have easy access to these products.” Duxbury, Mass.-based VERC Enterprises is another c-store chain expanding its CBD footprint. Earlier this year, VERC opened its first CBD Wellness Center inside one of its existing convenience stores in Plymouth, Mass. The store-withina-store concept is the first of its kind in the region, according to the operator of 34 c-stores in Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. In partnership with Ceres Natural Remedies of Vermont, the CBD Wellness Center offers extensive educational opportunities on CBD health benefits. “Working with Ceres, we bring lab-tested, handcrafted CBD products for everyone’s budget and needs. Our team believes strongly in educating our customers as to which products and solutions are best for you, your loved ones, and even your pets,” the retailer says on its website.


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Boulder, Colo.-based The Cigarette Store Corp., doing business as Smoker Friendly, is upping its CBD offering as well based on the success it’s seeing with existing products. The operator of 160 U.S. stores partners with Longmont, Colo.-based Solari Hemp and announced in November that it was immediately expanding its commitment to now sell the full line of Solari CBD products.

a liquid in a convenient pump top that’s easy to use and freshens breath, and a satisfying chew.

The decision, according to the retailer, was based on the successful results the chain has experienced with the Solari brand over the past year, and the overall increased demand for quality CBD products around the world.

Retailers looking to be taken seriously in the CBD space should “heavily vet” the brands they carry, advised Derek Thomas, vice president of business development for Veritas Farms. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the company manufactures a core-product CBD line, as well as specialized Veritas Pet and Veritas Beauty lines.

“We continue to see double-digit growth of Solari’s CBD products in our stores,” said Tim Green, category director for Smoker Friendly. “There is a high demand for quality CBD products at affordable prices and Solari’s convenience-store packaging and pricing continue to gain popularity among our customers.”

“They should have a transparent supply chain, no structure-function claims in their marketing, full-panel COAs [certificate of analysis] that are performed by a third-party ISO-certified lab and are correlated to the lot number of the product, a 360-degree marketing plan to move product off the shelves, and the ability to act as a partner to you while you navigate and learn the category,” Thomas said.

CBD LESSON #1: Get a Reputable Partner, Preferably a Local One What all of these retailers have in common, and perhaps the first lesson of mastering the c-store edition of the CBD game, is getting a reputable partner, preferably a local one.

CBD LESSON #3: Focus on Wellness The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the wellness connection to CBD, according to Ian Kelly, vice president of operations for NuLeaf Naturals LLC, based in Denver. The company, whose vision is to pave the way for a line of cannabinoid wellness products that promote a healthy body and mind, reports that the pandemic is having a positive impact on CBD sales.

The CBD movement began in the natural channel with discerning retailers who were committed to learning and educating their consumers. The convenience channel is not on that level — at least not yet — so chains need the help of at least one partnering CBD manufacturer to build trust in a category where consumers have a lot of questions. CV Sciences Inc. CEO Joe Dowling suggests c-store operators offer in-store educational material for both staff and consumers “in order to build trust and loyalty by teaching consumers about the benefits of CBD, how to find products that work for them, and how to use these products safely.” Based in San Diego, CV Sciences has been selling CBD products for nearly a decade, but just recently launched its Happy Lane line specifically aimed at the convenience channel. According to Dowling, the company picked specific form factors that research and buying trends indicated will resonate with c-store shoppers, such as

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

CBD LESSON #2: Ask Suppliers the Tough Questions Upfront No matter the CBD manufacturer chosen — either to partner with or buy from — the tough questions need to be asked upfront. Are you fully insured? Do you take products back? Do you have a certificate of analysis? Those are just the ice breakers.

“As more people are stuck at home and becoming even more health-conscious, they seek alternative remedies they believe will be helpful in conjunction with more mainstream medical interventions,” Kelly explained. While c-stores might not have been considered wellness destinations before COVID, the channel’s “convenience” factor can change that now, and there are CBD items that fall right in line with the products c-stores already sell, such as vapor products, gummies, chewables and beverages. CBD LESSON #4: Keep Items Affordable C-stores are a great fit for CBD items with lower price points that are not often available at other retailers, notes Thomas of Veritas Farms. Furthermore, “the franchise model of many c-stores allows them some autonomy in their CBD selections, allowing for items that may not be available in other chain retailers, like tinctures and gummies,” he said. Convenience stores should offer low-cost, entry-level products to enable trial for new users and current users curious about new-product formats, added Mike Luce, president and cofounder of High Yield Insights, a datadriven research company focused on the cannabis/CBD


Yesway partners with BettermentRS, a health and wellness company, for procurement, distribution and training in the CBD space.

market. “For example, a CBD-infused sparkling water is a much more approachable option from a price-point perspective than a cream or a bottle of capsules for the c-store consumer,” he explained. CBD LESSON #5: Segregate the Category While it doesn’t have to be a store-withina-store as VERC has done, CBD industry insiders agree that there should be a carved-out CBD section in the c-store if the retailer wants to be taken seriously in the category. “Placement is one of the most important things for successful sales in convenience stores because customers do not assume it is there,” said Andy Rodosevich, CEO and cofounder of Hemp Depot, one of the largest wholesale providers of hemp CBD oil products, seed and clones. “A separate section legitimizes the store as a place of purchase.” The way some in the industry see it, the increasing consumer comfort level with CBD should elevate the comfort level of c-store operators to make a section for it. “Many fears that may have come a few years ago from lack of information have vanished,” said Dan Victor, founder and CEO of Pocket Tea, maker of a range of CBD energy pouches and caffeine/CBD combination products. “People have a higher degree of trust in their local c-store than the faceless online store. As more and more people try CBD and use it regularly for a variety of purposes, the case grows for c-stores to make a splash of the category.”

CBD LESSON #6: Educate & Incentivize There’s little consensus among consumers on where to go for information about CBD products, according to High Yield Insights research. So, Luce advises c-store operators to “up the understanding of CBD” across all of their frontline staff. The most efficient means might be to map the CBD products in-store against the different segments of shoppers. “Staff can be armed with a short list of product recommendations based on the demographics and questions of shoppers seeking information,” Luce told Convenience Store News. Keeping in mind that a lot of c-store customers will be first-time CBD purchasers, Hemp Depot’s Rodosevich believes retailers should not only arm their staff with information, but also incentivize them to support the category. “Even if customers have already made the mental decision that they want to purchase a CBD product, they’re typically going to have questions like, how much should I take? Is this a good brand? Is there testing with this brand? So, anything that can be done to help cashiers be knowledgeable — even incentives to develop that knowledge — is huge,” Rodosevich said. “Retailers that can incentivize and motivate their team to go the extra mile with knowledge and customer service stand to be very successful with CBD sales.” CBD LESSON #7: Keep Up With the Latest Innovations Innovation in the CBD category continues to grow, and part of a c-store operator’s education process should be to keep up with all new developments. Combining CBD with other wellness ingredients is a popular trend of late. For instance, Pocket Tea’s OE.X+CBD combines an energy pouch/caffeine with CBD. “I think showing customers that CBD isn’t just a

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CBD

standalone product, but can work in conjunction with an ingredient as familiar as caffeine and as a beverage, a pouch or a tincture, makes it feel more familiar to people,” Victor said. “Plus, we figured that whether a consumer feels that CBD reduces knee inflammation or anxiety, there’s no reason why they need reduced energy as well. Why purchase two products when you can get everything in one?” Rodosevich pointed out that Hemp Depot is seeing great traction in pressed tablets because the form makes it possible to blend multiple ingredients into one product, such as CBD with energy ingredients or sleep ingredients like melatonin. “If you were already planning to purchase a sleep aid or multivitamin and for a few dollars more can purchase one with CBD in it as well, that is an easy decision for a growing percentage of the population,” he said. CBD LESSON #8: Know That Regulation Is Coming Speaking at a conference in February, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn, M.D., talked about the burgeoning market for CBD. “We know one thing: the American people are using CBD products,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to say, ‘you can’t use these products.’ It’s a fool’s game to try to even approach that.” Hahn went on to say that the FDA is open to the fact that there might be value in CBD, and that the agency wants to get information to Americans to help them make the right decisions. He spoke of the FDA moving “deliberately” to determine the safety of CBD, recognizing that the long-term effects are unknown. CV Sciences’ Dowling feels there’s no doubt that regulation is near. “Full FDA regulations for hemp-derived CBD products are coming, likely in 2021,” he predicts, reiterating that c-stores must vet their suppliers carefully. “Only companies that have invested in compliance will survive the attrition to come after regulation,” Dowling said. “This course of events will resemble the ongoing developments in the vape category, where only proactive companies have survived.” CSN

CBD Drink Users Spike During Pandemic A diverse group of younger and more affluent consumers are beginning to prefer CBD beverages for socializing and on-the-go relief of anxiety, insomnia and depression, according to an October survey conducted by cannabis market research firm High Yield Insights among more 4,000 CBD users, including 1,200 CBD beverage users. The survey also found: • 60 percent of consumers adopted CBD since the coronavirus outbreak; • 62 percent of CBD drink users are Generation Z or millennials; • 33 percent have household incomes over $100,000; • CBD drink users are open to use infused drinks to alleviate nausea and for exercise recovery; and • CBD drink users are open to “household brands” entering the CBD market. The beverage format appeals to consumers new to CBD because it is accessible, easy to dose, and resembles functional drinks in the mainstream market,” said Mike Luce, president of High Yield Insights and a 20-year veteran in consumer insights and market research. “Picking up a single can or bottle is a relatively inexpensive solution for curious mainstream consumers. This is evident from nonusers, who indicated greater interest in CBD beverages than any other format,” he pointed out.

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TECHNOLOGY

The Digital Roadmap C-store tech executives talked priorities, the global pandemic and what the future holds during Convenience Store News' 2020 Virtual Technology Leadership Series By Melissa Kress

an afterthought in the convenience store industry. Consumers are demanding more and if one retailer fails to meet their needs, they will simply choose another retailer that does.

TECHNOLOGY IS NO LONGER

To find out what it takes to embark on a digital journey, Convenience Store News' 2020 Virtual Technology Leadership Series brought together c-store tech leaders to share best practices and discuss the future technology needs of the industry. The three-part series kicked off on Oct. 1 and continued on Oct. 8 before wrapping up on Oct. 15. "When I think about it more broadly, our objective at Casey's is to create a much more modern and contemporary business model essentially to deepen the relationship with our guests," Art Sebastian, vice president of digital at Casey's General Stores Inc., told CSNews Editorial Director Don Longo during a one-on-one chat held on day one of the series. The first step to meeting that objective, according to Sebastian, was launching a digital guest strategy at Casey's. That entailed, among other things, implementing its first customer relationship management (CRM) platform; launching a mobile website; going live with a native mobile app; and launching a loyalty program, Casey's Rewards. "All of this is very important because consumers really want to engage with retailers and restaurants in a much more digital manner, and they want to have choices in how they engage," he explained. "It's really important to us, and I think the understatement of the year is 'digital is the new normal.'"

Sebastian joined Ankeny, Iowa-based Casey's two years ago. At the time, the company had a 50-year presence in the convenience channel and a portfolio of roughly 2,200 convenience stores across 16 states — with about half of those stores in small towns. Along its digital transformation journey, Casey's has taken several key steps, including organizing its guest data in one area. Another step was implementing a marketing automation tool to communicate the right messages to its guests. The journey has come with some challenges. "Anytime you are standing up a new technology stack, there is a lot of planning that needs to go into that," Sebastian said. Moving forward, he said Casey's will continue to put more emphasis on its customers, so guest insights and analytics from its loyalty program will be an area of focus in the near future. The retailer will also concentrate on shifting from mass marketing to targeted marketing. "In the digital space, there is so much to get done. Things are changing so rapidly," he said.

Moving Technology to the Top Like Casey's, many c-store retailers have put technology initiatives high on their agendas this year as the nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic. Day one of the series also featured a retailer panel discussion comprised of Sebastian; Jeremie Myhren, chief information officer for Rockford, Ill.-based Road Ranger; Howard Hyche, vice president, technology, at Mount Pleasant, S.C.based Refuel Operating Co.; and Mike Welsh,

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


Convenience Store News' 2020 Virtual Technology Leadership Series brought together c-store tech leaders from the retailer and supplier communities.

chief creative officer at New York-based Mobiquity. At Refuel, integrating technology systems following its acquisition of the Indianola, Miss.-based Double Quick convenience store chain has been the top priority, according to Hyche. At Road Ranger, Myhren explained that the retailer channeled the majority of its energy at the beginning of the pandemic into tech operations — including getting employees up and running remotely. The company then quickly switched over to tech innovation, including initiatives such as third-party delivery. At the same time, the retailer was in the final stages of converting its point-of-sale systems. Myhren pointed out that there are two sides of tech: operations and innovation. "It's the same competency, but sometimes it's really two competing interests," he said. When embarking on a digital transformation journey, Welsh advised that retailers should always put themselves in their customers' place. "You have about 90 seconds of a transaction with an average order value of $7.

That's the whole brand experience the person is going to have, so you have to balance what experience you want to create for someone in that 90-second window and the effects on operations and labor — because if you add time, you add labor costs and across a network of stores, that could be millions of dollars a year," he said. Adding to that, Myhren advised fellow retailers to start with a brand identity and a desired customer value proposition. "Our No. 1 value proposition has always been convenience, but we're more than that and we can be more than that," he said. "Make sure you've got those things front of mind and understood, and don't start building anything or buying anything from anybody until you know those two things. Let that be your roadmap for how you do it." In these challenging times, partnerships are also increasingly important. Hyche said Refuel has focused on making sure its partners can help the company quickly adapt. "These days, we need to do everything faster than we have done it in the past, so we need partners that are agile and have the bandwidth to do these projects," he said. "We've tried to focus on that, stay in touch with our technology partners, and find out where the roadmap is and where we fit on that roadmap." Jeff Bradbury, senior marketing director at Hughes Network Systems, described the industry's technology investments over the past year as the acceleration of initiatives that were already on c-store retailer's agendas,

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TECHNOLOGY

including curbside pickup, third-party delivery and contactless payment. "Those are not one-and-done investments. Those were already on roadmaps. Those are fundamental changes to the way convenience stores deliver on their promise of convenience," he explained. "The investments of this are going to be supported and built upon for the foreseeable few years." On day three of the Virtual Technology Leadership Series, Bradbury took part in a webcast entitled "Meeting New Consumer Needs,” joined by Longo and Ed Collupy, a c-store technology veteran and executive consultant at W. Capra Consulting Group. The trio presented and analyzed the findings of the exclusive 2020 CSNews Technology Study. According to the research, the No. 1 priority among c-store retailers is becoming EMV compliant at the forecourt. The EMV forecourt deadline was slated for October 2019, but was then pushed back to April 2021 after industry players raised concerns about meeting the original deadline

"Enabling technologies that facilitate less friction and less touch really affects the consumer in a profound way." — Gus Olympidis, Family Express Corp.

because of COVID-19 challenges. Although the liability shift was delayed six months, more than half of the c-store retailers surveyed are still not prepared. Bradbury cautioned that there are significant implications — from both a security perspective and a financial perspective — in not becoming EMV compliant by the deadline. "There is a heavy burden there to get it done on time," he said. "For those who don't, they really need to drill in on what the cost of failing to be compliant will be."

The COVID-19 Effect Although faced with operational challenges driven by the pandemic, the health crisis also spurred c-store operators to accelerate some technology-powered initiatives like contactless payment, home delivery and curbside pickup.

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


Discussing which technologies will be the most important post-COVID, Collupy said the pandemic has led the industry into the ecommerce world in a bigger way. "Convenience retailers are fast and reactionary. Implementation of order ahead, curbside pickup and delivery, they were likely on people's roadmaps, but now they are realities and they are going to need to be sustained," he advised.

as the Technology Leader of the Year on day two of the CSNews series. "Enabling technologies that facilitate less friction and less touch really affects the consumer in a profound way," he said. "Everything that we are doing, in terms of technology, is designed today to facilitate not just the removal of friction, but also unnecessary touch." At Family Express, Olympidis explained that the company's culture is rooted in the belief that "we are students for life."

In order to sustain those, retailers will need the help of many of their current solution providers, and they'll need them to move just as quickly as they are, he added.

"Consumers' expectations change over time — some very quickly — and you need to be on your toes to capture those changes early on, so you are not left behind," he said.

"Many retailers are moving to an API-first approach to new implementations and with the help of Conexxus, retailers will have a new technology foundation that will provide improved and faster integration capabilities," Collupy said.

Going forward, he said the challenge always is to try to define the things you don't know. "We are consumed by solving problems that we know we have, but very often the problem that is prevalent is the one that goes unnoticed," Olympidis said, adding that there are always opportunities out there "that we are not smart enough to detect."

The pandemic also highlighted the need — and desire — for limiting touch, according to Gus Olympidis, founder and CEO of Family Express Corp., who was honored

What Lies Ahead Family Express is not alone in trying to stay ahead of consumers' changing expectations.

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TECHNOLOGY

During another retailer panel discussion, held on day two of the event, Road Ranger's Myhren noted that the c-store industry as a whole is up against two big challenges that are pandemic-related: regulatory changes and evolving customer demands. "Trying to synthesize and react to those regulatory changes and customer demands … changing the ways we have done things for a long time will be the big challenge for us," he said, describing it as both an operational challenge and a technology challenge.

priorities while we try to allow ourselves some capacity to pivot when these challenges come our way that we have no way of seeing or forecasting. "For us, it's being disciplined and going after the right technologies and the right initiatives that meet customer expectations, but not chasing everything so that we do have the ability to pivot when we need to," Jones continued. Offering the supplier perspective, Steve O'Toole, vice president of NCR Corp., agreed that the topic of change and changing consumer expectations is at the top of the list for the c-store industry these days.

At Parker's, Eric Jones, chief innovation officer for the Savannah, Ga.-based convenience store chain, said pandemic-related challenges have included major labor shortages, coin shortages, product shortages, as well as regulatory concerns.

"Factor in that most convenience and fuel retailers have a monolithic system that doesn't actually allow innovation and change to be delivered quickly, that puts the retailer in a real bind," O'Toole said. "I think the balance is to find a way to invest — for compliance, for ease of maintenance — to reduce the cost of ownership and also allow for innovation."

"If I learned anything this year, [it's that] whatever I think is going to be our biggest challenge, I am probably wrong," he acknowledged. "The major challenge is going to be balancing all the competing

John Notte, vice president of sales for Franke Coffee Systems, pointed out that for the supplier community, responding to the needs of the retailer, who is reacting to the needs of the consumer, is critical and a challenge that will continue. CSN

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FEATURE

COPING WITH COVID

The pandemic’s impact is being felt across the entire distribution landscape By Don Longo

distributors to the convenience store industry saw an average sales increase of almost 2 percent this year despite the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

THE NATION’S TOP WHOLESALE

McLane Co. Inc., Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc. and EbyBrown Co. once again grabbed the top three spots on Convenience Store News’ annual ranking of the largest wholesalers to the convenience channel. Based on survey data collected by CSNews, independent data sources and CSNews estimates, the annual CSNews Top Wholesalers Report provides the industry’s only look at the performance of the leading wholesale distributors to the c-store industry. As might be expected, a large majority of the distributors on this year’s ranking (almost eight out of 10) said the coronavirus pandemic is the single biggest trend affecting their business today, with 10 percent of respondents describing the effect as a “large negative impact.” Other negative impacts cited were supply shortages, increased demand for hard-to-get items, and not being able to talk to their retailer customers face to face. One positive byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic mentioned by respondents is increased sales of cigarettes and other tobacco products. Tobacco overall is the largest sales category for convenience wholesalers, representing nearly 80 percent of their total sales. Cigarettes alone comprise 67.8 percent of wholesaler sales, according to this year’s survey. After cigarettes and other tobacco products (10.7 percent), foodservice is the third-largest category distributed by wholesalers to the convenience channel. Foodservice represents about 7 percent of their total sales, followed by candy/gum/packaged sweet snacks at 4.6 percent, salty snacks at 2.5 percent, and grocery at 2.1 percent. A little more than 3 percent of their sales come from general merchandise/health and beauty care and packaged beverages combined, while fresh produce, gourmet/ natural/specialty foods and CBD products combine for less than 1 percent of their total sales. Half of respondents said they expanded into new product categories this past year, citing CBD, personal protective equipment, fresh packaged fruit and salads, and prepackaged take-home meals. In addition, 70 percent of respondents said they expanded their foodservice selection.

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

Top Wholesalers Summary TOTAL SALES (Percent change vs. year ago): Top 19 wholesalers

$89.0 billion (+1.5%)

Top 5 wholesalers

$79.2 billion (+1.2%)

AVERAGE SALES PER: Company Retail location served Warehouse

$4.684 billion $549,390 $662 million

Full-time employee

$2.121 million

PERCENT OF SALES: Chains Single stores

50% 50%

Percent of Sales by Category Cigarettes

67.9%

Other tobacco products

10.7%

Foodservice

7.1%

Candy/gum/packaged sweet snacks

4.6%

Salty snacks

2.5%

Grocery

2.1%

General merchandise/health & beauty care

1.8%

Packaged beverages

1.6%

Other

0.9%

Fresh produce

0.4%

Gourmet/natural/specialty food

0.3%

CBD

0.1%

C-store industry wholesalers also invested in new technology and business services for their customers this year. Among the new technologies that were either added or enhanced are: • Sales technology solutions; • Enhanced data analytics tools; • Customer-specific solutions; • New ordering technologies; • Virtual trade shows; • Updated warehouse technology and ordering; and • Scanning at customer delivery and customer receiving.


70%

2020

of of convenience convenience wholesalers say they've they've expanded expanded their their foodservice foodservice offering offering in in the the past year.

70%

50%

of convenience wholesalers say they've they've expanded expanded into into new product categories categories in the past past year. year.

Some distributors also cited enhanced category management capabilities, expanded analytics teams, and better customer access to monthly and new-item promotional material.

Merger Moves While the top three wholesalers retained their spots atop this year’s list, along with No. 4 H.T. Hackney Co., a new organization moved into the No. 5 slot. National Convenience Distributors LLC (NCD) was formed in April 2020 from the merger of Allen Brothers Wholesale Distribution, J. Polep Distribution Services and Harold Levinson Associates. Backed by private-equity firm Palm Beach Capital, NCD has become the largest full-line convenience store distributor serving the Northeast. Upon its formation, the company promised to bring enhanced customer experiences, best practices, integrated centralized operating systems, increased marketing power and go-to-market efficiencies to its customers.

of convenience wholesalers say they've expanded their technology offering in the past year.

How would you describe the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on your business? Negative impact

80%

Positive impact

20%

No impact

0%

Coming in at No. 6 this year is Imperial Super Regional Distributor, which is the combination of Imperial Trading Co. and S. Abraham & Sons. Their merger was completed in July 2018. At No. 7, AMCON Distributing Co. made a strategic investment early this year in Team Sledd, which sits at No. 11 on this year’s list. AMCON, based in Omaha, Neb., and Team Sledd, based in Wheeling, W. Va., have combined sales of just under $2 billion. The biggest year-over-year percentage sales increase was posted by Southco Distributing Co. in Goldsboro, N.C., with a 15.4-percent gain. McLane recorded the highest amount of sales per retail location served, followed by Team Sledd and Cooper-Booth Wholesale Co. of Mountville, Pa. And Team Sledd reported the highest sales per delivery per week. CSN

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FEATURE

ESTIMATED SALES

RANK

2020

Company/Headquarters

Latest FY1 (millions)

1

McLane Co. Inc., Temple, Texas

2

Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc., Westlake, Texas

3

RETAIL SERVICE

Previous FY % (millions) change

Trading Area

Locations Deliveries Served per Week

PERCE

Cha

$50,458

$49,987

0.9%

50 states

50,250

n/a

n/

$16,700

$16,400

1.8%

50 states

40,000

n/a

55%

Eby-Brown Co., Naperville, Ill. 3

$5,100

$5,000

2.0%

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

9,000

10,600

67%

4

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

$4,000

$4,000

0.0%

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

22,000

5

National Convenience Distributors LLC, Farmingdale, N.Y. 4

$2,933

n/a

n/a

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

14,020

12,210

20%

6

Imperial Super Regional Distributor/ S. Abraham & Sons Inc., Elmwood, La. 5

$2,400

$2,300

4.3%

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

5,500

6,000

65%

7

AMCON Distributing Co., Omaha, Neb.

$1,348

$1,293

4.3%

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

4,300

3,800

72%

8

GSC Enterprises Inc., Sulphur Springs, Texas

$973

$973

0.0%

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

n/a

n/

9

Southco Distributing Co., Goldsboro, N.C.

$689

$597

15.4%

10

Cooper-Booth Wholesale Co., Mountville, Pa.

$674

$639

11

Team Sledd, Wheeling, W. Va. 6

$625

12

Chambers & Owen Inc., Janesville, Wis.

13

2

n/a

n/a

n/

NC, SC, TN, GA, VA

1,433

1,594

56%

5.5%

PA, MD, DE, NJ, VA, WV

1,153

1,326

40%

$564

10.8%

WV, OH, PA, VA, MD, KY

1,000

1,200

60%

$600

$595

0.8%

WI, MI, MN, IA, IL

1,115

1,168

45%

Harbor Wholesale Foods, Lacey, Wash.

$575

$575

0.0%

WA, OR, ID, CA, AK

3,000

2,200

40%

14

Topicz, Cincinnati 7

$420

$405

3.7%

OH, KY, IN, WV, TN, IL

950

1,000

5%

15

Tripifoods Inc., Buffalo, N.Y.

$318

$325

-2.2%

IN, NY, OH, PA, WV

1,450

1,000

82%

16

Resnick Distributors, New Brunswick, N.J.

$315

$315

0.0%

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

1,000

1,000

35%

17

Capitol Distributing, Caldwell, Idaho

$304

$304

0.0%

ID, OR, WA, UT, NV, AZ

673

1,151

75%

18

Stephenson Wholesale Co. Inc., Durant, Okla. 8

$296

$296

0.0%

OK, TX

2,820

3,858

20%

19

Charles C. Parks Co., Gallatin, Tenn.

$276

$276

0.0%

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

570

705

70%

Footnotes: 1 FY=Fiscal year 2 Note: These results are from the latest 10-K of Berkshire Hathaway (McLane's corporate parent). Sales include convenience, grocery and foodservice operations. 3 Parent company is Performance Food Group, Richmond, Va. 4 National Convenience Distributors was established in April 2020 with Allen Brothers Wholesale Distribution (ranked #21 in last year's report), J. Polep Distribution Services (#6) and Harold Levinson Associates (#7) becoming operating divisions of NCD.

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

5 Imperial Super Regional Distributor/S. Abraham & Sons' corporate parent is Georges Enterprises LLC, Elmwood, La. 6 Team Sledd acquired McDowell Supply, Beckley, W.Va.; Redstone Wholesale, Freedom, Pa. 7 Topicz corporate parent is Novelart Manufacturing Co. 8 Stephenson Wholesale dba Indian Nation Wholesale


VICE

iveries r Week

PERCENT OF SALES

WAREHOUSES

EMPLOYEES

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

PRODUCTIVITY RATIOS: SALES PER

Chain

Indep.

# of Warehouses

Sales

Sq. Feet (thousands)

n/a

n/a

n/a

25

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

55%

45%

32

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

600

67%

33%

10

2,350

2,250

100

n/a

n/a

n/a

28

n/a

n/a

,210

20%

80%

14

952

000

65%

35%

6

800

72%

28%

/a

n/a

594

Full-time Employee (thousands)

Location (thousands)

Delivery (thousands)

n/a

$1,004

n/a

n/a

n/a

$418

n/a

200

$2,170

$2,267

$567

$481

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

$182

n/a

1,649

202

260

$3,081

$1,779

$209

$240

829

1,050

16

163

$2,895

$2,286

$436

$400

6

685

558

25

57

$1,968

$2,416

$313

$355

n/a

1

450

n/a

n/a

n/a

$2,162

n/a

n/a

n/a

56%

44%

1

210

210

10

32

$3,281

$3,281

$481

$432

326

40%

60%

1

210

264

22

3

$3,210

$2,553

$585

$508

200

60%

40%

1

200

275

0

35

$3,125

$2,273

$625

$521

168

45%

55%

1

252

223

18

30

$2,381

$2,691

$538

$514

200

40%

60%

2

312

460

14

50

$1,843

$1,250

$192

$261

000

5%

95%

1

120

160

3

14

$3,500

$2,625

$442

$420

000

82%

18%

1

250

150

40

11

$1,272

$2,120

$219

$318

000

35%

65%

1

100

135

0

13

$3,150

$2,333

$315

$315

151

75%

25%

1

106

158

10

10

$2,868

$1,924

$452

$264

858

20%

80%

1

197

261

3

51

$1,503

$1,134

$105

$77

705

70%

30%

1

179

154

2

12

$1,542

$1,792

$484

$391

METHODOLOGY Rankings for the 2020 Convenience Store News Top Wholesalers Report are based on sales for the last full fiscal year for each company. Data for this report was gathered through a survey conducted among the largest wholesalers primarily servicing c-stores that derive the majority of their sales from tobacco and candy products. Additional data was obtained through company reports and other public sources of financial data. In some cases, estimates have been made by CSNews based on historical data and current industry trends.

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TWIC TRAILBLAZERS

People First Krause Group works to create a culture where all its associates feel welcomed and valued By Linda Lisanti

DIVERSITY, EQUITY & INCLUSION

20% MINORITY ASSOCIATES

9%

MINORITY ASSOCIATES IN LEADERSHIP**

56% 52% FEMALE ASSOCIATES

NOW IN ITS SEVENTH YEAR, the Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards program has recognized more than 300 of the best and brightest women making a positive impact on not only the companies they work for, but also the entire convenience retail channel.

improvement. At Krause Group, “People First” means creating a culture where its associates “have a sustainable quality of life, and stakeholders feel welcomed and valued.” This pillar incorporates diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), and associate well-being.

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

To foster the growth of its associates, particularly women who aspire to become leaders in the company, Krause Group has established a Women’s Network. 2020 marks the sixth year of the group, which welcomes all associates to take part in events throughout the year.

In TWIC Trailblazers, our new quarterly feature, we spotlight a c-store industry retailer, supplier or distributor company that is leading the way in championing gender parity. This month’s subject is Krause Group, parent company of Kum & Go LC, operator of more than 400 convenience stores across 11 states. “People First” is one of the company’s four pillars of social responsibility, established to use as filters for decision-making and continuous

FEMALE ASSOCIATES IN LEADERSHIP**

27%

OF SENIOR LEADERSHIP TEAM MEMBERS IDENTIFYING AS FEMALE

** DIRECTOR LEVEL & ABOVE, INCLUDING GENERAL MANAGERS SOURCE: Krause Group 2019 Corporate Social Responsibility Report

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

CSNews recently chatted with Kum & Go Philanthropy Manager Emily Bahnsen about the mission and accomplishments of the Krause Group Women’s Network. CSNews: Why does Krause Group feel it is important to improve gender equality?

Krause Group believes in the power of diversity and representation. As a purpose-based company, we want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to lift, educate and support a

BAHNSEN:


variety of different voices engaged in our business and communities. CSNews: What drove the creation of the Women’s Network and how has it evolved?

The Women’s Network was originally founded by the senior vice president of Grow People (human resources). The group was established as a way for women to get to know each other and identify topics and areas of interest to discuss as a group. Today, the Women’s Network has evolved its goals into leadership training, personal development and community giveback, with a bit of fun and socialization to get to know one another outside of our departments. The group is open to all and is not limited to women.

BAHNSEN:

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

CSNews: What are some of the recent achievements of the Women’s Network?

Pre-pandemic, the Women’s Network regularly volunteered at organizations like the Central Iowa Shelter & Services. Getting together to prepare and serve meals is just one way that the group gives back and engages with the community. Other recent acts of service include running Stuff the Bus, a book drive done in tandem with United Way of Central Iowa.

BAHNSEN:

Platinum Sponsors:

Gold Sponsors:

To keep spirits strong during this difficult time, the Women’s Network recently participated in a “Surprise Dash” where group leaders organized the members to each give/receive small gifts on their doorstep. The only goal of this was to make one another smile during this challenging time of being away from the office and from one another. CSNews: Are there any other new initiatives at Krause Group planned for the remainder of 2020 or 2021 around gender parity?

We created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to help advance women in leadership positions at the company. The Women’s Network will continue working with this committee to enhance learning and leadership opportunities in all that we do. Our newly hired DEI Manager will also work to ensure we are continuing to grow opportunities for women at Krause Group and the communities we serve. CSN

BAHNSEN:

Silver Sponsor:

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STORE SPOTLIGHT

A Beacon for Good Casey’s new visual identity embraces its heritage, while promoting its contemporary offers By Danielle Romano

At a Glance Casey’s Location: 1024 E. First St., Ankeny, Iowa Size: 4,817 square feet Unique features: The first store in the company’s 16-state footprint to feature Casey’s new visual identity; updated exterior and interior signage; signature food offers including freshly baked doughnuts, proprietary branded prepared food and made-fromscratch pizza

AS THE CONVENIENCE channel makes leaps and bounds in enhancing guest experience, legacy retailers know that to keep up with the times and shoppers’ expectations, in-store offers cannot be the only agents of change. That’s why, for the first time in five decades, Casey’s General Stores Inc. debuted a new visual identity to match its contemporary guest experience.

“For half a century, Casey’s logo has stood as a beacon for good food, convenience and community in the lives of the neighbors, friends and family that our committed team members serve every day,” said CEO Darren Rebelez. “Embracing this heritage, we are proud to remain at the heart of every community we serve as we give guests and communities even more reasons to shop at Casey’s.” The convergence of two matters prompted the Ankeny, Iowa-based convenience store chain to make the change, according to Chris Jones, senior vice president and chief marketing officer. Firstly, guests began telling the retailer that Casey’s logo was feeling outdated because of its colors and shapes. Secondly, as Casey’s rolled out enhanced offers — online ordering, delivery services, curbside pickup, a new digital commerce platform and a mobile app — as well as updates to its Casey’s Rewards loyalty

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

program, the logo was getting left further behind and wasn’t reflecting the retailer’s contemporary offers. “Guests like to see things that are contemporary and modern, and they’re excited that we’re telling them there are good things to come,” Jones told Convenience Store News. “Strategically, the new logo is setting an expectation with our guests that new things are coming, and giving us permission in their minds to let us bring them those new things. We know we’ve got a good pipeline for our guest experiences and our products and services over the next few years, so it fits perfectly with the logo refresh.”

Embracing the Past for the Future Casey’s was founded in 1959 by Don Lamberti, who leased a store from his father on East 14th Street and Broadway in Des Moines, Iowa. After nine years of operating that country store, which he remodeled into a c-store, Lamberti’s gas supplier and friend Kurvin C. Fish suggested he buy the Square Deal Oil Co. Following this advice, Lamberti purchased the service station in Boone, Iowa, converted it into a c-store and named it Casey’s by using Fish’s initials. Today, the company operates more than 2,200 c-stores across 16 states. The process of bringing a new visual identity to fruition for the legacy brand


began about 10 months ago when Casey’s tapped New York-based Interbrand, a marketing consultancy specializing in brand management. Together, the organizations interviewed new and long-time team members and guests, and then leveraged that research to come up with a design. The retailer officially introduced the new visual identity first to its team members via a company town hall, informing them about the change Casey’s was making, why the company was making it, and what the change meant both for team members and guests. The new identity — which follows Casey’s “Here For Good” brand campaign, a consumer-centric enterprise strategy that launched in January — reflects a fresh, yet familiar feeling. The previous red and yellow barn-shaped emblem emblazoned with the name “Casey’s General Store” has now been transformed to a solid red symbol with a brightly updated font that reads “Casey’s” while maintaining the classic barn shape.

“Strategically, the new logo is setting an expectation with our guests that new things are coming, and giving us permission in their minds to let us bring them those new things.” — Chris Jones, Casey’s General Stores Inc. Additionally, the barn’s rooster weathervane is now more prominent than it used to be, signifying the classic archetype of a barn that consumers would find in many of the small farming communities across Casey’s footprint, Jones pointed out. “What’s fantastic about guest feedback is that when they were exposed to the new logo, they said it looks familiar with the barn and weathervane, and that it looks fun and approachable,” he said. “They also said that it looked like the logo signified that they could expect new things from Casey’s in the future, and that Casey’s was moving forward.” When Casey’s announced the new look Oct. 1 on its Facebook page with a promotional video, team members and guests responded positively, commenting: • “I personally love the fresh new look! It was a longneeded update on a very old-fashioned brand.” • “I like it! It’s simple, and it’s been made more modern while still being recognizable as descendant from the old logo. Good job!” • “I love it. I’ve been with Casey’s for 6 years as a store manager. Change is good.” • “Looks good! Great to move forward. Old isn’t always the best.”

• “Looks good. It has a more modern look, yet still good ole Casey’s.”

Here For Good Casey’s rolled out the new logo across its digital assets and began teasing it in television advertising, where it was blurred in the background of the picture. As the final step, the company unveiled the new visual identity with the opening of a brand-new Casey’s convenience store situated in the retailer’s hometown of Ankeny. It is the first store in the company’s 16-state footprint to feature the updated identity. Casey’s incorporated feedback from both team members and guests to come up with the new design.

“The debut was exciting not only for guests — which opening a new Casey’s always is — but also for our team. We have more than 1,000 people between our distribution center and our store support center in Ankeny, so there’s a different sense of excitement and enthusiasm for this new store when it’s around the corner and it has this new look and feel,” Jones expressed. The 4,817-square-foot store showcases the new logo on the facility’s exterior while inside the store, guests find the same quality freshly baked doughnuts, proprietary branded prepared food, and made-from-scratch pizza that the retailer is famous for. Casey’s is the fifth-largest pizza chain in the United States. Plans for the future call for a combination of new builds boasting the updated look, as well as updating existing locations. The process will begin with in-store signage, followed by packaging, and then more permanent elements like exterior branding. “We are beginning a process to redo the signage at certain stores in certain markets,” Jones told CSNews. “Our approach is to pick an entire market and do it one market at a time. So, we might do 50 stores in a market or four stores. We’re looking at a couple of big markets near our home base that we’re considering.” In the meantime, Casey’s will introduce a new private label line of snacks and drinks with the packaging featuring the new logo, which was also designed by Interbrand. CSN

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HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

ATM’s

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HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

CBD Products

OTP Product

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HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

Ecigs/Pods

Gourmet Pet Treats

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HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION

General Merchandise

Spill Response Solutions

Age Verifier

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CLASSIFIEDS

Services

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CLASSIFIEDS

Credit Card Processing / Merchant Services

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CLASSIFIEDS

Air Vacs

ATMs

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CLASSIFIEDS

Credit Card Processing / Merchant Services

DE CE MB E R

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2020

Convenience Store News

87

12/1/2020 9:12:36 AM


CLASSIFIEDS

General Merchandise

ATMs

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

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CLASSIFIEDS

Covid 19 Cleaning Product

Foodservice Specialties

ATM’s

DE CE MB E R

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2 0 2 0 Convenience Store News

89

12/1/2020 9:12:37 AM


CLASSIFIEDS

Sunglasses

Petroleum/Equiment

Looking for ideas to promote your product or services? Need help creating an ad that fits your needs without spending a fortune with an advertising agency?

We are here to help, whether it be in the classified ad section, an ad in the main pages, or online. Call or email with any questions or for pricing. We can handle all aspects of your ad from conception to print in a fraction of the cost that agences charge!

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

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CLASSIFIEDS

ATM’s

Age Verifier

Equipment / Supplies

Wholesale Refrigeration

Coffee and Tea Services

Check Guarantee Services

DE CE MBE R

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2020

Convenience Store News

91

12/1/2020 9:12:38 AM


CLASSIFIEDS

Looking for ideas to promote your product or services? Need help creating an ad that fits your needs without spending a fortune with an advertising agency?

We are here to help, whether it be in the classified ad section, an ad in the main pages, or online. Call or email with any questions or for pricing. We can handle all aspects of your ad from conception to print in a fraction of the cost that agences charge!

Our ads get results! CALL TERRY KANGANIS TODAY-

201.855.7615

tkanganis@ensembleIQ.com

ADINDEX Add Systems..........................21

Krispy Krunchy Chicken....43

Altria Group Distribution...2, 37

Liggett Vector Brands........19

BIC USA Inc............................41

Mondelez International......33

CB Distributors Inc..............61

Premier Manufacturing......57

FIFCO USA..............................7

Procter & Gamble.................1, 27

Forte Products......................69

Reynolds American Trade Marketing....................31,95

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health Care.......9 Goya Foods Inc.....................17 Haliburton International Foods.............45 Imageworks Display & Marketing Group...................25 Juul Labs.................................10–11

Swedish Match North America LLC..............5, 15, 55, 96 Swisher International Inc... 23 The Hershey Company.......13, 34–35 Uline..........................................70 Universal Merchants............Outsert 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60631 Phone 773-992-4450 Fax 773-992-4455 www.ensembleiq.com

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

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INSIGHTS & INNOVATION


INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND

The Age Effect

A look at how the different generations of c-store shoppers are reacting to the pandemic No matter your feelings on mask wearing or the need to social distance, the one thing that most Americans can agree on these days is that their daily lives have been upended since the coronavirus pandemic hit. Changes in work, school and home routines, as well as changes in how consumers are getting the goods they need, have had significant ripple effects on the convenience channel. A new, exclusive c-store shopper study conducted by Convenience Store News to identify and understand the shifts in shopping behavior and frequency happening as a result of the pandemic reveals some interesting generational differences in behavior.

SHOPPING FREQUENCY AT CONVENIENCE STORES TODAY VS. BEFORE PANDEMIC

GENERATION X SHOPPERS

(aged 38-53) are the most likely to say they are shopping at convenience stores more today than before the pandemic. BABY BOOMERS (aged 54-72) are the most likely to say they are shopping at c-stores less these days.

GEN Z

18%

39%

42%

MILLENNIALS

15%

33%

52%

GEN X

19%

36%

45%

BABY BOOMERS

7% MORE

34%

58%

ABOUT THE SAME

LESS

THE TOP REASON CITED BY GEN X shoppers for why they’ve increased their c-store visits is because convenience stores are one of the only stores open or available in their area.

THE TOP REASON CITED BY BABY BOOMERS for why they’ve decreased their c-store visits is because of changes in their daily routine due to COVID-19.

56% MORE THAN HALF OF ALL C-STORE SHOPPERS HAVE INCREASED DELIVERY-SERVICE USAGE DURING THE PANDEMIC. 94 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m

#

1

This was the NO. 1 FACTOR among all generations, followed by the fact that they’re NOT PURCHASING FUEL AS OFTEN.

THE MOST-UTILIZED DELIVERY SERVICES BY GENERATION ARE:

GENERATION Z (AGED 18-21)

MILLENNIALS (AGED 22-37)

GENERATION X (AGED 38-53)

BABY BOOMERS (AGED 54-72)

DoorDash

Local chain restaurant

Amazon/ Amazon Fresh

Amazon/ Amazon Fresh



MORE IS MORE GET MORE WITH LONGHORN’S

EVERYDAY LOW PRICE More traffic in your store

More profits in your pocket

+17% vs PY

*

©2020 Pinkerton Tobacco Co. LP

STOCK UP TODAY CALL: 1-800-367-3677 EMAIL: customer.service@smna.com LONGHORNSNUFF.COM *Retail shipments of Longhorn from consistent distributors grew 17% vs prior year. MSA data, 12/16/18 thru 10/18/20.