Convenience Store News December 2021
THE RACE IS ON: A GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE
BORN TO HALL OF FAMER KYLE KRAUSE IS LEAVING HIS MARK ON THE CONVENIENCE CHANNEL AND HIS COMMUNITY.
Volume 57, Number 12
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
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Provided on behalf of Philip Morris USA, U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., John Middleton, and Helix Innovations. ©2021 Altria Group Distribution Company | For Trade Purposes Only
What Will the Biggest Stories of 2022 Be? The Convenience Store News team takes a whimsical look at headlines we’d like to see next year AS WE NEAR THE END OF 2021, I reviewed our website content scoreboard to see which CSNews.com articles garnered the highest degree of pageviews and engagement over the past year.
It is no surprise that through November, the articles with the most pageviews pertain to merger and acquisition activity. 7-Eleven’s $21-billion deal to acquire Speedway was announced in August 2020, but every story tracking the progress of the sale — from FTC reviews, to the divestitures of stores, to the actual closing of the deal in May 2021 — garnered tremendous engagement from our audience. Acquisitions by GPM Investments and BP taking full ownership of Thorntons were other M&A articles that attracted high readership. And reports that EG Group, the U.K.-based owner of the former Kroger and Cumberland Farms c-stores in the U.S., is up for sale spiked page visits in September. Among non-acquisition stories, it seems everyone is interested in what the 800-pound gorillas are cooking up. Circle K’s launch of its “Sip & Save” subscription program for fountain drinks, slushies, coffee and tea, and 7-Eleven’s rapid expansion of its quick-service restaurant dining options were heavily read articles. Of course, stories spotlighting innovation are wellread, too, with Wawa’s opening of its first drive-thru-
only store making our yearlong top 10 list. Our compilation of The Latest Industry News Around COVID-19 made our top 10 story list nearly every month this year. That’s one content feature I hope we can discontinue next year. For a little fun, the Convenience Store News editorial team thought we’d try to predict the top headlines for 2022. Or, more accurately, the headlines we’d like to see: • January: Santa Claus & His Elves Fix Supply Chain • February: C-stores Facing Different Kind of Labor Challenge: Too Many Applicants • March: FDA Reverses Course on E-Cigs & Vapor Products • May: First Pothole Filled as Federal Infrastructure Spending Finally Begins • July: Fuel Prices Moderate as Biden Backs Off of AntiPetroleum Agenda • August: Small- and Medium-Sized Retailers Close the Gap on Big Chains • October: Convenience Channel Adds to Store Count as Economy Rebounds from Pandemic • December: C-store Retailers Close Year with Record Sales & Profits From all of us at CSNews, we wish you a wonderful holiday season, a Merry Christmas, and a happy and profitable New Year. For comments, please contact Don Longo, Editorial Director, at (201) 855-7606 or email@example.com.
EDITORIAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS (2013-2021)
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD
2021 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Infographics, June 2021
2018 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Editorial Use of Data, June 2017
2013 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Best Single Issue, October 2012
2013 Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award Finalist, Best Profile, August 2012
2020 Eddie Award, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Series of Articles, September 2019 2018 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Website Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2017 Business to Business, Editorial Use of Data, June 2017 2017 Eddie Award, Folio: magazine Winner, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, May 2017 Honorable Mention, Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, June 2016 2016 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2015 Business to Business, Retail, Single/Series of Articles, August 2015
2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Bronze, Best Original Research, June 2015 2016 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best How-To Article, March 2015 Silver, Best Original Research, June 2015
2015 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2014 2014 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2013 Business to Business, Retail, Single Article, February 2013 2013 Eddie Award Honorable Mention, Folio: magazine Business to Business, Retail, Full Issue, October 2012
Laura Aufleger OnCue Express
Ray Johnson Speedee Mart
Chad Beck Core-Mark
Ruth Ann Lilly GPM Investments LLC
Edward Davidson Ed Davidson & Associates (7-Eleven Inc., retired) Robert Falciani ExtraMile Convenience Stores Jim Hachtel Eby-Brown Co. Chris Hartman Rutter’s
Vito Maurici McLane Co. Inc. Matt Paduano Lakeport Markets Jonathan Polansky Plaid Pantries Inc. Greg Scriver Kwik Trip Inc. Roy Strasburger StrasGlobal
2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, National Azbee Awards Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014 2015 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Gold, Best Special Supplement, November 2014 Silver, Best Profile (long form), February 2014 2013 American Society of Business Press Editors, Midwest Regional Azbee Awards Bronze, Best Editorial/Commentary, July 2012
2020 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Honorable Mention, Best Single Issue, September 2019 2016 Trade Association Business Publications Intl. Tabbie Awards Silver, Front Cover Illustration, June 2015
DE CE MBE R
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CONTENTS DEC 21
VOLUME 57 N UMB ER 12
28 Born to Serve Hall of Famer Kyle Krause is leaving his mark on the convenience channel and his community.
3 What Will the Biggest Stories of 2022 Be? The Convenience Store News team takes a whimsical look at headlines we’d like to see next year.
69 Creating a Unified Brand Experience Nouria Energy debuts its first fully branded fuel station and convenience store, representing a new positioning strategy for the company.
34 A Passion for People Supplier Hall of Famer Vito Maurici believes mentorship is the backbone to an ever-changing convenience industry.
8 CSNews Online INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND
38 Shepherding the Industry Through Tough Times Roy Strasburger receives the first-ever Convenience Store News Special Service Award. TOP WHOLESALERS REPORT
62 Keep on Trucking The nation’s top c-store wholesalers see only a slight sales dip despite battling the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain challenges, and the labor shortage.
18 New Products SMALL OPERATOR
22 A Win-Win Partnership Sharing data, asking the right questions and utilizing technology can help small operators better work with their wholesalers and suppliers.
86 Gearing Up for the EV Age One-fifth of c-store shoppers own an electric vehicle or are considering buying one.
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CONTENTS DEC 21
VOLUME 57 N UMB ER 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 firstname.lastname@example.org EDITORIAL Editorial Director (201) 855-7606
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10 Shell Sets Foundation for Company-Owned U.S. Network
56 Mastering the Backbar Constantly changing regulations and evolving consumers mean c-store operators must sharpen their tobacco category management skills.
12 Eye on Growth 12 Fast Facts 14 Retailer Tidbits 14 Supplier Tidbits
Danielle Romano email@example.com
Contributing Editor (303) 741-3377
Renée M. Covino firstname.lastname@example.org
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60 Hot Topics in C-store Tech The 2021 Convenience Store News Technology Leadership Roundtable & Dinner brought retailers together to discuss the most pressing items on their tech to-do lists.
List Rental (914) 309-3378
2021 GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE
MeritDirect Marie Briganti
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PROJECT MANAGEMENT/PRODUCTION/ART Creative Director (973) 607-1320
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44 The Race Is On
Restaurant closings during the pandemic mean opportunity for c-stores to gain share of stomach.
52 Making the Case for Curbside Pickup This is one of the strongest opportunities for c-stores to compete with quick-service restaurants.
54 The Top Food Trends to Watch in 2022
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These 10 emerging developments are generating buzz across multiple channels.
CORPORATE OFFICERS Chief Executive Officer
Chief Financial Officer
Chief Human Resources Officer
Executive Vice President, Content
CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS AFFILIATIONS Premier Trade Press Exhibitor
The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for product claims and representations.
Convenience Store News (ISSN 0194-8733; USPS 515-950) is published 12 times per year, monthly, by EnsembleIQ, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631. Subscription rates: Subscription rate in the United States: $125 one year; $230 two year; $14 single issue copy; Canada and Mexico: $150 one year; $270 two year; $16 single issue copy; Foreign: $170 one year; $325 two year; $16 single issue copy; Digital One year, digital $87; two year, $161. Periodical postage paid at Chicago, IL 60631, and additional mailing addresses. Copyright 2021 by EnsembleIQ. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Reprints, permissions and licensing, please contact Wright’s Media at firstname.lastname@example.org or (877) 652-5295. POSTMASTER: send address changes to Convenience Store News, 8550 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. Ste. 200, Chicago, IL 60631.
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12/3/21 5:53 PM
ONLINE EXCLUSIVE TOP VIEWED STORIES
7-Eleven Makes Layoffs at Speedway Headquarters
Diesel Fuel Shortage Hurting Truck Stops
Mountain Express Purchases Brothers Food Mart Chain With Plans to Expand Across the Southeast
Months after closing its $21 billion acquisition of Speedway LLC, 7-Eleven Inc. cut back the number of employees at Speedway headquarters. The retailer reportedly laid off fewer than 35 people as part of the integration process.
Outlets of major truck stop chains across the country have started limiting the number of gallons a hauler can purchase in a single transaction. TravelCenters of America Inc. and Pilot Co. are among the companies to set restrictions.
The Alpharetta, Ga.-based retailer acquired New Orleans-based Brothers Food Mart, which is the largest convenience store chain in the city with 50 locations. Under the terms of the agreement, Mountain Express purchased a majority of Brothers Food Mart stores and a license to use the name.
7-Eleven Scares Up Two Halloween Pizza Deals
7Rewards loyalty members were able to pick up any large hot or ready-to-bake pizza at participating 7-Eleven stores nationwide and get a second large pizza for just $1. Customers could also order a large hot or ready-to-bake pizza through the 7NOW delivery app for just $3.
MAPCO Opens New Flagship Store in Tennessee
The 5,600-square-foot store is designed to offer a better break for customers with its efficient layout and modern design. It features large windows and tall ceilings, allowing for an abundance of natural light, as well as spacious bathrooms, self-checkout options, indoor and outdoor seating, and a curved canopy to facilitate the flow in the 14-station fueling area.
Make Your Next Customer Visits Digital Convenience retailers must shift their focus and make digital experiences more of a priority, writes Sam Herro, director of client solutions at Hathway, a digital growth partner in the restaurant and convenience store spaces. The key to this success is two-fold.
ExtraMile Hits the Gas on Growth Four years after establishing ExtraMile Convenience Stores LLC (EMCS) as a joint venture between Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and Jacksons Food Stores, EMCS opened its 1,000th store and is well on its way to achieving its goal of doubling its network of franchised convenience stores from the then-store count of approximately 750 locations. “We think that there is opportunity to accelerate our growth and reach that milestone of doubling the network in a shorter timeframe than what we had originally anticipated,” EMCS President Paul Casadont told Convenience Store News. The opening of the 1,000th EMCS store in Vernon, Ala., also marked the brand’s entrance into the Southeast, with more locations on the way. EMCS anticipates having “many” locations in Alabama and Mississippi. The first Mississippi store is slated to open in January 2022. For more exclusive content, visit the Special Features section of csnews.com.
MOST VIEWED NEW PRODUCT
Peeps 2021 Holiday Lineup Seeking to capture the spirit of the holiday season through festive marshmallow shapes, the Peeps brand introduced two new products as part of its 2021 holiday candy lineup. Peeps Marshmallow Stockings come in a three-count package for a suggested retail price of $1, or a six-count package for a suggested price of $1.49 to $1.79. Peeps Delights Double Hot Chocolate Marshmallow Dipped in Dark Chocolate are available in a three-count package for a suggested price of $1.39 to $1.79.
First, retailers need to define what digital experiences most align with their brand, thereby creating a roadmap that the brand can organize around. Second, retailers need to incorporate technology platforms that can support their roadmap and more. They must choose growth and technology partners that help them harness and translate the same brand love they gain from brick-and-mortar shopping experiences into something that exists digitally.
Just Born Inc. Bethlehem, Pa. justborn.com
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12/3/21 5:55 PM
Shell Sets Foundation for Company-Owned U.S. Network A subsidiary of Shell Oil Products US is acquiring 248 Timewise convenience stores SHELL RETAIL AND CONVENIENCE Operations LLC, a subsidiary of Shell Oil Products US, reached an agreement to acquire 248 company-owned convenience stores and gas stations from the Landmark group of companies. The c-stores operate in Texas under the Timewise brand.
The transaction also includes supply agreements with an additional 117 independently operated fuel and convenience sites. With the addition of more than 2,000 Landmark team members, Houston-based Shell will now have the foundation to grow a company-operated network in the United States. As one of the largest fuels and convenience retail markets globally, growing in the U.S. will give Shell the opportunity to build on its successful brand presence, and leverage the strength of its ongoing business relationships, the company stated. “[This] announcement increases our
presence in a core market and shows our growth strategy in action,” said Huibert Vigeveno, downstream director for Shell. “It brings us closer to more customers and strengthens our ability to meet their rapidly changing needs. The deal also allows us to work hand-in-hand with customers to help shape demand for low-carbon energy products and services, while profitably decarbonizing alongside them.” The acquisition agreement covers the purchase of the remaining 50-percent share in Texas Petroleum Group LLC (TPG), previously a 50/50 joint venture between Equilon Enterprises LLC dba Shell Oil Products US and Landmark Industries Holdings Ltd. TPG consists of 170 company-owned fuel and convenience sites, and supply agreements for 63 independently operated fuel and convenience sites. Also included in the agreement is Landmark’s retail gas station network, which includes both gas stations and dealer supply agreements, as acquired from Landmark Industries LLC, Landmark Industries Energy LLC, and Landmark Petroleum LLC. This network consists of 78 company-owned fuel and convenience sites, and supply agreements for 54 independently operated fuel and convenience sites.
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Eye on Growth EG Group is expanding with an agreement to acquire Sprint Food Stores Inc. The retailer will pick up all 34 of Sprint’s convenience stores in Georgia and South Carolina, as well as its proprietary Sprint Kitchen foodservice brand. Parkland Corp., through its wholly owned subsidiary Parkland USA, is acquiring Urbieta Oil Co. and certain affiliates. The deal includes 94 locations in Florida, including the real estate purchase of 54 strategic sites.
unattended fueling locations from Titletown Oil Corp. and its affiliates. The transaction also included Titletown’s wholesale fuel operations. GPM Investments LLC completed its acquisition of E.J. Pope & Son Inc. dba Handy Mart. Approximately 20 branded quick-service restaurants or proprietary food offerings are co-located at Handy Mart’s 36 c-stores.
Parkland USA is also growing in the Pacific Northwest with a deal to acquire substantially all of the assets of Lynch Oil and certain affiliates.
Mountain Express Oil Co. is purchasing the retail and wholesale fuel assets of Texon Oil Co. in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The assets consist of a portfolio of 24 Sunoco-branded retail gas locations. True North Energy closed on its purchase of 19 fee-owned locations and three
ExtraMile Convenience Stores LLC’s network now totals 1,000 locations. The joint venture between Chevron U.S.A. Inc. and Jacksons Food Stores reached the milestone with the opening of a new Texaco station in Vernon, Ala. Farm Stores opened its first drive-thru convenience store concept in Kentucky. The new market follows the retailer’s expansion into New Jersey in July.
Annual cigarette sales increased in 2020 for the first time in two decades, leaping from 202.9 billion units in 2019 to 203.7 billion units in 2020.
Ice cream and coffee brands had a banner year in 2020 despite the pandemic, realizing a 7-percent increase in visits and a 26.5-percent increase in spend, on average.
— Federal Trade Commission, Cigarette Report
Heading into the holiday season, the trucking industry was short 80,000 drivers — a number that could surpass 160,000 by 2030. — American Trucking Associations
— Paytronix Loyalty Report
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A Winning Package For Your CBD Category Hemp Bombs Sells 3.5x more than the #2 Brand no.1-selling brand In Convenience 3 Years And Counting* Now Featuring Our Award Winning Botanical Blend Gummies Scan To Request Samples
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Retailer Tidbits Huck’s Market is rolling out self-checkout kiosks from Skip to all 124 of its locations following a successful pilot program. The retailer saw a 40-percent increase in basket spend at stores with the new kiosks in place.
7-Reserve premium coffee. The brew is the third 7-Reserve offering to come from Central America, and the first from the Huehuetenango region.
Rutter’s teamed up with Lancaster Brewing Co. for its first private-branded beer, Rutter’s Chocolate Milk Stout. The limited-edition beer went on sale exclusively at Rutter’s 45 beer-selling locations in Pennsylvania. Wawa Inc. is taking another crack at pizza. A 16-inch pie, available plain or with pepperoni, can be ordered at two stores: one in Philadelphia, and the other in Media, Pa.
In other c-store pizza news, GPM Investments LLC is expanding its pizza offering to 200 convenience stores in 15 states.
7-Eleven Inc. introduced 7-Reserve Guatemala, its newest variety of
Supplier Tidbits Dot’s accounts for 55 percent of the pretzel category’s growth during the past year.
The Hershey Co. is growing its salty snacks portfolio with the acquisition of Dot’s Pretzels LLC. Additionally, Hershey will expand its manufacturing capacity and innovation capabilities through this acquisition. Altria and Juul Labs have joined Anheuser-Busch, Molson Coors and more than 130 retailer companies as backers of TruAge. The digital solution enhances current age-verification systems and protects user privacy. Bounteous is picking up Hathway in a move that will drive the next generation of c-store and restaurant digital experiences. The combination will provide a full-service digital innovation offering and compelling scale. Applied Data Corp. (ADC) reached a pact to acquire Pinpoint Software Inc. With the addition of Pinpoint’s Date Check Pro, ADC
Royal Farms is expanding its partnership with NCR Corp. to equip its 250-plus convenience stores with self-checkout solutions. The retailer first introduced NCR self-checkout solutions to its network in 2019. United Dairy Farmers turned the negatives of the COVID-19 pandemic into positives by completely reinventing its baked goods operations. The retailer partnered with Fresh Innovation Center to revisit its recipes and logistics, recalibrating its baking and packaging methods, as well as its distribution practices.
will be able to offer additional reductions in shrink from expired products. Koupon is teaming up with Vroom Delivery to brings its digital promotions to convenience store shoppers interested in ordering from home. The pairing gives c-store retailers a significant opportunity to increase sales, according to the companies. Frito-Lay introduced an industrially compostable bag for its Off The Eaten Path brand. The bag serves as an example of PepsiCo Inc.’s investments in breakthrough food packaging technology. Skupos launched “Game Day Deals,” a winter discount program. Running through Feb. 28, 2022, the program includes brand-funded promotions to help boost revenue and repeat traffic through the beginning of 2022.
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Harness the Power of Data for Optimal SKU Assortments A Q&A With Karen Saber, Swisher Vice President, Business Analytics and Strategic Sales Innovation How has smokeless expanded over the past year and what is in store for the future? Karen Saber: Traditional Smokeless has a large presence within the industry reaching $9.6 billion in total outlets and $6.6 billion within Convenience in the latest 52-week period ending Nov. 6, 2021. Smokeless is also in over 220,000 stores nationwide. Moist smokeless tobacco (MST) continues to be the leader in traditional smokeless products, accounting for 92.6 percent of the volume [$8.6 billion total and $6.0 billion Convenience]. Chew and SNUS follow MST with $646.5 million and $305.9 million respectively. (All Data is from the 52-week period ending Nov. 6, 2021 – Traditional Smokeless = MST, CHEW, DRY, SNUS). Although the MST Category is facing challenges, with declines forecasted near TRADITIONAL SMOKELESS SALES
MOIST SMOKELESS TOBACCO LEADS THE PACK
92.6% OF TRADITIONAL SMOKELESS SALES
$8.6B TOTAL MARKET
MODERN ORAL NICOTINE IS ON THE RISE
+85.5% VS 2020
98.7% SEGMENT UNIT SALES
CATEGORY IS EXPECTED TO REACH $1.2B BY THE END OF 2021 AND PROJECTED TO ACHIEVE $1.7B IN 2022 CONVENIENCE STORES DOMINATE
36% OF TOTAL STORES & 71% OF TOBACCO SALES
3.4% in 2022, the branded value segment of MST is anticipated to realize growth over 2 percent. Fat Lip Brands will contribute to this growth with over a 10 percent share of the segment.
CSN: What are the growth opportunities? KS: Modern Oral Nicotine (MON), which includes Nicotine Pouches, Gum, Lozenge and Tablets, is a major growth category for convenience stores. MON has reached 229.4 million units in approximately 172,300 stores in the latest period. The segment has increased 105.7million; up 85.5 percent versus a year ago. MON Pouches make up 98.7 percent of the total MON segment with 226.3 million cans sold. The MON category, driven by pouches, is expected to reach 260 million units (~$1.2 billion) by the end of 2021, an increase of 85 percent* versus a year ago. Moreover, this category is projected to grow another 44 percent* in 2022 to nearly 375 million units, which will represent approximately $1.7 billion in retail sales. *Estimations based on available data in MSAi database as of September 11, 2021. MON continues to grow, expand and diversify as adult consumers become more knowledgeable about the category and its convenience. In recent years the attention and focus has been on pouches, however, it is important to keep in mind there are adult consumers interested in other formats as well. It is believed that pouches will maintain success and expansion, but other options such as nicotine lozenges, nicotine tablets and
nicotine gum have limited awareness and there is signiﬁcant opportunity surrounding these items. Individuals continue to seek out non-combustible nicotine options. One brand in particular, Rogue MON, is the only brand to offer four unique forms in which adult consumers may enjoy tobacco-leaf free nicotine — pouches, gum, tablets and lozenges.
CSN: With our “new normal” emerging, what do convenience store operators need to know? KS: It is key for retailers to partner with manufacturers and let true Category Management practices guide them in the optimization of their planograms. The adult tobacco consumer is quite discriminating in their preferences, which is why it is so important to let the data direct retailer decisions in terms of SKU assortment.
CSN: Why are convenience stores so critical to the category? KS: C-stores are known for taking chances, innovating and of course the obvious — convenience. This model enables them to be destinations for adult tobacco consumers, as they are able to have the newest and most exciting products available. In turn, this builds volume and share as compared with other channels and the velocity tends to increase and gain momentum over time. In relation to tobacco products, traditional Convenience stores account for only 36 percent of total stores but 71 percent of volume.
Please contact your Swisher representative at 800.874.9720 or visit SWISHER.COM
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1. Country Archer Plant-Based Jerky Country Archer Provisions unveiled its first plantbased jerky line. Crafted with gourmet slices of King Oyster mushrooms, the product was created in partnership with renowned New York executive chef Will Horowitz. Country Archer Plant-Based Jerky is available in three varieties: Spiced Bacon, which features natural hickory smoke, black pepper and a blend of spices to create an umami-flavored snack; BBQ, a tender, smoky barbecue flavor with a touch of sweetness that delivers a tangy twist; and Teriyaki, a blend of garlic, pineapple and ginger that packs a flavor punch. The suggested retail price is $7.99.
2. Original Skittles Mars Wrigley brought back the five staple flavors of its Original Skittles with the return of the Lime flavor. Replaced by Green Apple in 2013, the original lime green candy flavor permanently returned to packs beginning in October 2021. Both Original and Sour packs of Skittles will now contain Orange, Lemon, Grape, Strawberry and Lime flavors. Skittles pack sizes range from 1.8-ounce single packs to the 3.6ounce Share Size. Mars Inc. Newark, N.J. mars.com
3. Phoenix Energy Shots
4. BIC EZ Reach Camo Series
More than just energy, Phoenix Energy Shots are composed of a patentpending three-in-one formula designed to elevate mood, enhance focus, and provide a long-lasting boost of energy all in one shot. Its Mood blend elevates the body’s happy neurotransmitters. Its Focus blend contains nootropics for enhanced focus, clarity and memory. Its Energy blend increases the duration of the benefits of caffeine two-fold. Phoenix Energy Shots come in three flavor varieties: Blood Moon, Arctic Storm, and Starblast.
BIC added a new design line for its EZ Reach Lighter: the EZ Reach Camo Series. The line features a mix of both sporty and whimsical camouflage designs, offering consumers versatile looks. Lighters in the EZ Reach Camo Series are sold individually as one-counts, and have a manufacturer suggested retail price of $3.49. Every EZ Reach Lighter is 100 percent safety tested, and helps keep fingers away from the flame with a 1.45-inch extended wand. BIC Shelton, Conn. us.bic.com
Phoenix Energy Boise, Idaho phoenixenergy.com
Country Archer Provisions San Bernardino, Calif. countryarcher.com
5. Goya Cocktail Mixers Goya Foods is launching Goya Cocktail Mixers in response to the rapid growth of the segment as more consumers enjoy creating cocktails in the comfort of their own homes. The nonalcoholic mixers are easy, convenient, and come ready to mix. Goya Cocktail Mixers are available in four varieties: Sangria, Piña Colada, Margarita, and Tomato Clam. Each mixer has a suggested retail price of $2.39.
Goya Foods Inc. Jersey City, N.J. email@example.com goya.com/en
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6. 5-hour Energy Carbonated Beverages Living Essentials LLC extends its 5-hour Energy brand with the launch of a new line of carbonated energy beverages. Packaged in 16-ounce cans, the product is available in three flavors: Berry, Grape and Watermelon — the most popular flavors of 5-hour Energy shots. The new 5-hour Energy carbonated beverages will be distributed nationally via independent beverage distributors and other channels. Living Essentials LLC Las Vegas 5hourenergy.com
7. TeaZa Healthy Dip Pouches
8. Talking Rain AQA Ionized Water
TeaZa Healthy Dip launched a new pouch size for its tobacco-alternative dip pouches. The new pouch size is an easy-to-use 0.7 grams each for all flavors, except for its extra-strength flavors Mango Habanero and Bangin’ Black Cherry, which are 1 gram each. TeaZa is a nutritional energy supplement that uses powerful tea cut herbs and vitamins packed into a biodegradable pouch to be “dipped” (placed between the lip and gum) or seeped in water. The smaller pouches will continue to sport the same eye-catching Pucks & Bags packaging, which includes 10 pouches per puck and 25 pouches per bag. Retail displays are available as a 10-pack tray or 80-count floor display.
Talking Rain Beverage Co. relaunches Talking Rain Essentials Hydration under a new name: Talking Rain AQA. Available beginning this fall, Talking Rain AQA is a 9.5pH+ premium ionized water with electrolytes and minerals for taste. It is available in one-liter bottles, with a 20-ounce size coming soon. The Talking Rain AQA brand is slated to grow outside of high pH water in 2022 and beyond, expanding into new areas in the still water market to offer flavor variety and functional benefits. Talking Rain Beverage Co. Seattle drinkaqa.com
9. Ronnoco OnDemand Cold Brew Coffee Ronnoco Beverage Solutions is launching the industry’s first on-demand, freshly dispensed cold brew coffee. Powered by premier brewing technology, the rapid brewing process continuously pumps water through the coffee grounds, making readyto-drink cold brew coffee in 60 to 75 minutes, vs. traditional cold brew coffee that takes 12 to 24 hours to create. Ronnoco’s freshly dispensed cold brew coffee is anticipated to hit convenience stores nationwide in 2022. A variety of flavor add-ins and recipe cards will be available for customers to create their own unique blend in 12- to 24-ounce cups. Ronnoco Beverage Solutions St. Louis ronnoco.com
TeaZa Clearwater, Fla. teazaenergy.com
10. Chester’s Chicken New Sides As part of Chester’s ongoing brand refresh, three new and improved homestyle sides have hit the menu: mac & cheese, roasted garlic mashed potatoes with roasted chicken gravy, and green beans. The “extra creamy” cheddar mac & cheese uses cavatappi (corkscrew) noodles. The roasted garlic mashed potatoes are made with real cream cheese and milk, delivering a smooth and creamy texture. The roasted chicken gravy features seasonings of onion and garlic, and shifts to a poultry gravy from a beef or white gravy. And the round-cut green beans are seasoned with a signature spice blend that provides a smoky bacon flavor with slight citrus notes.
Chester’s Chicken Birmingham, Ala. chesterschicken.com 20 Convenience Store News C S N E W S . c o m
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A Win-Win Partnership Sharing data, asking the right questions and utilizing technology can help small operators better work with their wholesalers and suppliers By Tammy Mastroberte or small-chain operator in the convenience store industry alongside large chains that operate hundreds — or in some cases, thousands — of stores has its challenges. Because they don’t have the scale of their larger counterparts, and also lack visibility, it can be harder to capitalize on wholesaler and supplier partnerships to increase profitability and success.
BEING AN INDEPENDENT
“With 100,000 different independent and small operators, it can be harder for suppliers to access them, and tough for the retailer to get the visibility from suppliers to create an impact and extract value,” said Jamie Hudson, senior vice president and general manager of offers and insights at PDI Software, based in Temple, Texas, which acquired CStorePro in 2019 and has been offering technology solutions to smaller operators since then.
Many suppliers and wholesalers traditionally focus on the larger convenience chains, so there is less individualized service with smaller operators. This results in their needs getting overlooked, according to Lynn Swanson, director of sales, mass markets for McLane Co. Inc., a wholesaler based in Temple, Texas, that works with small operators on category management and more. Additionally, small chains are less likely to have inhouse expertise when it comes to marketing and merchandising compared to the larger chains, so they need to look outside for help from wholesalers, suppliers, buying groups and more, noted Ed Burcher, a partner with the Business Accelerator Team, based in Phoenix. However, while there are challenges to being small in the c-store industry, there are also benefits. One of the biggest is being able to make changes quickly, and be faster to implement and try new products vs. the larger chains, said Swanson.
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Utilizing Buying Groups to Gain Scale One of the biggest disadvantages a small operator in the convenience store industry has compared to the larger chains is scale and buying power. To a supplier, an order from a fivestore chain is very different than a 50- or 500-store chain. However, there are consortiums and buying groups a retailer can join to even the playing field. They pool operators together to create a larger order and get better deals from suppliers. “The buying groups allow operators to collaborate and join forces with other smaller operators to provide more scale and visibility,” explained Jamie Hudson, senior vice president and general manager of offers and insights at PDI Software, based in Temple, Texas. There are a variety of buying groups available to c-store operators — either regionally, nationally, or brand specific. For example, the Marathon Buying Club is available nationally, but it is exclusively for Marathon branded retail sites. Another such group is the Independent Buyers Group, which offers services to retailers in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Arkansas. There is also Royal Buying Group, which is available nationally. While wholesalers can share research and data with small operators, this can also be obtained through buying groups. But there is a cost to join and take advantage of the benefits, and this can cut into profit, so retailers need to make sure they are worth it in the end, according to Ed Burcher, a partner with the Business Accelerator Team, based in Phoenix. “If you can work directly with a manufacturer through your wholesaler, you will get a bigger piece of the pie,” he said. “Find out if the supplier has the ability to work with you directly and if you as a retailer have the bandwidth to work with the supplier in that way. If you just don’t have the volume needed, that is when buying groups can be helpful.”
“Smaller c-stores typically have less red tape than a large chain regarding the direction and decisions flowing from the top of the organization,” she explained. “In addition, something new requires a smaller investment and allows for more flexibility.” Independent and small-chain operators also tend to be more familiar with their local customers and more in touch with their needs, allowing them to personalize their business and even identify their niche in the market. The good news is there are suppliers and wholesalers who work with smaller chains and may have a lot more to offer than operators realize. It all comes down to collaboration and give-and-take. For example, if available, giving suppliers and wholesalers data from the store level can help them gain visibility into that store or chain and provide better advice and solutions — and in some cases, even rebates available to the larger chains, said Burcher. “Getting beyond the salesperson is also key, and most small operators don’t know how to do this,” he added. “They need to find out who their field person is and how they can get to the marketing or research department in the corporate office because they have the summary data retailers can use.”
Data, Rebates & Turnkey Programs With a smaller team of employees, many small operators lack the experience and dedicated resources that larger chains have, whether it’s marketing, purchasing or overall category management. This is where wholesalers and suppliers can be helpful outside of simply supplying product to the store. “Many small chains may not have the expertise in certain categories and are better off letting someone from the outside help them,” Burcher said. “Suppliers and wholesalers can bring them data and research to help make better decisions based on what is going on in their market. It’s critical to find the right partners, and wholesalers are a great place to start because often they can be a one-stop shop.” Wholesalers collect data and research from suppliers and other sources and can bring this information to small operators, so they can make better decisions on what to stock, where to merchandise products in the store and more, he explained. However, it’s important to be aware that “what wholesalers have to sell is what they have to sell, so make sure what is being presented matches your market need, and look for other alternatives as well.” At McLane, the distributor serves as a support team for small operators, offering category management, new items, deals, and implementation of profitable programs, according to Swanson. The company also offers a virtual tradeshow that allows smaller operators to take advantage of supplier deals and new items, she noted. Many wholesalers have turnkey programs, including foodservice options like pizza and chicken programs. For example, McLane offers the McLane Kitchen program developed exclusively for c-stores. It offers thaw-and-serve options, as well as more expanded offerings such as Choice Chicken and Javaperks. McLane also offers small operators a variety of programs from suppliers that come with rebates and deals. For instance, if they
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buy a certain supplier’s hot chocolate along with their coffee, there could be a rebate instead of using hot chocolate from a separate supplier.
it Johnny’s Pizza,” Burcher explained. “Also, don’t be afraid to say, ‘This may be the way the program comes, but I want to change it a bit because it doesn’t 100 percent fit my market.’”
“It’s hard to pick up pennies as a small operator because you don’t have enough time and you can miss money in the center of the store with rebates and programs that wholesalers can bring you,” said Steve Morris, president of Retail Management Inc. (RMI). “If you can pick up two cents on a candy bar, that is two cents more than you had yesterday and you are going to sell that candy bar anyway.”
Tapping Into the Power of Data
Burcher encourages small operators to speak up and ask their wholesalers what programs are available and what they need to do to reach certain levels so that they qualify for the rebates. He cautioned, however, that there may be some “pushing of supplier products” vs. what a store’s customers want, so it is important that needs are balanced. “Also, don’t be afraid to go outside of the programs as long as it doesn’t damage any of the rebates you may be getting — which are also only one piece of the puzzle. At the end of the day, you need footsteps in the store and you do that by having the products people want,” he said. Another tip for small operators when working with wholesalers is to know that they don’t have to take everything without questioning it. They should look at what the top products are in their categories (even regionally) that the wholesaler doesn’t carry and see if they can add those to their lineup, Burcher said. If they can’t or won’t, he recommends finding a secondary supplier. “If you are missing pancake batter No. 1, I wouldn’t go searching for it, but if you are missing the No. 2 soda in the category, I would look for that,” he advised.
As a small operator, there are technology solutions available to this market that allow scanning at the pointof-sale, back-office software to collect and analyze data, and pricebook solutions. When there is data to gain at the store level, an independent or chain can become more visible to suppliers and brands, and can get more targeted help when it comes to merchandising and sales, according to Hudson of PDI Software. “There are easy ways for independent and small-chain operators to leverage back-office, pricebook and scan data solutions, and even implement a loyalty program,” he said, noting that PDI offers a 30-day free trial for its solution, which is $59 a month and aimed at the one- to five-store operator. Providing data to suppliers can help them work “smarter and harder” with the retailer around how to promote their products in-store, and enable the operator to get access to rebates and other values offered, Hudson said. “Getting value from suppliers requires you to share data, and operators can use their scan data to extract rebates and values from tobacco and other consumer packaged goods companies,” he explained. “Suppliers often refer to small operators as ‘the dark channel’ because they don’t have the visibility. But when you can track what is occurring on a day-to-day basis, you will have better merchandising — and won’t have products not moving through an efficient cycle — as well as datadriven promotions that will lead to profitability.”
Planning Ahead Another way to collaborate with suppliers and wholesalers is to plan ahead. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single-store operator or a 100-store chain, an annual planning calendar is critical so that an operator can sit down with a supplier or wholesaler and plan out their year.
He also recommends small operators ask their wholesaler about rebranding its programs to create a unique offering. For example, if the wholesaler offers a sandwich program, ask if the store or chain can use the product, but rename it so that it’s branded with the chain.
“The suppliers all know what their calendars look like, so you don’t miss sales opportunities,” Burcher said. “Plan out your promotional calendar, what space allocation will look like, how many cooler doors you will have for CSDs [carbonated soft drinks], the percentage of space you will give to direct-store-delivery chips. And be aware of saying yes to everything because then, you are limiting yourself.”
“I am a brand person at heart — you can only get Wawa’s hoagies at Wawa — so when you are talking product distribution, ask if you can brand it your own. Johnny’s Store can use the pizza program and name
Burcher noted that he’s worked with stores where the entire cooler door was on sale and if everything is on sale, then nothing is on sale, he said. “Plan out that one month Pepsi will be on sale and the next month it’s Coke. That is how you drive sales,” he said. CSN
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Hall of Famer Kyle Krause is leaving his mark on the convenience channel and his community By Melissa Kress
TO SAY RETAIL is in Kyle Krause’s blood is only part of the story.
Convenience retailing, serving fresh food to the community, and giving back is all part of Krause’s DNA. And more importantly, it is part of his legacy as he builds onto what his grandfather and father started before him. Krause was named president of Kum & Go LC, a family-owned chain founded more than 60 years ago, in 1997. From 2004 to
2020, he served as chairman and CEO. Under his leadership, Kum & Go grew to employ more than 4,700 associates and became the fifth-largest privately held, company-operated convenience store chain in the United States. Krause is also the founder of Krause Group, the parent company of not only Kum & Go, but also Solar Transport, an Iowa-based refined fuel transporter; the Des Moines Menace, a League Two soccer team; renowned wineries Vietti and Enrico Serafino in Italy; and more.
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For his dedication to the convenience store industry and his contributions to advancing the channel, Krause is the 2021 retailer inductee into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame. He is the third offspring of a previous Hall of Fame member to be inducted, as his late father, William “Bill” Krause, was welcomed into the Hall of Fame in 2006.
A Family Business “Fifteen years ago, my dad was selected into this Hall of Fame, and rightfully so. It is nice to be able to fill those shoes and carry that on,” Krause said during the 35th annual CSNews Hall of Fame awards gala, held Nov. 11 in Kum & Go’s hometown of Des Moines. Noting that he is fortunate to be part of a family business, Krause shared that his grandfather opened a fruit and vegetable store in Iowa 100 years ago and today, the family is still "lucky enough" to be selling healthy food to Iowans. "It's a real pleasure to be able to work with family, and to be able to do that as part of a family business is enjoyable to me," he said, pointing out that he had the opportunity at the start of this year to transition to serving only as CEO of Krause Group because his son, Tanner, was "more than ready" to take the reins as the new CEO of Kum & Go. "As a family business, we are lucky that, in some ways, we can do what we want to do. I am really proud of what our businesses do around corporate responsibility, around diversity, equity and inclusion, and we try to be philanthropic," Krause said. "As a family, we have been blessed and part of that is how we give back for those blessings." Introducing Krause at the 2021 Hall of Fame awards gala, Greg Parker, founder and CEO of Parker's and the 2020 Retailer Hall of Fame inductee, pointed out how his ascent within the c-store industry was different — and perhaps simpler — than Krause’s rise. "Success is built in many different ways, and my way is very different than your way, and I am not sure which is harder," Parker said. "For me, my success was built on insecurity, if I am going to be honest with myself, and fear of failure. I was able to persevere and do things that made us a very successful company in this industry that I admire.
2020 Retailer Hall of Fame inductee Greg Parker (left) presented Kyle Krause with this year's Hall of Fame retailer award.
"You had something that I think was even more of a struggle. You had to live up to what your father had achieved," he told Krause. "I think what you did might be even more important because you had to instill this vision in your team; you had to create followers who were willing to follow you, and to evolve the company your father started." Parker also acknowledged the younger Krause's philanthropic endeavors, lauding him for creating a legacy for both his family and his local community. Krause Group donates 10 percent of its profits each year to charitable causes, and members of the senior leadership team led by Krause serve on various community boards as well. He currently gives his time to numerous boards throughout the Greater Des Moines community, including the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and Des Moines Art Center. Nationally, he serves the National Gallery of Art as both a trustee council member and chair of the Contemporary Collectors Committee.
An Early Start With Kum & Go being a family-run organization since its founding, Krause always knew he was going to follow in the footsteps of the generations before him.
DE CE MB E R
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Kyle Krause was honored alongside Vito Maurici of McLane, Kevin Smartt of Texas Born, and Roy Strasburger of StrasGlobal.
“I remember telling my dad that ‘of course’ I was going to work at Kum & Go with my father and grandfather,” the newest Hall of Famer recounted to CSNews.
Kum & Go all of my life,” he said. “All of my kids started working in the stores at the age of 9 also. I now have two grandchildren; I guess the 3-year-old will be working for us in six short years.”
Like many of his colleagues in family businesses, Krause got his foot in the door at an early age — 9 years old, to be exact. That starting age has actually become a family tradition.
Had he not become a convenience retailer, Krause likely would have followed one of his other passions in other industries. The range of companies within the Krause Group reflect the various areas he is passionate about.
“I started working in our business when I was 9 years old, and I have worked in
“Fifteen years ago, my dad was selected into this Hall of Fame, and rightfully so. It is nice to be able to fill those shoes and carry that on.” — Kyle Krause, Krause Group
In fact, the CSNews Hall of Fame is not the first Hall of Fame he has been inducted into. In 2011, he was inducted into the United Soccer League’s Hall of Fame for his many contributions to the sport. In addition to the Des Moines Menace, Krause Group last year acquired a controlling stake in the Italian Serie A soccer team, Parma Calcio 1913.
Changing With the Times With 50 years of experience in convenience retailing now, Krause has long realized that convenience is an industry of change, so retailers need to keep changing. “Local and world events can impact our business as we serve so many different needs with fuel, food and convenience products,” he said. “Supply chain, labor market, global oil prices and innovation all require us to keep changing.”
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The new Hall of Famer was joined by his son Tanner and wife Sharon at the awards gala in Des Moines.
Along with overcoming challenges, his career has come with many other rewards. Foremost among them is getting to work with his family. “I was fortunate enough to work with my father for a long time. I also had the pleasure of working with my grandfather, who worked full-time for many years after I got out of college,” Krause recalled. Having his son take over as CEO of Kum & Go is certainly another reward. On Jan. 1, 2021, Krause transitioned out of the role of CEO of the retail chain and passed the torch to his son Tanner Krause, who had served as president under his father. According to Krause, the decision to make that transition was easy. “Tanner and I are a lot alike. We both care about our people. Handing over the reins to a family member who you know wants the same things you want was not hard to do,” he said. Still, this doesn’t mean he is ready for retirement — not by a long shot.
“As a family, we have been blessed and part of that is how we give back for those blessings.” — Kyle Krause, Krause Group “I am not slowing down. I had been CEO of both Kum & Go and Krause Group. Now, I am only the CEO of Krause Group, [which] has 11 companies,” he explained. “The transition was more about giving Kum & Go what it deserves.” In addition to Tanner, Krause is blessed to have many other family members involved in the businesses, including his son Oliver, his son-in-law, and one of his nephews. “I am very proud of working in and growing a multigenerational company,” he said. So, what is ahead for Kum & Go? “Continued change and evolution is ahead,” Krause said. “We look at Kum & Go as a business to manage generationally. As a family, we look at what it may look like for the next generation. Evolution is necessary for that.” CSN
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YOU LIGHT THE WAY TO THE TOP! RETAILER HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
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VITO MAURICI SVP of Sales & Trade Relations, McLane Co.
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A Passion for People
Supplier Hall of Famer Vito Maurici believes mentorship is the backbone to an ever-changing convenience industry By Danielle Romano
FROM THE OUTSIDE looking in, most people may not understand the enormous complexity of the convenience store industry. This complexity, coupled with cross-channel competition, forces the industry to be innovative, nimble, and on the cutting edge of understanding the migratory nature of consumer needs. Tack on the trials and tribulations of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the velocity of change has accelerated.
But if you ask industry veteran Vito Maurici what force continues to propel the channel forward, he will tell you that it’s the people and the lasting impact mentorship can have. “I have been tremendously blessed and honored to have caring and trustworthy colleagues and mentors who have given their time and energy to coach me throughout most of my diverse and versatile career,” said Maurici, this year’s supplier inductee into the Convenience Store News Hall of Fame. Maurici, in turn, has paid it forward. Of the achievements he is most proud of is the opportunity he’s had to give back by serving as a coach and mentor to others. Throughout a storied tenure, Maurici, who today serves as senior vice president of sales and trade relations for McLane Co. Inc., has played an important role in promoting members of his teams to positions with greater responsibility and accountability. “If I had a small part in them achieving their career goals, it is absolutely among my most significant professional accomplishments,” he told CSNews. Fellow industry veteran David Onorato, the 2020 supplier inductee into the CSNews Hall of Fame and vice president, general manager, small format stores for The Hershey Co., has high praise for Maurici’s leadership and influence on the industry. “As a friend of Vito’s for many years, I have had a front-row seat and watched him and been able to appreciate every-
David Onorato, the 2020 Supplier Hall of Fame inductee (right), presented Vito Maurici with this year's Hall of Fame supplier award.
thing Vito does for the industry, has done and will continue to do well into the future. Simply put, he’s an outstanding individual and he puts everybody in front of him — his teammates, his customers, his friends and his family,” Onorato said.
A Jack of All Trades Maurici received his undergraduate degree in marketing and management from Indiana University's (IU) Kelley School of Business, where he earned academic and athletic honors. He was awarded the Big Ten Medal of Honor for his athletic and academic accomplishments while at IU. He was also a two-time recipient of All-Big Ten honors and twice selected Honorable Mention AllAmerican as a four-year varsity wrestler. His distinguished career spans 26 years as a sales and marketing executive. His tenure within the convenience industry began with Altria Group Distribution Co. as a territory sales manager. He rose through the ranks to ultimately become vice president of sales, successfully overseeing the strategy, execution and engagement of new product launches, merchandising programs, and customer partnerships.
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“McLane Co. was started in 1894 and is an industry-leading and very well-respected foodservice solutions company. My work with other companies has involved direct contact with McLane throughout my entire career. The company's strong values, reputation for integrity, stability, and terrific leaders and teammates were among the many factors leading to my decision to join the company when the opportunity arose,” recalled Maurici, who’s also led trade marketing efforts for Philip Morris International in central Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and worked as a strategic consultant to 7-Eleven Inc., where he formulated and implemented strategies for the multi-billion-dollar tobacco category nationwide. Vito Maurici received congratulations from his wife Niccole and their four children: Arianna, Pasquale, Nico and Marcello.
After 16 years with Altria, Maurici joined NJOY, a U.S. manufacturer and distributor of electronic cigarette and vaping products, in June 2010 as its senior vice president of sales and distribution. He was instrumental in the company's growth from a startup to a billion-dollar valuation. In June 2016, Maurici was ready for a new challenge and accepted his current role as senior vice president of sales and trade relations for McLane, one of the largest supply chain services companies in the United States. Reporting to CEO Tony Frankenberger, Maurici oversees the distributor’s grocery division trade channels, including c-store, mass merchandisers, drug, wholesale club, travel centers, dollar stores, military, and independent retailers. He has transformed McLane’s sales mission to focus on being solution oriented, driving sales for both customers and McLane, while leading approximately 300 sales teammates.
“I have been tremendously blessed and honored to have caring and trustworthy colleagues and mentors who have given their time and energy to coach me throughout most of my diverse and versatile career.” — Vito Maurici, McLane Co. Inc.
Looking to the Future Reaching this point in his career and attaining Hall of Famer status, Maurici says he has gained a wealth of knowledge over the years. Key among the lessons learned is listening to teammates’ needs, removing obstacles to their success, and developing their skills so that they can achieve their career goals. This is critical to developing leaders, he emphasized. “The more you grow and trust your team, the more they will exceed your expectations,” the McLane executive expressed. Looking ahead, Maurici is as bullish today about the future of the convenience store business as he was when he first started in the industry. He is excited about how innovation will aid the perseverance of the people working in this industry, and how the industry will hold the line in continuing to be integral. “As I thought about my career in preparation for [the Hall of Fame] event, I feel so blessed and grateful to be a part of this industry for so many years. As I reflect on what makes this industry so special, one thing comes to mind and that’s people,” he said during the 35th annual CSNews Hall of Fame awards gala, held Nov. 11 in Des Moines, Iowa. “The people in this industry are truly special. Whether it is an associate in the store working the first shift, a warehouse employee selecting groceries and loading trucks, a driver delivering products to the store, or an independent c-store owner, the common thread is great people make this industry what it is.” CSN
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Shepherding the Industry Through Tough Times
Roy Strasburger receives the first-ever Convenience Store News Special Service Award By Linda Lisanti CONVENIENCE STORE INDUSTRY veteran Roy Strasburger, CEO of StrasGlobal, has one guiding principle that has been translated into his company’s mission statement: “To make life better for our team, for our customers, for our clients.”
Roy Strasburger (left) with Convenience Store News' Don Longo.
“We put those groups in that order for a very specific reason. We must have a solid team who is willing to work together to help our customers meet their needs and aspirations. Those customers will help our clients meet their goals and objectives,” he explained. Staying true to this guiding principle, Strasburger, a fourthgeneration retailer, not only shepherded his own Texas-based operations and consulting company through the pandemic, but also helped scores of small and midsized operators in the convenience channel overcome the challenges.
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Realizing an industrywide need for information during the pandemic, he published and shared with the entire convenience and fuel retailing industry his company’s game plan for dealing with the safety concerns of both his workers and customers. Strasburger followed that up by launching a content and services hub called Resources for Retailers, aimed at helping single-store owners and small operators navigate the new normal. The goal of Resources for Retailers is to expand the knowledge base around COVID-19 by sharing — in great detail — actionable items that a relatively small operator may implement. Additionally, StrasGlobal developed a comprehensive Vaccination Plan as part of its Resources for Retailers hub. Strasburger made the entire detailed plan available on the company’s website, including supporting templates and other tools.
For these efforts, and his display of selflessness and generosity, Strasburger is the recipient of the first-ever Convenience Store News Special Service Award for meritorious service to the convenience channel. He was honored during the 35th annual CSNews Hall of Fame awards gala, held Nov. 11 in Des Moines, Iowa. During his acceptance speech, Strasburger noted that more than 90,000 c-stores in the United States are single-store operators. For many, this industry is the American dream. "For someone who is coming to this country, for someone who is trying to develop a business, for someone who wants a build a better life for themselves, a convenience store is the perfect opportunity," he said, adding that his work developing Resources for Retailers helped him recognize that every one of those 90,000 stores supports a family or more. "Helping someone out doesn't take away from yourself," he said. "I truly believe a rising tide lifts all boats. I think we have a responsibility as an industry to help everyone who crosses our threshold. We are stronger together if we help everyone." CSN
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GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE
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THE RACE IS ON Restaurant closings during the pandemic mean opportunity for c-stores to gain share of stomach By Angela Hanson OVER THE COURSE of nearly two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all aspects of life, including how people work, how people travel, how people eat, and more.
As a result, foodservice in the convenience store space now faces a long list of significant challenges. But operators willing to address them have considerable opportunity still to achieve long-term success and profitability. In terms of its impact on retail foodservice operations, the pandemic is on the level of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the 2010s housing crisis, according to John Matthews, president and CEO of Gray Cat Enterprises. Just like air travel and loan options were irrevocably changed by those events, retail foodservice will never return to what operators knew as normal. Safety trumps all else in this brave, new foodservice world. Additionally, proactive and clear communication to both employees and customers, as well as flexibility and ongoing training, are key. Carryout, curbside pickup and drivethru should also be key considerations going forward, along with contactless payment options. “Now more than ever, foodservice is a must,” Matthews said, speaking during the recent 2021 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange event, held in Charlotte, N.C. The closing of an estimated 15-20 percent of restaurants during the pandemic means there is significant opportunity for c-stores to gain share of stomach — and the race to do so is already on. As c-store operators plan for their future in prepared food, whether that involves their own proprietary program
or a branded partnership, they need to consider the story they want to tell, because stories strongly resonate with consumers, according to Mike Murnane, president and chief revenue officer at Uno Foods. For example, Uno’s has the story of having invented Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza, which put “restaurant DNA in our blood,” he said. Being able to follow through on the story is key. If the experience customers have with the brand relates to the story they were told, they will tell others; if it doesn’t, they will recognize the lack of authenticity and the brand will suffer. “Expectations need to translate to experience,” Murnane told leading convenience foodservice retailers gathered at the Convenience Foodservice Exchange. “If we don’t deliver that, we’re bombing on the experience.”
A Path to Growth Key goals for today’s convenience foodservice operators should include growth and innovation, approached in an orderly fashion, advises Joe Chiovera, principal at XS Foodservice Solutions. He recommends c-stores take a threephased approach to growth: foundation before differentiation, building a culture of simplicity, and nurturing greatness. It also remains critical to pursue innovation, despite the recent labor shortage and supply chain disruptions making it more difficult to do so. One way to handle a crisis is to look at it as an opportunity to fill in a gap, according to Chiovera. “Strategic and proactive” is the way to go when it comes to innovation, he said, not “rushed and defensive” because someone else innovated first. The biggest obstacles to successful
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GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE
innovation are company politics/a lack of alignment in an organization, cultural issues, an inability to act on developments critical to a business’ future, lack of budget, and lack of strategy/vision. Setting a proinnovation culture from the top down is key, and companies need to be prepared to plan for months out from the present. Innovation often fails when companies lack commitment and don’t stick to it. “They don’t see it through all the way,” Chiovera said, emphasizing that retailers need to spend time building a foundation and anticipate some bumpy roads along the way. Even if an innovative initiative has longterm big goals, it can be smart to start small. Launching a test at one or two stores requires minimal spending, but will pay dividends in knowledge gained.
Getting Past the Roadblocks To achieve these goals, c-stores must overcome the significant challenges to operations. While the causes are complex, it’s a simple truth that labor issues are not going away any time soon, and supply chain difficulties will continue into 2022.
“It was our time to shine when people came in to get something they couldn’t in a restaurant. I 100 percent believe we will retain some of those customers.” — Heather Davis, Parker’s Operational execution only grows more challenging as retailers add more foodservice. There’s no way to sidestep these issues, but striving to simplify can do a great deal to make things run more smoothly, according to several c-store retailers who took part in discussions during the Convenience Foodservice Exchange. Consistency is key. The greater the number of differences from store to store, the more factors operators must take into account, and the more chances for things to go wrong.
Joe Chiovera (left) and Don Longo discussed foodservice innovation at the 2021 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange event.
Chris Postlewaite, director of foodservice for Elizabethtown, N.C.-based Minuteman Food Mart, described how when he joined the company, there were four locations that were “bread and butter” for foodservice, but they had four differing menus, which resulted in no consistency between stores and “lots of supply chain issues.” “Inconsistency … will absolutely kill your program with turnover,” he said. Retailers should consider cutting menu items or ingredients that are low contributors, such as bread carriers that don’t serve more than one purpose. This kind of simplification allowed La Plata, Md.-based Dash In to cut costs, while making things easier for operations, shared Ben Lucky, category manager of foodservice for the chain. Simplifying store equipment along with the menu is also helpful. When Ed Burcher, former vice president of foodservice at Fremont, Ohio-based Beck Suppliers, joined the company to develop its FriendShip Kitchen concept, he found that existing FriendShip stores used too many different ovens. However, he didn’t rush to make changes. “We went slow to go fast,” recalled Burcher, who is now a partner with the Business Accelerator Team. The company tweaked the equipment setup at two stores, taking the opportunity to develop a programmable, computer-driven oven station. The goal was to create a
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CREATING A ONE-STOP SHOP FOR BEVERAGE CREATION Speaking with ... Shawn McElyea, Director Marketing, Welbilt Beverage As the industry’s only full-line beverage equipment solutions provider, Welbilt recognizes that beverages go beyond just one drink or one piece of equipment. As the industry continues to evolve, the company is building on its 100+ year legacy with equipment that helps c-stores deliver innovative, engaging crafted beverage experiences and drives proﬁtability in the process. Convenience Store News spoke with Shawn McElyea, Director Marketing of Welbilt Beverage, to discuss the role beverage programs play in c-stores, and how the company’s iconic Crem and Multiplex brands can help them become a preferred destination for the kind of creative hot, cold, and blended beverages today’s customers seek. Convenience Store News: Like all retailers, c-stores are facing multiple challenges. What are some of the biggest hurdles they must overcome? Shawn McElyea: Addressing the labor shortage and implementing technology are two issues front and center today. C-store operators must ﬁnd ways to make their operations more eﬃcient — and they have to do that while oﬀering the kind of products that will attract customers and build loyalty. CSN: How can a beverage program help them achieve those goals? SM: When you think of the role beverages play in our lives, it’s easy to see why c-stores and beverages go hand-inhand. Beverages help us wake up in the morning, indulge ourselves in the afternoon, and refuel after a long day. But customers stopping by for a quick drink want more than beverages that taste good; they want a unique drinking experience, too. That’s why an innovative beverage program is critical to consumer satisfaction and retention. Stores that innovate will be the ones that thrive in the category. That’s where Welbilt Beverage can help.
with dispensing and ﬂavors but may need help to design a complete beverage solution featuring the hot, cold, and blended options customers crave. Now with Welbilt Beverage, they can. We’ve integrated our popular Crem and Multiplex brands so stores have a single source they can tap to build a menu that looks beyond the equipment to the total beverage experience. There’s no need to call multiple companies for equipment and service — there’s one name, one call. We’re a one-stop shop for beverage solutions, and that creates a more eﬃcient experience. CSN: What are some products in your portfolio that can help c-stores create on-trend beverage experiences? SM: We have several! Our CRAFTtap, introduced in August, is designed for carbonated soft drinks and creates a premium chilled drink experience; the Unity1 from Crem is a fully automatic coﬀee machine that yields barista-quality bean to cup drinks at the push of a button; the Fresh Blender, powered by Multiplex, is an integrated beverage dispenser for made-to-order cold drinks; and our N2Mobile is a unique solution that lets stores oﬀer cold brew and nitro coﬀee without the need for utilities. And that’s just a start. From espresso, to nitro and ﬁltered coﬀee, to tea and juices, to carbonated sodas and blended beverages, Welbilt Beverage can help c-stores create the highestquality crafted beverage experience for their customers at the lowest total cost of ownership for operators. For more information, visit www.welbilt.us.
CSN: What do you oﬀer that c-stores can’t ﬁnd with their existing beverage programs? SM: The truth is that most c-stores do extremely well
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standardized offer that could be quickly rolled out to all stores when it was ready. “It was building the foundation,” Burcher explained. Minimizing preparation steps can be beneficial, too. At Dash In, Lucky said he seeks to have everything in the ballpark of six steps. He tries to have as many products as possible made to the same taste profile, but is willing to experiment with items already in stock to create something completely different, such as frying Hawaiian bread — typically used for savory sliders — with powdered sugar and Nutella to create a new doughnut slider. “It’s doing more with the same items you already have, so you can amplify and be innovative with guard rails, without going too far afield,” he said. On the labor front, retailers should revisit existing processes to determine if there is a way to ease the burden on employees who are already feeling the squeeze of tight staffing and long to-do lists. If technology exists that can generate a report with the push of a button instead of manual work, it’s worth the investment, according to industry insiders. When it comes to recruiting, in addition to raising wages, retailers report some success offering other benefits such as sign-on bonuses, end-of-year profit sharing, health spending account matches at lower levels, pet insurance, and more. Some companies have also seen good results from holding hiring events, but retailers must be prepared to make offers quickly. “In today’s market, you need to get back with applicants immediately,” Postlewaite said. “The longer you wait, the less likely they are to come on.” The best new hires may be the ones who are already doing a good job of keeping things going somewhere else, noted Heather Davis, foodservice director at Savannah, Ga.-based Parker’s Convenience. “That person who’s working now — go get them,” she said.
The Pursuit of Excellence Despite the ongoing challenges in the foodservice category, c-store retailers have persevered throughout the pandemic by focusing on what they already do best and
how they can do it even better, which is likely to improve consumer sentiment about convenience foodservice in the long run. “We focused on who we were,” said Davis, recalling Parker’s response to supply chain difficulties. Eliminating lower-selling items that took up more time in the fryer in favor of “core champions” like its famous chicken tenders allowed the chain to avoid outages, while assuring its loyal customers that they could count on getting their favorite items. C-store operators can still win by pursuing smaller forms of innovation, balanced with being cautious enough to make sure they can follow through on any new offerings, says Chad White, foodservice category manager at Rutter’s. The York, Pa.-based chain is currently “assessing and nimbly pivoting” to meet the needs of its customers and staff, he pointed out. Even if retailers have bold ideas for their foodservice program that they can’t reliably execute at the moment, their brand will be better off if they maintain a reputation of offering quality products, even if that means having a smaller selection available for a time. “Menu rationalization and focusing on the most important aspects of the menu has helped us continue to innovate in small ways, while maintaining in-stock positions and service levels,” White said. Supplier partnerships are vital as well, during the pandemic and beyond. Retailers credit vendors as being both vital to keeping their prepared food offerings running smoothly during the pandemic and serving as excellent sources of innovative ideas. In spite of the challenges, retailers express optimism about the future of convenience foodservice. The pandemic created significant disruptions, but it also shook up consumers’ habits and their views of the convenience channel. More than ever, c-stores are well positioned to compete with restaurants for share of stomach. “It was our time to shine when people came in to get something they couldn’t in a restaurant,” Davis said, noting that stepping into a c-store instead of a restaurant during the pandemic changed perceptions of what c-store food is. “I 100 percent believe we will retain some of those customers.” CSN
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Making the Case for Curbside Pickup This is one of the strongest opportunities for c-stores to compete with quick-service restaurants By Angela Hanson
have several commonly cited reasons for why they are hesitant to add curbside pickup at their stores: they fear a loss of add-on and impulse sales; it could increase labor costs; and they believe curbside requires a dedicated pickup area in the parking lot.
CONVENIENCE STORE OPERATORS
However, there is a simple and compelling argument in favor of offering curbside: retailers that don’t will be left behind because curbside and off-premise are here to stay, according to Tom Cook, principal at King-Casey, a leader in foodservice business improvement. “It’s become a standard now, and it’s going to stay and continue to grow,” Cook said during a presentation at the recent 2021 Convenience Store News Convenience Foodservice Exchange event, held in Charlotte, N.C. C-stores are in a good position to compete with quickservice restaurants (QSRs), as the industry’s transition to a foodservice-focused model has been ongoing for quite some time, with foodservice growing to be the secondlargest revenue category after tobacco. Operators have improved their overall menu quality, developed signature food and beverage items, and developed new store designs that emphasize their foodservice offerings. Despite these positive moves, though, upgrading foodservice alone doesn’t address current convenience trends and evolving consumer needs. According to a mid-2021 survey, just more than half of c-store chains now offer some amount of curbside pickup, and only half of those make it available at all or most of their stores. Additionally, just half of c-store chains that offer curbside say they are “extremely satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the results. Nearly 50 percent have no plans to expand their curbside program at this time, the survey found. And among those that do not currently offer curbside, half say they are not likely to add it in the future.
• Consumers have discovered the speed, convenience and comfort of offpremise offerings; • QSR and fast-casual outlets are quickly expanding curbside and drive-thru while continually improving the convenience of the off-premise experience; and • Leading QSR and fast-casual brands, including Starbucks and Taco Bell, have even developed curbside and drive-thru “stores of the future.” For c-store retailers that add curbside pickup, consumers’ strong desire for convenience is likely to increase visit frequency for current customers and attract new customers who want that added convenience, alleviating potential concerns about loss of impulse sales and higher labor costs, according to Cook. The high frequency of use and consumer acceptance of curbside in the restaurant industry demonstrates there is significant curbside opportunity for c-stores. “I think it’s a terrific way to get incremental business,” he said. Cook acknowledged the challenges posed by today’s labor shortage, but believes c-store operators should look beyond their current difficulties and strongly consider curbside pickup if they aren’t already doing so. “There’s a bright future ahead for our industry and curbside,” he said. CSN
Cook, however, pointed to some distinct benefits of curbside pickup that c-store executives should recognize: its customer-centric offering of convenience, saved time, and safety; and its ability to provide incremental sales by keeping c-stores competitive with QSRs and fast-casual restaurants. He also listed several key changes that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic: • Consumers show a preference for a touchless foodservice experience;
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GUIDE TO FOODSERVICE
The Top Food Trends to Watch in 2022 These 10 emerging developments are generating buzz across multiple channels By Angela Hanson
WHILE THE LABOR SHORTAGE
and supply chain disruptions have many convenience store operators focused on dayto-day challenges, it’s critical to always keep one eye on up-and-coming trends — because the future will be here sooner than you think.
4. Mental Health Cooking — Otherwise known as comfort food, consumers are gravitating toward items that fulfill their emotional needs as much as their physical ones.
According to Chef Don Brizes, associate professor at Johnson & Wales University, these are the top 10 emerging trends that food-focused c-store retailers should be aware of:
5. Flexitarianism — An increasing number of consumers are trying the flexitarian diet, in which they cut down on meat without fully eliminating it from their diet, or restrict meat consumption to certain days of the week. Offering more fruits, veggies, nuts and other non-meat products can attract flexitarians to c-stores in their search for healthier products.
1. Ghost Kitchens — Also known as cloud kitchens or dark kitchens, these food preparation-only concepts have less overhead and can serve as centralized commissaries for retailers that want to boost their foodservice sales without adding to the workload of store employees who are already juggling non-food duties. 2. Plant-Based Offerings — Adding vegetarian and vegan products can enable c-stores to better serve a wider range of customers with differing dietary preferences. It can also help to change the common perception among non-meateaters that the convenience channel as a whole is not one they can rely on for an easy snack or meal. 3. Pantry Meals — If a particular ingredient is only used for one or two menu items, why not brainstorm to see where else it can fit? Doing more with what is already on hand — or “in the pantry” — increases efficiency and allows c-stores to present more variety at a time when supply issues may hinder their ability to reliably offer innovative new products.
6. Carb Alternatives — Options for lowand no-carbohydrate alternatives are growing in response to consumers who want to cut down on carbs as part of weight loss or for medical reasons. Cauliflower, in particular, has emerged as a tasty, extremely versatile alternative that can be used to replace everything from mashed potatoes to pizza crust. 7. Takeout — Consumer demand for takeout meals spiked during the pandemic and shows no signs of waning. Retailers’ best option among delivery, curbside pickup or in-store pickup should be based on factors such as target market, store layout, and available labor. 8. Low-Waste Foods — Similar to pantry meals, low-waste foods do more with less. For example, radishes are primarily valued for their bulbs, which can be chopped and used in a salad, but they often come still attached to their greens, which can become ingredients for smoothies, kimchi and more. 9. Elevated Desserts — Getting creative with desserts — such as taking a simple s’more and adding cookie butter, berries or caramel to make it fancier — is an easy way to make something new and intriguing for customers out of an old standard. 10. Cold Brew Coffee — Already the fastestgrowing coffee drink, cold brew is an easy choice for retailers that want to draw in coffee fans who have largely been brewing their own java at home for the last two years. Cold brew coffee is set to explode in 2022. CSN
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12/3/21 6:12 PM
Mastering the Backbar Constantly changing regulations and evolving consumers mean c-store operators must sharpen their tobacco category management skills By Renée M. Covino
A WELL-MANAGED BACKBAR is simple in theory, but complex in practice, thanks to constantly changing regulations around tobacco products, evolving consumers, contractual obligations, and a plethora of new-product entries.
Still, there are best practices that forwardthinking convenience store retailers can follow — some based on common sense; some evolving with the category. It’s important to consider them in tandem with one another and as part of the whole category’s success.
Wear a Consumer Hat Perhaps the most obvious category management practice is to stand back and think like a tobacco consumer. “It’s important to approach the space through a customer’s lens — make the backbar easy to shop,” said Tim Greene, category director at Smoker Friendly, a Boulder, Colo.-based chain of 181 tobacco stores operating in eight states. He believes c-stores can follow the lead of tobacco stores and “dedicate appropriate space for each subcategory, led by top brands, to ensure each provides maximum offerings and profitability.” Put another way, constant awareness of what’s selling in each subsegment and rationalizing the assortment to the wants of the consumer are a must, according to Bill Nolan, a partner with the Business Accelerator Team, a group of c-store industry consultants based in Phoenix.
Chris Dillard, tobacco category manager for Greenville, S.C.-based The Spinx Co., believes in planning a backbar strategy around the consumer, including consistent merchandising, product assortment, and inventory management. He is always on the lookout for opportunities to “add incremental value for the customer.” This can take shape through loyalty programs, incremental discounting, targeted promotions, and more. Dillard urges fellow tobacco category managers not to be afraid to try new things, which could mean new merchandising, new products, or new pricing strategies. Backbars are notorious for having a tremendous number of products displayed, acknowledges Victor Cavanaugh, senior manager of category management at Swisher. “Because consumers are more likely to shop these items from behind a counter, organization and visibility take on an increased importance,” Cavanaugh told Convenience Store News. “Creating sections in your backbar that group segments together help the consumer’s shopping experience. Creating planograms and updating them on a regular basis will keep assortments current and prioritize high-volume brands.”
Tapping Into Manufacturers’ Expertise Working with top manufacturers is another habit of successful tobacco retailers. “Capitalize on manufacturer programs and work with account managers to best communicate pricing, promotions, and new products,” advises Greene. If a c-store retailer is not working with the major manufacturers, whereby they’ll get the best discounts, they will have a hard time competing price-wise, notes
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Ray Johnson, operations manager for Speedee Mart, which operates 22 stores in Nevada.
Ketchum, vice president of retail at Energy North Group, a chain of retail stores in New England and New York.
“Plus, they can give you more direct data, and if you’re not involved in it, you will get left behind and leave money on the table,” Johnson cautioned.
Like others, he points to the importance of deleting and minimizing slow movers on a regular basis. Updating planograms to reflect current trends is the only way to effectively manage a tobacco backbar, according to Ketchum.
C-store operators should stay in close contact with manufacturers to ensure they know what’s being developed in the pipeline, according to Nolan, who also recommends coordinating with manufacturers/suppliers on the newest display fixtures to ensure an organized backbar with easily recognized products and prices. Speaking as a tobacco manufacturer, Swisher’s Cavanaugh concurs that an important function of the partnership between supplier and retailer is to provide key insights into market data. One of the primary results of this step, he says, is “arriving at the right product mix for your market.” Retailers who partner with manufacturers have better access to emerging trends in the category. “Identifying these new trends and making adjustments to your product assortments can keep customer return visits high,” he said. Product availability is another element of a successful backbar that can be facilitated with good manufacturer relations — at least one relationship per subcategory. Out-of-stocks, especially in key products, are costly to any business, but especially in tobacco where consumers are more likely to be brand loyal. “Tobacco customers are more inclined to shop stores that are consistent,” said Greene.
Analytics, Analytics, Analytics Data and analytics are a tobacco category manager’s best friend.
Consider a Local Wholesaler In the tobacco category these days, it’s good to evolve and embrace new trends, but Speedee Mart’s Johnson believes in taking a measured approach. His strategy is to keep up with all the new products — but with a lower inventory at all times. “You never know who’s going to be around next year,” he said. “If something phases out, something else will come on, and you don’t want to be caught with a bunch of product.” For the newest innovations, Johnson uses a local wholesaler, which enables Speedee Mart to get more than once-a-week delivery. In reality, he says once-a-week delivery with the major wholesalers is actually 10 to 14 days. “But with a local wholesaler, I can get delivery two times a week, keeping inventories pretty tight,” he said. “That’s just on new, evolving products because generally, the major wholesalers are not fast enough on these.”
Multi Mania Another successful strategy Johnson utilizes these days is encouraging multi sales. “You’ve got to promote multipacks, multi-cans, etc. You’ve got to give the customer a reason to buy more than one, and price is what does that,” he said, pointing out that he doesn’t even put the price of one unit anywhere, so customers don’t see that option. “Every sign essentially says this is the price when you buy two or ‘save with two’ on can deals or carton deals,” Johnson explained.
“Do not work in a vacuum. Compare internal data with market and regional results,” advises Nolan, noting that it’s important for retailers to keep up with any new trends in the category, as well as migrating consumer-buying habits.
His thinking is that the guy who’s going to buy one is going to do that no matter the price, but that same guy will buy two if it’s on sale, reasoning that he’ll save the trip tomorrow or the next day. In reality, though, he’ll probably consume more.
Part of this is constantly narrowing/deleting slow sellers to minimize wasted inventory costs. “This practice will also provide immediate space for new items,” he relayed.
“If Tide is on sale and you buy two, you’re not going to wash any more clothes that week,” Johnson reasoned. “But if you buy two snacks or two tobacco items on sale, you’re more likely to consume them quicker.”
Spinx’s Dillard agrees that it’s all about analytics.
Keep It Legal
“Know your category, which means knowing each of the subcategories and item performance,” he said. “You must know where the strengths and opportunities lie. You have to look for the promotional wins and losses to know how to move forward.” Simply put, c-store operators have to analyze both sales and purchase data to see what is selling, growing and declining in each subcategory, explains Jonathan
Above all else, the most crucial factor in tobacco category management is making sure you’re “staying legal,” according to Johnson. “Some of these counties and cities, especially in California, it’s nonstop regulation, so you have to stay on top of it constantly. They’re continually outlawing specific tobacco products,” he said. This can be particularly challenging for chains that have stores in multiple regions. CSN
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Hot Topics in C-store Tech The 2021 Convenience Store News Technology Leadership Roundtable & Dinner brought retailers together to discuss the most pressing items on their tech to-do lists By Melissa Kress
SET AGAINST THE BACKDROP of
the Chicago skyline, Convenience Store News brought together c-store technology executives to discuss the latest solutions exciting the industry, and what keeps them up at night. Following a successful virtual event last year, the CSNews Technology Leadership Roundtable & Dinner was held in-person this year. Taking place on the opening evening of the 2021 NACS Show, the event provided a forum for c-store tech leaders to share best practices and discuss the future technology needs of the industry. This year’s program featured a talk by Mani Suri, senior vice president and chief information officer (CIO) of 7-Eleven Inc.; a fireside chat discussion with Deb Hall Lefevre, executive vice president and chief technology officer of Alimentation CoucheTard Inc./Circle K; and the presentation of the 2021 Technology Leader of the Year Award to Levon Hooks, CIO of Kum & Go LC.
“Innovation and technology will drive the continued success for our organization,” Hooks said when accepting the award on behalf of the Des Moines, Iowa-based convenience store chain. Kum & Go is always looking for opportunities to utilize technology to drive efficiency, and drive improved or increased customer engagement and experience. Among the hot topics during the roundtable portion of the event were self-checkout, artificial intelligence, employee engagement, and loyalty programs. All participants also agreed that there are two areas in particular that the convenience channel cannot ignore: mobile payment (it’s where the market is headed) and omnichannel commerce (retailers must develop an omnichannel strategy to succeed).
In Search of Differentiation During her fireside chat, which kicked off the event, Hall Lefevre spoke about how she came to Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard from McDonald’s and was excited about the opportunity to try bringing digital solutions from the quickservice restaurant space into the convenience channel.
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When she joined Couche-Tard in April 2017, the company was heavily on a merger-andacquisition path and was on the verge of finalizing its purchase of San Antonio-based CST Brands Inc. With integration being the top priority following the CST closing that June, the company tackled the complexity of bringing both organizations into sync.
“You can learn a lot from that innovation,” she noted.
Since then, Hall Lefevre and her team have rolled up their sleeves to bring CoucheTard’s entire global Circle K network onto the same technology page.
Moving forward, items in Couche-Tard’s technology pipeline are centered on delivering frictionless experiences to customers, Hall Lefevre shared.
Acknowledging that it is easy to chase shiny objects, Couche-Tard’s current technology agenda has taken shape with three key principles in mind:
Taking the In-House Route
• Taking the pain points out of the shopper experience; • Redefining convenience; and • Achieving operational efficiency. “We look for things that are going to be super differentiating,” said Hall Lefevre. To that end, the company launched the Circle K Ventures Fund about a year and a half ago. Willing to invest significant amounts of money, the fund is a way for Circle K to connect with startups.
“We look for things that are going to be super differentiating.” — Deb Hall Lefevre, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc./Circle K
One recent collaboration to come from the fund is Circle K’s partnership with third-party app Jackpocket, which will bring the mobile lottery option to more than 1,300 Circle K stores across Arkansas, Colorado, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Texas.
When talking retail technology these days, a lot of the focus is on Amazon or big-box retailers like Walmart; however, large retailers have hundreds of stores and machines and data centers. On the other hand, c-stores have a much smaller footprint, so the systems that work for big-box stores do not work for convenience, according to 7-Eleven’s Suri, who also noted that c-store retailers face cost and budget pressures that other retailers don’t. 7-Eleven takes an in-house route to technology, often developing proprietary solutions. One example is handheld hardware to handle in-store capabilities such as inventory checks. The Irving, Texas-based retailer is known for embracing innovation — from a cashierless store in Dallas to its 7NOW delivery platform — and is continually looking for ways to expand digital touchpoints with customers that define their experience and the store of the future. According to the CIO, the game is changing with convenience operators not only facing competition from other retailers, but also from tech companies. This is making it crucial to find solutions that work for today’s convenience retailing environment, as well as tomorrow’s. Suri took on his role at 7-Eleven four years ago — his first job in the retail space. He was attracted to the business, and to the c-store consumer who he says adopts new technologies faster than the corporate world. “I’m a software engineer at heart, but I love retail,” he said. He believes there’s much opportunity out there for the convenience channel, but it comes with a challenge: what the market is saying may not necessarily work for every c-store. “How are you making decisions to create a competitive advantage?” Suri posed.
Guest speaker Mani Suri of 7-Eleven Inc. (left) shared his thoughts on how the technology game is changing for convenience store operators.
The 2021 CSNews Technology Leadership Roundtable & Dinner was sponsored by Applied Data Corp. (ADC), Hathway, and Mobiquity. Paytronix sponsored the Technology Leader of the Year award presentation. CSN
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KEEP ON TRUCKING
The nation’s top c-store wholesalers see only a slight sales dip despite battling the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain challenges, and the labor shortage By Don Longo
DIFFICULTIES IN GETTING GOODS from manufacturers, the coronavirus pandemic and the labor shortage are the three biggest challenges affecting the convenience distribution business today, according to the 2021 Convenience Store News Top Wholesalers Report.
Despite these major obstacles, the 18 largest wholesalers serving the U.S. convenience store industry experienced a sales decline of less than 2 percent year over year. The biggest news of the past year in convenience channel distribution was Performance Food Group Inc.’s (PFG) purchase of No. 2 wholesaler Core-Mark Holding Co. and combining it with the formerly third-largest wholesaler, Eby-Brown, which PFG acquired in 2019.
Top Wholesalers Summary TOTAL SALES (Percent change vs. year ago):
$4.852 billion $652 million
Percent of Sales by Category Cigarettes
Other tobacco products
*All other includes general merchandise, health & beauty care, fresh produce, CBD products, gourmet/natural/specialty food, and other.
In January, NCD, which was established only 10 months earlier by private equity investment firm Palm Beach Capital, acquired Wustefeld Candy Co. of Albany, N.Y. As a result of previous acquisitions, the NCD family already consisted of J. Polep Distribution Services, Allen Brothers Wholesale Distribution, and Harold Levinson Associates.
Difficulties in getting goods from manufacturers, the coronavirus pandemic and the labor shortage are the three biggest challenges affecting the convenience distribution business today.
In addition to acquisition moves, other distributor news highlights this year include: McLane unveiled two new offerings at its annual trade show in October. JAVAPERKS provides retailers a branded coffee bar service with custom graphics, countertop units or walls to highlight the brand within the store. Central Eats gives retailers access to highquality, pre-packaged breakfast, lunch and dinner items for sale as a refrigerated or heated and readyto-eat offering. Both new offers are available under McLane Kitchen, the company’s foodservice-atretail solution. Core-Mark at the NACS Show in October introduced My Daily Crave, a comprehensive in-store beverage program offering dozens of customized, pour-yourown drink options. And, in July, Core-Mark partnered with Neste and Diesel Direct to reduce greenhouse
$79.4 billion (-2.9%)
Rounding out this year’s top five wholesalers are National Convenience Distributors LLC (NCD), and Imperial Super Regional Distributor/S. Abraham & Sons Inc.
$87.3 billion (-1.8%)
Top 5 wholesalers
AVERAGE SALES PER:
As a result, Core-Mark grew substantially on this year’s ranking, further outdistancing new No. 3 distributor, H.T. Hackney Co., although Core-Mark generated about half the sales of No. 1 ranked McLane Co. Inc., the longtime sales leader among c-store distributors.
Top 18 wholesalers
gas emissions and pollution from its operations in California. Powered by Neste MY Renewable Diesel, Core-Mark’s entire California truck fleet of more than 150 vehicles now emits no new greenhouse gases, contributing to cleaner air. •
S. Abraham & Sons at its Foodservice Show in August introduced a rebrand for the roller grill: GoGo Grill. The distributor also highlighted products such as chicken tenders and wings from Renaissance
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Latest FY1 (millions)
Previous FY (millions)
Deliveries per Week
McLane Co. Inc., Temple, Texas ²
Core-Mark International, Westlake, Texas ³
50 states, 5 Canadian Provinces, 2 Canadian Territories
H.T. Hackney Co., Knoxville, Tenn.
AL, AR, FL, GA, MS, NC, SC, TN, LA, TX, KY, OH, PA, VA, WV, MD, IN, MO, IA, MI, MO
National Convenience Distributors, Farmingdale, N.Y. 4
NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, MA, CT, RI, NH, VT, ME
Imperial Super Regional Distributor/S. Abraham & Sons Inc., Elmwood, La.
LA, MS, AL, GA, TX, OK, AR, TN, KS, MO, MI, IN, KY, WI, OH, PA, WV, IL
AMCON Distributing Co., Omaha, Neb.
AR, CO, FL, GA, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NE, OK, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WI, WV, WY
GSC Enterprises Inc., Sulphur Springs, Texas
AR, AL, FL, GA, KS, LA, MS, MO, NE, NM, OK, TX
Southco Distributing Co., Goldsboro, N.C.
NC, SC, TN, GA, VA
Cooper-Booth Wholesale Co., Mountville, Pa.
PA, MD, DE, VA, WV, NJ
Team Sledd, Wheeling, W. Va. 5
WV, OH, PA, VA, MD, KY, DE
Chambers & Owen Inc., Janesville, Wis.
WI, MI, MN, IA, IL
Harbor Wholesale Foods, Lacey, Wash.
WA, OR, ID, CA, AK
Topicz, Cincinnati 6
OH, KY, IN, WV, TN, IL
Capitol Distributing, Caldwell, Idaho 7
ID, OR, WA, UT, NV, AZ
Tripifoods Inc., Buffalo, N.Y.
IN, NY, OH, PA, WV
Resnick Distributors, New Brunswick, N.J.
NJ, PA, NY, CT, MD, DE, DC, VA
Stephenson Wholesale Co. Inc., Durant, Okla. 8
Charles C. Parks Co., Gallatin, Tenn.
ID, OR, WA, NV, UT, AZ, CA
*Six months since inception 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. McLane declined to participate in this year's report. 3 In September 2021, Core-Mark was acquired by Performance Food Group Inc. (PFG), resulting in the combination of Eby-Brown and Core-Mark into the Convenience Division of PFG's Vistar Segment. The financial results included here reflect the pro-forma combination of Core-Mark and Eby-Brown.
National Convenience Distributors acquired Wustefeld Candy Co., Albany, N.Y. Chas. M. Sledd Co. is the parent company of Team Sledd. 6 Novelart Manufacturing Co. is the parent company of Topicz. 7 Capitol Distributing acquired TCD Limited LLC, Boise, Idaho. 8 Stephenson Wholesale dba Indian Nation Wholesale 4
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PERCENT OF SALES
PRODUCTIVITY RATIOS: SALES PER Employees (thousands)
liveries r Week
# of Warehouses
Sq. Feet Full-time Part-time (thousands)
Sq. Feet (thousands)
METHODOLOGY Rankings for the 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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Man Foods, DeVinci’s turnkey pizza program from Omni Foods, State Fair Lemonade and Strawberry Lemonade from Beverage Solutions Group, three varieties of Walkin’ Waffles and Ooey Gooey Lava Cakes from Prairie City Bakery, and a hot pastrami sub from Raybern’s Sandwiches. •
National Convenience Distributors in August partnered with eco-friendly delivery service Lula to convert its convenience store customers into microfulfillment centers, connecting each site with delivery partners such as Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber Eats. The collaboration helps thousands of c-stores served by NCD to create virtual Lula Convenience Store listings on nationally available delivery platforms.
Providing New & Improved Solutions Tobacco continues to be the largest revenue generator for the convenience channel’s top wholesalers. According to this year’s survey conducted by CSNews, cigarettes account for 68.2 percent of total sales, while other tobacco products represent 12.1 percent. Foodservice sales continue to grow, now representing 6.1 percent of sales, just ahead of candy at 4.8 percent. When asked what kinds of foodservice programs were added in the past year, respondents cited expansion of fresh and frozen sandwich lines, bean-to-cup coffee
IMPACT OF PANDEMIC ON BUSINESS Large negative impact
Medium negative impact
Medium positive impact
programs, fresh grab-and-go items, chicken, and more take-home meal offerings. When asked about product categories they added in the past year, distributors said growth has come from foodservice, novelty items, store services, delivery service apps, bitcoin machines, and personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. As for technology solutions, wholesalers said they’ve added enhanced driver routing and tracking tools, Skip frictionless checkout solutions for retailers, PDI customer loyalty solutions, credit processing, inventory tracking, and new ordering solutions. For the coming year, respondents said they plan to implement more delivery services for retailers, and will continue to develop apps to improve ordering efficiencies. CSN
For the coming year, respondents said they plan to implement more delivery services for retailers, and will continue to develop apps to improve ordering efficiencies.
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Celebrating Diversity Reynolds American Inc. is crafting a company where all employees can thrive By Linda Lisanti
Ashlei Harris is the senior manager of diversity and inclusion for Reynolds American Inc.
NOW IN ITS EIGHTH YEAR, the Convenience Store News Top Women in Convenience (TWIC) awards program has recognized more than 400 of the best and brightest women making a positive impact on not only the companies they work for, but also the entire convenience retail channel.
TWIC is the only program that recognizes exceptional female leaders, rising stars and mentors among retailer, supplier and distributor firms in the convenience store industry, from the C-suite to the store level to the independent entrepreneur. In our TWIC Trailblazers quarterly feature, we spotlight a c-store industry retailer, supplier or distributor company that is leading the way in championing gender parity. This month’s subject is Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc. (RAI),
which is making great strides in diversity, particularly within its management ranks. Today, 35 percent of its management is female, and the company’s goal is to reach 45 percent in 2025. CSNews recently chatted with Ashlei Harris, senior manager of diversity and inclusion at Reynolds, about the supplier’s ongoing work around gender parity and diversity. CSNEWS: Why, as an organization, does Reynolds feel it is important to improve gender equality in the workplace? HARRIS: We
believe a collective diversity of thought enables us to innovate, transform, and ultimately drive better business results. No matter your gender, race, sexual orientation, background or beliefs, you are celebrated at the Reynolds American Inc. group of companies.
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Research shows that diverse organizations outperform other businesses. It’s no coincidence that diversity is one of the key factors for job seekers today. To attract and grow top talent, you must make your company a place where ALL employees can thrive — and that’s the culture we’re continuing to build at Reynolds.
• We are partnering with WOMEN Unlimited to offer focused development and coaching to female leaders across all functions and levels in the organization.
CSNEWS: What are some of the ways Reynolds has been able to achieve having women occupy 35 percent of its management positions today?
CSNEWS: How does Reynolds plan to attain gender parity by 2025? What initiatives are in the works now, or slated for the near future?
• Working with our consultant partner, Involve, we offer leadership programming to underrepresented employees via the EMPower program to strengthen our focus on developing the next generation of diverse leaders.
HARRIS: Our HARRIS: We’re
encouraged by our progress, but we’re not all the way there yet. By 2025, we aim to reach gender parity in management roles and to significantly increase minority representation in management and senior management roles. We have expanded unconscious bias training throughout the organization; facilitated diversity and inclusion dialogue sessions across the company, including our leadership team; and doubled our overall investment in diversity programs, offering access to dedicated learning and development programs for female and underrepresented employees, as well as newly recruited or promoted line managers. These programs include: • Our Women in Leadership program, with a delegate profile of female leaders in junior to senior management. This program covers training in developing your personal brand, political savvy and networking, building empowering beliefs, and courageous conversations.
Global Graduate program and internship opportunities offer world-class training, international exposure, and support and mentorship from our industry experts for early-career talent. In 2021, our intern class was 52 percent female, while females have made up 54 percent of Global Graduates. Here at Reynolds, our Global Graduates and interns take on real responsibility from day one, with an invitation to contribute ideas to challenging projects, rapidly developing their potential over a short time. For experienced professionals, we are in the early stages of launching IGNITE, our new global program for experienced professionals returning to the workplace after a career break. The program identifies, recruits and supports returners, helping them reintegrate into the workplace and build their confidence. It is part of our approach to supporting the greater gender diversity of our workforce. Our progressive Families@RAI program enables employees to care for and support their new or expanded families while balancing their professional goals — regardless of gender. Our parental leave policy offers 16 weeks of fully paid leave for new mothers and fathers and the ability to take up to eight months of a Reduced Work Schedule. Employees can take up to two unpaid days off per week, subject to managerial consideration/approval. CSN
THE 2021 CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS TOP WOMEN IN CONVENIENCE PROGRAM IS SPONSORED BY: Founding & Presenting Sponsor:
Platinum Sponsor: Silver Sponsors:
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Creating a Unified Brand Experience Nouria Energy debuts its first fully branded fuel station and convenience store, representing a new positioning strategy for the company By Danielle Romano IN TODAY’S convenience store landscape, operators are realizing the integral role that unified branding plays in longevity, growth, and delivering an exceptional customer experience.
At a Glance nouria Location: 2416 Cranberry Hwy, Wareham, Mass. Size: 5,600 square feet Unique features: A thoughtful in-store design boasting a modern color scheme, uplifting graphics, and a brighter, more spacious layout; a family of proprietary brands; Amato’s Italian fare; café area with seating; nouria branded fuel; electric vehicle charging stations
(dispensed beverages), and Nouria’s Kitchen (commissary and made-toorder items). The intention is to create a superior family of value products that complement — not replace — the counterpart national branded products.
Nouria Energy Corp. is aiming to establish a cohesive brand identity — free of the confusion co-brands create — and recently cut the ribbon on its first fully branded nouria fuel station and convenience store in Wareham, Mass. The newest nouria location marks the retailer’s 166th location overall in its rapidly expanding network. It is also the first step in positioning the company to be a top-tier fuel supplier under the nouria brand, while showcasing a modern c-store design and more spacious, brighter layout. “We wanted to ensure brand consistency throughout our locations starting from the street sign and canopy to the store’s interior,” Joe Hamza, chief operating officer, retail and marketing, told Convenience Store News. Over the past five years, the company has been rebranding its c-store locations to the nouria brand and cultivating a family of proprietary brands, such as My Nouria (CPG products), Café Nouria
As part of turning its aspirations into reality, the company has also focused on internal branding, ensuring that its team is engaged in the nouria mission and understands their role in the process. No matter what brand the retailer puts on its buildings, the reality is the essence of the nouria brand is its people, as Hamza explained. “Our new nouria brand represents a new positioning strategy for our company. This is a critical step in our evolution as a vibrant and relevant retail brand because consumers’ wants, needs and shopping habits are perpetually changing,” he added.
Local Offers & A Thoughtful Design Despite taking longer than originally projected due to work disruptions and supply chain-related issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Nouria Energy cut the ribbon on the landmark Wareham site on Oct. 21. Located at 2416 Cranberry Highway, the fully branded nouria location occupies 1.5 acres of developed space and 5,600 square feet of store space.
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The store’s product mix is customized to reflect the needs of local customers and the competitive environment.
color scheme, uplifting lifestyle and community-inspired graphics, and a brighter, more spacious layout. Offers available at the Wareham nouria are customized to reflect the needs of local customers and the competitive environment. The store’s fresh food items are designed to provide customers with a one-stop shopping experience that offers them options for grab-and-go foods, snacks, beverages, and all of the essentials for creating healthy and fresh take-home meals. While there was no strategic significance in selecting this specific property to be the first fully branded nouria location, the site made sense because the lot was already on the company’s docket for development as a new-to-industry site. Outside, the forecourt features two electric vehicle charging stations and 12 fueling stations. Inside, recognizing that the shopping experience is a big point of interest for consumers today, the company made sure to pay special attention during the development process to the look and feel of the store. It features a thoughtful in-store design, modern
“We wanted to ensure brand consistency throughout our locations starting from the street sign and canopy to the store’s interior.” — Joe Hamza, Nouria Energy Corp.
Customers seeking an authentic Italian meal will find Amato’s, one of the most sought-after food brands in New England. The Amato’s menu consists of a wide variety of mouthwatering sandwiches, breakfast items, pizza, pasta dishes, and salads. Additionally, the store includes a café area with 26 seats set against the front windows, which provides customers a place to relax and enjoy their meals. More fully branded nouria locations are in development. Hamza told CSNews that another fully branded nouria site is slated to open soon in Bedford, N.H. The company also has a combination of six new and raze-and-rebuild sites scheduled to be fully branded next year. Founded by Tony El-Nemr in 1989, Worcester, Mass.-based Nouria Energy owns 166 convenience store locations, 148 of which are company operated, as well as 56 Golden Nozzle car washes, two lube centers, the award-winning Whately Diner, and a wholesale business. CSN
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HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
Convenience Store News
12/4/2021 5:23:33 PM
HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
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HOT PRODUCTS SPECIAL ADVERTISING SECTION
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12/4/2021 5:23:34 PM
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Credit Card Processing / Merchant Services
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Credit Card Processing
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EMV Compliance Services
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INSIDE THE CONSUMER MIND
Gearing Up for the EV Age One-fifth of c-store shoppers own an electric vehicle or are considering buying one Electric vehicles (EVs) are growing in popularity among Americans, and it’s becoming more widely expected that EVs will ultimately become the norm in the automobile industry. To date, 12 states have moved to ban the sale of internal combustible engine vehicles by 2035, and 23 states have an EV roadmap or an official EV planning document of some kind. Convenience store operators that prepare for this shift sooner rather than later will be able to grab the EV consumer before the competition. The 2021 Convenience Store News Realities of the Aisle Study, which surveyed 1,500-plus consumers who shop a c-store at least once a month, uncovered the following EV insights:
of convenience store shoppers currently own an electric vehicle.
of the c-store shoppers who currently own an electric vehicle say it is extremely/very important that convenience stores have charging stations available.
Among the 91% of c-store shoppers who don’t own an EV:
12% 20% say they’re somewhat likely to consider buying one. say they’re extremely/very likely to consider buying one in the next 2-3 years.
say they’re not at all/not very likely to consider buying one.
C-store shoppers in the
Northeast (15%) and West (12%)
are more likely to own an electric vehicle than shoppers in the
South (6%) and Midwest (6%).
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ACCELERATING TECHNOLOGY ADVANCEMENT IN THE CONVENIENCE STORE CHANNEL
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