CSNC - Jan/Feb 2021

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THINK LOCAL Rick Rabba on how Rabba Fine Foods becomes part of the neighbourhoods it serves

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021 CCentral.ca @CSNC_Octane PM42940023







CADBURY DAIRY MILK continues to be the #1 Milk Chocolate Bar in Canada1 PPD CAD DM FMLY VAR FLR 147ct Contents: 42 CADBURY DAIRY MILK 100g - 61200225910 21 CADBURY DAIRY MILK Fruit & Nut 100g - 6120022592021 21 CADBURY DAIRY MILK Hazelnut 100g - 612002259338 21 CADBURY DAIRY MILK Chocolatey Indulgence 21 CADBURY DAIRY MILK Vanilla Crème 21 CADBURY DAIRY MILK Salted Caramel

PPD CAD EVDY FMLY VAR FLR 126ct Contents: 42 CADBURY DAIRY MILK Chocolatey Indulgence 42 CADBURY DAIRY MILK Vanilla Crème 42 CADBURY DAIRY MILK Salted Caramel

Innovating in a growing segment - Family bars is the second fastest growing segment within the Everyday Chocolate category2 All three flavours have mass potential with strong purchase intent3

Contact your wholesale representative or your Mondelez Canada representative for more information. Source: 1 Nielsen MarketTrack, All Sales, Nat Excl NFLD GB + DR +MM + C&G, #1 Milk Chocolate Bar in $ Sales, YTD PE Nov 21, 2020 2 Nielsen MarketTrack, NAT+NFLD GB +DR +MM+C&G, November 21, 2020 vs. YA; Shared back to: TL EVD+EVDS CHOC 3 CDM Filled tablets Bases, Dec 2019


Volume 4 | Number 1

CONTENTS 05 Editor’s Message Staying power 06 The Buzz People, places, news and events





Quick Bites Beating the odds with AI: 4 consumer taste trends to put on your radar for 2021


Top Ops Strength in numbers: The POST Promise helps build consumer confidence


C-store IQ: National Shopper Study Health-Conscious at Convenience Report

14 COVER STORY Think Local: Rick Rabba shares insights into how Rabba Fine Foods becomes part of the neighbourhoods it serves





Retailer Spotlight Picture perfect: Green Lake Station in Whistler, B.C.


Feature Pivot and profit: 3 trends poised to shape convenience in 2021


Category Check Cuckoo for cocoa: Consumers’ obsession with chocolate is sweet news


Snapshot Kathy Perrotta, Ipsos Canada: Pandemic-era snacking

32 Backtalk PepsiCo Foods Canada president, Cara Keating, on leading with resilience



The latest industry news and information, plus resources, foodservice insights, store solutions, tobacco/vaping updates and more. Don’t miss our e-newsletter! Sign up today at www.CCentral.ca/signup





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20 Eglinton Ave. West, Suite 1800, Toronto, ON M4R 1K8 (416) 256-9908 | (877) 687-7321 | Fax (888) 889-9522 www.CCentral.ca SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CANADA | Donna Kerry EDITORIAL EDITOR, CSNC Michelle Warren | mwarren@ensembleiq.com EDITOR, OCTANE Kelly Gray | kgray@ensembleiq.com TRANSLATION | Danielle Hart ADVERTISING SALES NATIONAL ACCOUNT MANAGER Jacquie Rankin | jrankin@ensembleiq.com ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Elijah Hoffman | ehoffman@ensembleiq.com VICE PRESIDENT, EVENTS Michael Cronin | mcronin@ensembleiq.com DESIGN AND PRODUCTION VICE PRESIDENT, PRODUCTION Derek Estey | destey@ensembleiq.com DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION Michael Kimpton | mkimpton@ensembleiq.com ART DIRECTOR | Linda Rapini DIRECTOR OF MARKETING Alexandra Voulu | avoulu@ensembleiq.com SENIOR DIRECTOR AUDIENCE STRATEGY Lina Trunina | ltrunina@ensembleiq.com SENIOR DIRECTOR, DIGITAL CANADA & SPECIAL PROJECTS Valerie White | vwhite@ensembleiq.com CORPORATE OFFICERS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER | Jennifer Litterick CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER | Jane Volland


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Staying power Welcome to the Trends and Insights Issue where we aim to shine a light on opportunities and evolving consumer habits designed to help you succeed in the year ahead. Of course, making predictions and talking trends can be a tricky business: If we learned anything in 2020, it’s that things can change and change quickly. Indeed, consumer behaviour, heck the whole world, underwent a dramatic shift in 2020. This time last year, few would have predicted toilet paper and Lysol wipes would be akin to gold; that Canadians would be lining up to buy food; or that the convenience industry would be deemed an essential service in the midst of a pandemic-prompted global lockdown. There’s no doubt it was an extraordinarily challenging—and at times, confusing—year, but here we are, embarking on 2021, stronger, wiser and (hopefully) more resilient. What does it actually mean to be resilient in business? PepsiCo Foods Canada president Cara Keating shares insights about ‘Leading with resilience’ and the opportunities that arise when navigating change (p. 32).

Retail leader Rick Rabba knows a thing or two about embracing change. When his parents moved the family to Canada in 1966, they had big dreams and soon purchased their first convenience store. Thirty-five years later, Rabba Fine Foods is an anchor in communities across the GTA, catering specifically to the wants and needs of each diverse neighbourhood. Find out how Rabba is further pivoting to satisfy customers in 2021 (p. 14). In the spirit of seeking new opportunities, journalist Wendy Helfenbaum outlines ‘3 trends poised to shape convenience in 2021’ (p. 25), while food industry expert Darren Climans looks at what artificial intelligence reveals about evolving food and beverage taste trends (p. 8). Plus, Kathy Perrotta of Ipsos Canada shares new research about the future of snacking (p. 30). Business author Alan Deutschman popularized the catchphrase, “Change or die.” In 2020, the convenience industry adapted over and over again, proving it has what it takes to survive. That’s resilience. Now, here’s to thriving in 2021! Michelle Warren | Editor

CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS CANADA / OCTANE is published 6 times a year by EnsembleIQ. CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS CANADA / OCTANE is circulated to managers, buyers and professionals working in Canada’s convenience, gas and wash channel. Please direct inquiries to the editorial offices. Contributions of articles, photographs and industry information are welcome, but cannot be acknowledged or returned. ©2020 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, including photocopying and electronic retrieval/retransmission, without the permission of the publisher.


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Convenience Central









Newfoundland’s new 20% tax on vaping products kicked in January 1. In addition, the provincial government recently increased tobacco taxes by $10 per carton of 200 cigarettes.


YUKON $13.71



The Convenience Industry Council of Canada welcomes Vittoria Varalli of Sobeys Wholesale and Nicolas Parra of Metro Inc. to its board. Varalli fills the seat of Marc Gagnon after his departure from Sobeys Wholesale, while Parra replaces Raymond Bouchard, who is still with Metro. In a statement, CICC thanked Gagnon and Bouchard: “Both played key roles, first on the distribution side of our industry with NACDA, and then as founding board members of the CICC as we brought the industry together under one unified association. We are grateful for their invaluable volunteer work and leadership.”


Ontario’s Main Street Relief Grant is designed to help small businesses with the unexpected costs of PPE. To be eligible for grants of up to $1,000, c-stores must have two to nine employees: To apply, you’ll need to submit receipts or proof of costs for PPE purchased since March 17, 2020. As essential services, most convenience stores moved quickly to invest early in PPE, with masks, counter shields, floor directional decals and sanitizing stations to keep staff and customers safe. Ongoing purchases of up to $1,000 will be eligible. Visit ccentral.ca for application information.





$13.46 BRITISH COLUMBIA $14.60

ALBERTA $15.00



PepsiCo Beverages Canada and Danone Waters of America (DWA), the North American importer and distributor of Evian natural spring water, entered an exclusive alliance for PepsiCo to distribute Evian in Canada effective January 1. “We are thrilled about this new partnership with PepsiCo Beverages Canada,” said Henri de L’Épine, CEO of Danone Waters of America. “Their extensive direct-to-store delivery system, strong selling capabilities and a complementary brand portfolio will undoubtedly increase Evian’s ability to serve our business partners who want to offer Canadian consumers an exceptional natural spring water.”


NUNAVUT $16.00


QUEBEC $13.10 ONTARIO $14.25

Minimum hourly wage rates as of October 1, 2020. Retail Council of Canada, retailcouncil.org






Minimum wages, which are set by the provinces and territories, won’t see a lot of action this year beyond adjustments due to inflation and the Consumer Prices Index (CPI). Here’s what’s in store for 2021.

Nova Scotia: Increase to $13.10 from $12.55 on April 1. PEI: Increase to $13.00 from $12.85 on April 1. Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Yukon: Adjusted annually on April 1 relative to the CPI. NVT: Reviewed annually on April 1. British Columbia: Increase to $15.20 on June 1, up from $14.60. Manitoba: Adjusted annually on October 1 based on the inflation rate. Saskatchewan: Adjusted on October 1 each year relative to the CPI.


Suncor Energy will move its Petro-Canada head office from two sites in Ontario to Calgary this year. The move will impact 700 workers and is part of efforts by the company to remain competitive by integrating the downstream business with the rest of Suncor to be more efficient. The downstream operations represent Petro-Canada’s refineries through to retail and wholesale, including the Petro-Canada and Petro-Pass brands.


Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is acquiring Convenience Retail Asia Ltd. (Circle K HK) for HK$2.79 billion, or approximately $360 million. Circle K HK operates a network of Circle K-licensed convenience stores, with 340 company-operated sites in Hong Kong and 33 franchised sites in Macau: “This transaction represents a significant milestone for Couche–Tard as it provides the company with a platform in Asia from which to launch its regional growth ambitions.” Circle K HK has the second largest market share in Hong Kong, one of the most economically developed markets in Asia and most densely populated regions in the world. For Couche-Tard, this represents “meaningful room to grow organically.” The deal was set to have closed December 31. In addition, Columbus-based Mac’s Convenience Stores LLC, a subsidiary of Couche-Tard, recently acquired Pride C-Stores Inc., which operates seven convenience stores and a bulk fuel business.



Shell Canada is the first fuel retailer in the country to offset carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from customers’ fuel purchases. The offsets cover all emissions from the production through to the use of the fuel. From November 12 to December 31, Shell customers could opt into the Drive Carbon Neutral program at no extra cost when paying for fuel through Shell EasyPay in the Shell app. Moving forward, Shell will continue to offer customers the ability to opt into the program by contributing 2 cents per litre. Shell will then offset customers’ emissions by purchasing independently-verified carbon credits generated from Canadian and international projects that protect or restore natural landscapes. “Our customers have told us they want more ways to reduce their CO2 emissions and make a difference, but they don’t always know what actions to take,” said Andrea Brecka, general manager retail, Shell Canada. “Our Drive Carbon Neutral program is designed to help make it simpler for Shell customers to address their carbon footprint today by offsetting their fuel purchases.”


Three years after taking a minority stake in the healthy snacking company, Mars Inc. has acquired Kind North America, with Kind to function as a “distinct and separate business within the Mars Family of Cos.” Kind North America will join Kind International to create one organization operating across 35 countries. The acquisition is the next step in the companies’ strategic partnership, which further strengthens Mars’ reach and commitment to the growing healthy snacks category. Founded in 2004, Kind has a family of more than 100 snacks that feature a nutrient-dense first ingredient (whole nuts, whole grains or whole fruit) and do not contain genetically engineered ingredients, sugar alcohols or artificial sweeteners: Products are sold in convenience stores across Canada.

MOVING ON UP Derrin Bello is moving into the VP sales role at Mars Wrigley Canada to lead the national sales and retail team. She began her career with Mars in 2006 and has worked across a number of the company’s business units. Prior to Mars, she worked at Coca-Cola and McCain Foods Canada. Derek Bowen is the new president of marketing services for Acosta North America. Bowen will oversee all of Acosta’s Mosaic North America businesses and its Action Link division. Bowen has more than 22 years of experience working in the consumer packaged goods industry, having held marketing leadership roles with Procter & Gamble, Coty and The Nature’s Bounty Company. John Carmichael will replace Jeff Hamilton as president and CEO of Nestlé Canada when Hamilton takes on a new role in Europe on February 1. Carmichael is currently president of the Foods Division at Nestlé USA. He began his career with Nestlé in 1995 in pet care and has since worked in various capacities and businesses throughout the company.


OCTANE and Convenience Store News Canada are pleased to present Pump Chats, a new monthly podcast hosted by Jennifer Stewart, CIPMA president and CEO. Get to know leading companies and influencers of Canada’s gasoline and convenience sector. Hear from top analysts on what’s next for the industry, how it’s weathering COVID-19, and its evolution to a cleaner, more sustainable tomorrow. To access the latest podcast, visit ccentral.ca.

Greg Coles is now chief customer officer Nestlé Canada. He stepped into the role January 1, replacing Steve Fox, who will remain with the food and beverage company until March 31 to work with Coles through a transition period. Coles joined Nestlé Canada in 2003, and “has held a range of progressive commercial leadership roles. He most recently served as a vicepresident/customer team lead.” Shannon Denny is joining Mars Wrigley Canada as director of corporate affairs, Canada. She was most recently director of external communications at The Coca-Cola Company. Denny will lead corporate affairs for Mars Wrigley, Mars Food and Mars Petcare. Ana Silva this month takes over as president of The Very Good Food Company, an emerging plant-based food technology company that designs, develops, produces, distributes and sells a variety of plant-based meat and other food alternatives. The veteran plant-based food production executive has spent the past five years with Daiya Foods, where she served as CFO. Marcel Teunissen joins Parkland Corporation as chief financial officer. Teunissen comes from Royal Dutch Shell, where he was EVP, finance, integrated gas and new energies, responsible for the financial management of Shell’s global portfolio of LNG assets and its emerging new energy business. With more than 23 years of experience, he has worked globally across the entire energy value chain, with an emphasis on refining, retail and related infrastructure. He has also worked in many of the markets across Parkland’s diverse geographies, including Canada and the Caribbean.

SAVE THE DATE September 14-15, 2021 The Convenience U CARWACS Show – Toronto ConvenienceU.com

Do you have a staffing announcement to share? Email mwarren@ensembleiq.com







Beating the odds with artificial intelligence

Data reveals 4 consumer taste trends to put on your radar for 2021 Yankee baseball icon and sage Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” That being said, one’s batting average on predictions does improve with the benefit of information about what’s coming your way. The Houston Astros surely proved this by winning the 2017 baseball World Series, assisted by illegally stolen pitch signs. The Astros positioned cameras in centrefield, at home and away games, in order to steal pitch signs flashed by the catcher. This video info was relayed directly to a monitor in the Astros’ dugout, and the Houston hitters were alerted by audible signal (banging a trash can) as to what pitch to expect. It turns out that knowing in advance if the opposing pitcher is going to throw a fastball, curveball or off-speed pitch is a literal game changer. Houston’s methodology was exposed two years later by one of their own players. However, the specific evidence used to confirm the prevalence of their misconduct was, in fact, meticulously researched and compiled by an army of social media users who combed through thousands of hours of video to document the scheme unassailably.

A new ballgame It’s not just baseball that is using technology to tip the odds. Retail commercial real estate company Cadillac Fairview (CF) recently admitted to placing small, hidden cameras inside mall directories at 12 shopping centres across Canada. CF collected millions of images of customers without their knowledge



or consent, for the purpose of biometric analysis. CF had already been under investigation for using facial recognition technology in malls and tracking the movement of shoppers using mobile phones. Just like with the Astros, it was a former employee who reported the questionable tactics: In a CBC report published in 2018, the whistleblower stated that “the system would monitor and note where each device, such as a cellphone, went within the centre, and how long it remained in any particular location.” CF admitted at the time that its cameras “monitor foot traffic patterns that could (provide predictive) information” about shoppers. The idea behind this tracking of movements and devices is that where people are and what they’re looking at is a fair predictor of what they are interested in and will do/buy in the future.

Big data provides vision Tastewise, a breakout food and beverage insights and trend tracking company started by a former senior marketing officer with Google, leverages its proprietary Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to source billions of data points from social media, recipe websites and restaurant menus. Tastewise aims to provide a real-time lay-of-the-land read on consumer interests and motivations via the digital surveillance that is increasingly being used by organizations to understand what customers may be looking for. Tastewise data points to a number of food, snack and beverage trends for c-store operators to put on their radar in 2021.


1. Chocolate

Interest for this category during the pandemic is up solid double-digits in terms of both restaurant buzz and at-home consumption, with some specific opportunities worth highlighting. FODMAP: This refers to types of carbohydrates found in certain foods, including wheat and beans, which are linked to digestive issues, such as gas, bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea and constipation. Low-FODMAP diets are important for people with common digestive disorders. Gut-friendly chocolates are up 63% year over year among consumers. This is a consistently growing trend to keep an eye on. Vegan: This is the most popular/established diet for chocolate eaters, almost twice as popular as gluten free and four times more popular than the keto diet. Vegan chocolate is poised for growth.


• Quebec-based Fody Foods offers an array of products that support a low-FODMAP diet. Fody’s line of bar snacks (Peanut Butter Chocolate Quinoa and Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt Bars) are vegan, gluten free and lactose free. • U.S.-based start-up Deux Foods offers vegan, non-GMO and gluten-free edible cookie dough SKUs (Chocolate Chip and Brownie Batter) that purport to enhance overall immunity and skin health with ingredients that include everything from elderberry to chaga mushrooms and vitamins. Co-founded this year by two former venture capitalists, including a PepsiCo alum, the company plans to add breakfast items, refrigerated meals and mixes in the future. • Mondelez purchased Enjoy Life Foods in 2015 and has since helped the company transition to a multi-channel brand. The products, which include chocolate bars and dairy-free chocolate minis, are free from gluten and 14 common allergens: 26 of its SKUs are certified FODMAP friendly.


4. Granola bars

A new era of bars are designed to do more than fill the hunger void—think fuel for those living healthy lifestyles on the go. This category is evolving to reflect consumers’ values. ✱ Ecologically friendly granola bars are up on average 47% month over month (MoM). ✱ Granola bars for athlete recovery are up on average 48% MoM.

2. Jerky

Consumers’ taste for jerky isn’t waning; in fact, fitness motivations for jerky are up 19% yearover-year. An enduring category in convenience, which has exploded with a host of new players and flavours in recent years, jerky’s selling point is that it’s an on-thego protein that appeals to those seeking better-for-you options: 16% of all jerky uses mention the healthy nature of the snack. While real jerky is obviously a favourite of those following keto and paleo diets, some companies are also producing vegan versions that mimic that flavour and function of meat.


• Maple Leaf Foods’ Devour brand beef jerky overtly targets the athletic demographic. This premium protein snack is made without artificial flavours and comes in a variety of flavours. • Primal Sea Salt Beef Thins, are made from 100% grass-fed beef free of antibiotics and added hormones. Thins, available only in the U.S. for now, are Whole30-approved, certified paleo and certified gluten-free. • Good Life Meats premium, locally handcrafted beef jerky is made in Savona, B.C. and is sold via gas and convenience stores across the province. • Dick Duff's Organic Jerky starts with cattle raised sustainably and uses only natural ingredients. • Plant-based brands, such as Noble Jerky, North Jerky and Savory Wild are gaining steam. Leaf Jerky, backed by Kellogg Co., launched in 2019.


3. Carbonated soft drinks

Traditional carbonated drinks have been losing share for years to a variety of alternatives and better-for-you products. Energy-boosting benefits for carbonated drinks are up on average three-fold (316%) in popularity in 2020 vs. 2019. Forget the sugar-buzz, however, as consumers are looking for more natural and healthy choices that fit with special diets and lifestyles (keto, paleo and vegan).


• Zero-sugar and zero-calorie Bang Energy drink launched in Canada via 7-Eleven convenience stores across the country in fall 2019. The brand is also available to Canadian consumers at GNC stores, Popeye’s Supplements stores and directly through a dedicated online store • Celebrity-backed Matcha Foods introduced a unique line of plant-based sparkling energy drinks under the Matcha Hustle banner in 2020. These are no/low sugar, keto, paleo- and vegan-friendly, and come in various flavours. Currently only available in Canada through online retailers, this brand is well suited to convenience.

On the flavour front, there are a number of tastes to keep an eye on. ✱ Vanilla (specifically) yogurt as a pairing for granola bars is up an average of 39% MoM in popularity, and is an emerging trend. ✱ Espresso, ginger, apricots and pistachios are emerging ingredient pairings for energy bars.


• Kind, recently acquired by Mars, is a leader in the better-for-you bar category and fits the do-good requirement with its Kind Promise and the Kind Foundation. • Canadian brand Good To Go, known for its keto baked bars, recently introduced Savoury Nut & Seeds Bites, which contain an assortment of organic nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia and hemp seeds. Parent company, Riverside Natural Foods, is a documented Zero Waste Business that supports organic farmers and donates 1% of profits to environmental non-profits, such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

Winds of change In baseball, and in life, the gap between success and irrelevance is narrow. Compensation for a baseball player who succeeds three times out of 10, is worth countless millions. Succeed only two times out of 10, and there’s no place for you in the game. The year 2021 will be a year of winners and losers like no other. Expect again to be confronted by substantial headwinds, and be not daunted by the diverging path ahead. Take comfort in Yogi’s advice, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”.◗ Darren Climans is a foodservice insights professional with close to 20 years’ experience partnering with broadline distributors, CPG suppliers, and foodservice operators. His practice is to understand issue-based decisions by taking a data-driven approach to strategic decision making.







Strength in numbers

The POST Promise is designed to help Canadian businesses unite to build consumer confidence Sometimes, operating a business during a period of constant disruption can feel like lonely business indeed. During the past 10 months of pandemic lockdowns and restrictions, convenience stores were deemed essential and charged with making changes across businesses to safeguard employees and customers. In some cases, operators relied on associations for help, others adapted with the help of fellow business owners and a lot of ingenuity. Many turned to Convenience Store News Canada for guidance in terms of best practices and tips for keeping everyone safe. Now a not-for-profit corporation aims to bring together business owners across the country to tackle what’s being called a “consumer confidence crisis” and communicate that Canadian businesses—both big and small—are putting health and safety first. POST Promise/Promesse APRES is a national, bilingual private sector-led initiative designed to help Canadians confidently and safely shop and work during the COVID-19 pandemic. It launched in June and the movement is gaining momentum among business owners looking for best practices. The five key steps that make up the POST Promise are in line with what is recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Laura Hearn, president and executive director of POST Promise, says it’s about consistency: “One of the things I get asked a lot is, ‘we’re already following various protocols and procedures. Why would we need POST Promise?’ What we know, however, is that it is just as important to make customers feel safe, as it is to keep them safe. When all businesses are doing something slightly different and communicating it differently, there is a lot of confusion on what the right approach is.” Retailers who “make the promise” are able to display the POST Promise logo, which acts as a clear indication to employees and customers that they are doing their part to protect Canadians’ health and safety. “The POST Promise is supposed to sit on top of what businesses are doing and to be a consistent approach conveyed through a consistent visual cue,




hence the word mark. The beauty is it is applicable to all businesses regardless of size and other factors,” says Hearn. “You have large companies who have really strategic and complicated policies in place and a marketing team that can communicate it. However, for small or medium-sized businesses that don’t necessarily have that expertise, this means you don’t have to go out and create something of your own. You can be part of a national collective. Customers are seeing the same thing when they come to shop with you or to do their banking or restaurant dining. There is a lot of power in what that conveys to consumers and employees.” While POST Promise is useful for all businesses, Hearn says it’s particularly effective for the convenience industry. “With the sheer amount of foot traffic that convenience stores get, they are interacting with a lot of customers that have varying degrees of comfort.” Organizations, including Retail Council of Canada and Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, and all levels of government, have already endorsed this initiative. There is no cost to join—sponsors and donors support the group—and c-stores can quickly tap into resources via www.postpromise.com. “It’s not like they make the promise and that is it,” says Hearn. “It is really important to equip businesses with the tools that they need to let their employees and customers know that they have made the promise and what that signifies. We provide things like sample social media copy and assets so that they have a social presence to use. Or, simple email copy so they can send an email blast to their consumer base—of course they can tweak if needed. We provide frequently asked questions that they can share with employees so that if their consumers have questions they have answers.” C-store operators who make the promise automatically get access to a free downloadable PDF of the logo, which they can print and display on premise or use in online communications. Participating businesses can also purchase a kit ($10), which includes additional communication tools like window decals, posters and tent cards for use in store. “There is so much uncertainty," says Hearn. "Now more than ever we need to have something that provides that peace of mind.” ◗

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF AN EMPLOYEE HAS COVID-19? A: COVID-19 constitutes a workplace hazard under the Canada Labour Code, which means employers are responsible for the occupational health and safety of their employees. In turn, employers have an obligation to investigate and report confirmed cases of COVID-19 in order to prevent the recurrence of exposure. It’s important to move quickly to mitigate spread. 1. Mandate employees to get the COVID-19 tracking app. 2. Instruct employees who have symptoms to stay home from work and get tested. 3. In larger chains, seek direction from HR if an employee is ill and tests positive for COVID-19. 4. Independent operators are advised to consult local public health authorities to report and obtain guidance on next steps. 5. If an employee tests positive, employers may be told to inform fellow employees of their possible exposure, but maintain confidentiality. 6. Ask all employees to monitor for symptoms. 7. Public health may instruct employers to also notify affected customers, visitors and vendors; and instruct those employees who came into direct contact with the sick employee to self-isolate for 14 days. 8. It’s important to keep those you’ve informed up to date as information changes. 9. Conduct enhanced cleaning and disinfection after a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 is in your store. 10. Remind those who test positive to report via the COVID-19 tracking tool.


Health-Conscious at Convenience Report

Hankering for healthy BY MICHELLE WARREN Nearly two thirds of convenience store shoppers consider themselves to be health-conscious, however, of those, only 17% are satisfied with the better-for-you offerings at their local c-store, according to proprietary data from Convenience Store News Canada’s C-store IQ: A National Shopper Study. C-store IQ is the first convenience and gas specific study that delves into the wants, needs, perspectives and habits of Canadian convenience consumers. More than 1,000 Canadians 18+ participated in the study, which shows that 43% of shoppers visit chain convenience stores and 38% visit independently owned convenience stores at least once a week. A whooping 70% of convenience store shoppers typically shop the same store, which presents a valuable opportunity for operators to shake up product offerings and give health-conscious consumers more of what they’re looking for when it comes to healthier snacks, beverages and prepared foods.

Who’s healthy? When asked about consumption habits, 64% of convenience store shoppers consider themselves to be health-conscious, while only 14% go as far to say they are non-health-conscious. The rest neither agrees or disagrees with the statement: ‘I am health-conscious.’ Both men and women are leading health-conscious lifestyles, with females (65%) more likely to define themselves as health-conscious, compared to males (60%). On the generation front, health is top of mind for older adults—boomers (71%) are more likely than Gen X (62%) and millennials (58%) to say they are health-conscious.




Satisfaction not guaranteed

Defining healthy

Of c-store shoppers who consider themselves health-conscious, only 17% are satisfied with the selection of healthy food and beverages at convenience stores. In turn, almost a third of the shoppers are not satisfied (32%) and the rest fall somewhere in between. This presents an opportunity for operators, distributors and vendors to add healthier options to the category mix. • Millennials (24%) are more likely to be satisfied with selection than boomers (12%). • Males are (20%) more likely to be satisfied with selection compared to females (17%).

The top three concerns for shoppers specific to healthy, better-for-you options at convenience stores, include freshness (46%), sugar content (32%) and non-processed (27%). Of note, females are more likely to be concerned than males when it comes to four specific areas: 1. Non-processed (29% vs. 23%); 2. Artificial sweeteners (19% vs. 11%); 3. Artificial flavors (15% vs. 9%); and 4. Vegan/plant-based (9% vs. 4%).

It’s worth noting that females and boomers come out on top when it comes to self-defining as health-conscious, which likely makes them more discerning on the selection front.

It’s also valuable to zero in on significant differences in health-related concerns by generation. • Freshness: Boomers (52%) are more concerned than Gen X (47%). • Sodium: Boomers (30%) are more concerned than Gen X (21%) and millennials (22%).

Concerns for Total Shoppers (n=906) Fresh 46% Sugar 32% Non-processed 27% Sodium 25% All-natural 25% Ingredients I can understand 23% Calories 23% Fat 21% Protein 21% Locally sourced/produced 20% Non-GMO 18% Artificial sweeteners 15% Carboydrates 13% Growth horomones 13% Antibiotics 12% Artifical flavors 12% Caffeine 8% Funcational/Vitamin-enhanced 7% Vegan/Plant-based 7% Gluten 5%


Most Important Factors When Purchasing Prepared Foods at Convenience Stores

• Ingredients I can understand and pronounce: Boomers (27%) are more concerned than Gen X (21%) and millennials (18%). • All natural: Gen X (28%) are more concerned than boomers (24%) and millennials (22%). • Locally sourced/produced: Boomers (24%) and Gen X (20%) are more concerned than millennials (13%). • Non-processed: Gen X (30%) are slightly more concerned than boomers (28%) and millennials (25%). • Protein: Gen X (25%) and millennials (23%) are more concerned than boomers (16%). While 14% of shoppers define themselves as non-health-conscious, that’s not to say they’re not interested in better-for-you options. While it comes to sugar, for instance, 34% of health-conscious shoppers are concerned, but 27% of non-health conscious shoppers also say they are paying attention to sugar levels. And, while non-processed products are valued by 30% of health conscious shoppers, 19% of non-health conscious shoppers are also concerned about processed foods. In other words, health is top of mind for almost everyone.

Prepared foods As outlined on the C-store IQ: Foodservice Report (November/December issue) freshness (42%), food quality (42%) and taste (41%) lead the way in importance for prepared food purchases at convenience stores. However, health-conscious shoppers have elevated standards when buying prepared foods. • Health-conscious shoppers (46%) are more likely to rate freshness as highly important compared to nonhealth-conscious shoppers (36%). CCentral.ca

Price/value 47% Freshness 42% Food quality 42% Taste 41% Convenience/on-the-go 27% Sanitation 23% Location 23% Speed of service 16% Menu choices 14% Portion size 13% Customer service 12% Selection of brands available 7% Presentation 6% Availability of healthier options (low carb, low fat) 6% Drive-thru available 5% Other 0%

• Health-conscious shoppers (14%) are more likely to rate customer service as highly important compared to nonhealth-conscious shoppers (9%). • Health-conscious shoppers (24%) are more likely to rate sanitation as highly important compared to nonhealth-conscious shoppers (9%).

Key takeaways The majority of convenience store shoppers consider themselves to be health-conscious, but less than one in five are satisfied with the better-for-you and healthy offerings when they shop convenience. This represents an opportunity for all industry stakeholders. Depending on age group and gender, there are significant differences placed on aspects of healthy foods and beverages, with shoppers opting for fresh and non-processed products, while keeping a close eye on sugar and sodium content. People want to know what they’re consuming and labels should convey this information in clear language. The initial COVID-19 lockdown ignited cravings for indulgence and comfort foods, however, as the pandemic rages on, overall health and healthy choices are increasingly important to Canadian consumers. While shoppers like to treat themselves, an over-

whelming majority also seeks snack and beverage options they can feel good about. At the store level, operators can specifically target certain groups of consumers by adding to their key product offerings and highlighting better-for-you options. For example, if the store specializes in locally sourced products, it could target boomers and Gen X, as both groups place a high-value on local products. On the flipside, if your shopper demographic is millennials and Gen X, ensuring your category mix includes protein snacks will lead to more satisfied customers. ◗

The top three concerns for shoppers specific to healthy, better-for-you options at convenience stores:




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shares insights into how Rabba Fine Foods becomes a part of the neighbourhoods it serves, lessons learned from COVID and the values his father taught him about operating a successful business BY MICHELE SPONAGLE PHOTOS BY DANIEL ALEXANDER

Think lo 14






It seems to have been Rick Rabba’s destiny to work in the convenience/grocery retail business. Even as a youngster, cleaning cooler doors, stocking shelves and working the cash register at his family’s store in downtown Toronto, he felt it would be his future. He was 100% right. Today, Rabba is president of Rabba Fine Foods with 34 (soon to be 35, another is slated to open in the first six months of 2021) locations in neighbourhoods across the GTA.




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His family were Palestinian immigrants who came to Canada in 1966 with little money. His mother worked at the University of Toronto library and his father got a job at a restaurant, then a hotel and a convenience store. “It’s the classic immigrant story,” says Rabba. “By saving and denying himself any sort of luxury, my dad was able to put a down payment on a house and rented out part of it. I have so much respect for him.” By 1967, Rabba’s father had scraped together enough money to buy a convenience store at 37 Charles Street West and called it Variety Food Fair. It was where Rabba would work alongside his grandfather, who managed the business, and learn about customers wanted from their local convenience store and how to evolve according to their needs, like adding deli foods and fresh produce. Rabba continued to work to grow his skills. “As I got older, I took on more and more roles,” he recalls. “It got to the point where there isn’t one in the organization I haven’t done in some capacity. I could gladly serve you on the cash register today and tell you the PLU [price look-up code] for bananas.” He went on to attend university, but he always knew he’d go back to his roots. “I always wanted to improve the family business,” he says. “That has always been a strong passion of mine. A major shift happened in the 1980s as their stores began to stock more groceries and fresh produce. In 1987, all Variety Food Fairs became Rabba Fine Foods with the first store under that brand opening near Queen’s Quay. While it would have been easier to roll out the new convenience/grocery store hybrid concept uniformly across all Rabba Fine Foods locations, that approach did not jibe with the company’s principles—to serve local communities and to honour the diversity and uniqueness of each. “We don’t have a single location I would call a cookie-cutter store,” says Rabba. “We customize based on the physical realities of the location we’re working in, whether it’s underneath a condominium building or a standalone. Over time, we learn what items customers in that neighbourhood are looking for, based on their lifestyle or ethnicity.” That could mean offering Middle Eastern products for an Arabic community, hard dough bread for a Jamaican one, or grab-and-go meals in areas with a lot of offices. It’s a process of constant pivoting as




“We don’t have a single location I would call a cookie-cutter store. We customize based on the physical realities of the location we’re working in, whether it’s underneath a condominium building or a stand-alone”





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“ Over time, we learn what items customers in that neighbourhood are looking for, based on their lifestyle or ethnicity”

needed. Fortunately, Rabba Fine Foods is cohesive enough to allow that to happen fairly quickly. Rabba credits his ace head office team, who can source items store operators say customers are asking for. Pivoting with finesse has become a coveted skill in 2020 with the pandemic challenging business-as-usual norms. Rabba Fine Foods has done well during COVID since they are open seven days a week and 24 hours a day. “We are very proud that we’ve remained open throughout COVID because we are here to serve our communities,” Rabba says. “We recognize, especially during lockdowns and times when other retailers have restricted their shopping hours, that our community needs us.” He has noticed a significant change. “Customers are using us more like a grocery store these days, and less like a convenience store. We are making sure we are well-stocked on



more dry goods than in the past, including toilet paper, pasta and rice. Once the pandemic has subsided, I think people will resume using us as a convenience store again, as well as a grocery store.” The company is getting ready to pivot again. It already has a partnership with Tim Hortons, but recently announced it has joined forces with Paramount Fine Foods, a well-known restaurant group, to rebuild Rabba’s in-store prepared foods menu. Rabba Kitchen by Paramount will debut at the chain’s newest store, which is slated to open this year at the base of a condo tower in Toronto’s revitalized Regent Park neighbourhood. “It’s something we’re doing to cater to our neighbourhoods,” adds Rabba. “We are offering home meal replacements, fresh produce, organic foods, and interesting items to create a bit of excitement.” All locations offer valued popular brands like Heinz and Kraft, but where they can really shine in with the smaller names, like Owl & Goose, a Toronto company offering raw and unpasteurized smoothies and juices. It’s part of an effort to differentiate themselves from the big box retailers and also to support local businesses. Rabba Fine Foods is one, too—Canadian owned and operated, with deep roots in Toronto. That’s something Rabba has never forgotten.


The company gives back to the communities that support it through Rabba Roots. It has hosted a Super Bowl event for Covenant House and Good Shepherd shelter for the homeless and vulnerable, and donated thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer to the Peel Children’s Aid Society. “We’re part of the community,” Rabba explains. “We feel the need to support the community that we are serving. We feel it’s reasonable and responsible because we are all in it together.” ◗


PICTURE PERFECT At Green Lake Station, nestled among the mountains in Whistler, B.C., even the bathrooms are beautiful BY DONALEE MOULTON PHOTOS BY DAVID BUZZARD






Gregory, Anna and Adam Naundorf

Standing out is both a business approach and a geographical necessity: “Whistler is a massive ski resort destination, but we are on the northern side of the village. People have to want to come to us”


It’s been a whirlwind five years for Adam Naundorf and his parents, Anna and Gregory. In 2016, they opened Green Lake Station Café and Fuel in Whistler, B.C. First though, they had to design and oversee the building of the 2,400-sq.-ft. store. “We tried to make it as nice as possible for customers,” says Naundorf [Adam]. “People do a double take when they walk in.” Custom wood shelving, warm white light, and cedar and tile backsplashes are cornerstones of the store’s contemporary design. Even the bathrooms are noteworthy. They have a clean, modern look. The space is backlit, and the use of cedar makes the facility seem relaxed and cozy. “It feels like you’re in a spa,” says Naundorf. Attaining that feel inside and outside the bathrooms comes at an additional cost, he notes. “But it is paying off. People remember us because we have a clean store, a great gift selection and wonderful washrooms. They tell their friends.”

The gifts the store sells include everything from mugs to espresso cups, toys and stuffed animals. A theme that runs throughout many of the items: a West Coast vibe. Among the standouts are items featuring Indigenous art. “We try to go as local as possible,” says Naundorf. Standing out is both a business approach and a geographical necessity, Naundorf adds. “Whistler is a massive ski resort destination, but we are on the northern side of the village. People have to want to come to us.” In addition to décor drawing customers in, there are the meals made on premise. One hot seller is the store’s breakfast sandwich—bacon, turkey or veggies on a toasted pretzel bun with cheese and savoury sauce. Freshness is key, says Naundorf. “The egg gets cracked in front of you.” Other standouts on the menu include, a pear and blue cheese pizza, brie and fig panini, smashed avocado toast and a vegan burger. For customers looking to sip rather than dig in, there is a large coffee selection



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featuring lattes, macchiatos and cappuccinos. “If you can find the type of food people like and find your niche, it differentiates you,” says Naundorf. In the wake of COVID-19, that differentiation is helping the store do a brisk business. Before the pandemic initially locked down much of British Columbia, 50% of Green Lake Station’s business was tourists, with locals and work crews making up the rest. Over the summer, visitors from Vancouver kept the store busy, says Naundorf. Still, with restrictions, seating inside the café dropped to four from 16, while space on the popular outdoor patio was cut in half to 10. As winter settles in, more local residents and work crews are coming for a hot drink and a fresh breakfast sandwich. (In late 2020, they were also doing some holiday shopping.) What hasn’t changed in the wake of COVID-19, is a commitment to outstanding customer service. “We want [customers] to feel they are walking into a warm, welcoming place,” says Naundorf. Green Lake Station’s dedicated staff play a key role in creating that comfortable atmosphere: “People stick around. We make [employees] feel appreciated. ◗




Operator insights 1 | Focus first on

customers. Regardless of

how well designed your store is, good service is always paramount, says Naundorf. That is what customers will remember—and what will keep them coming back: “Good value is important, but good service will always win out.”


Take risks. He recommends owners and staff engage with clients and take risks to meet their diverse needs. “Ask customers for their ideas. Try new ideas.”


Emphasize cleanliness and tidiness.

A neat and clean store says something about the care and diligence you bring to your business. It shows customers you have their best interests at heart, says Naundorf, adding this is particularly important for boosting confidence during the pandemic: “People feel safe in the store. They don’t hesitate to touch things.”




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3 trends poised to shape convenience in 2021


In a world where consumers’ constantly changing product preferences, sky-high expectations and buying behaviours rule, trends often push c-stores to pivot, innovate and aim higher. During the pandemic, consumer shopping habits are even more in flux. However, some tried-and-true ideas are likely to boost c-store profitability. Here are three key trends shaping the convenience landscape and how they can work for you.



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The average annual spend on subscriptions is $640 per year

Driving loyalty and revenue Move over, Netflix and Amazon Prime. C-stores are also offering subscription services, which help them stand out from the competition while building loyalty and profit. “Subscriptions are emerging as part of everyone’s life, whether that’s through media, shopping sites or regular deliveries of razor blades, meal kits and socks,” says Chuck Tanowitz, director of marketing communications at Paytronix, a Newton, Massachusetts-based loyalty program provider specializing in customer loyalty, acquisition and retention for multi-unit restaurants, retail stores and c-store chains. In November, the company launched Paytronix Subscriptions, a new technology solution that enables brands to initiate and manage a data-driven subscription program designed to drive repeat visits. “These are the ultimate in convenience, which clearly tracks with convenience stores,” adds Tanowitz. “There’s a great opportunity for c-stores to use subscriptions as a way to keep customers loyal and returning again and again.” Tanowitz reports that many Paytronix customers plan to launch coffee subscriptions, while other convenience store brands have created subscriptions around their food offerings, free delivery or fuel discounts. “Those that use subscriptions have found an increase in attachment: Someone coming in to fill a coffee subscription will often make an additional purchase along the way,” he says. In the U.S., restaurant brands like Panera and Pret are successfully offering coffee subscriptions, while RaceTrac has a fuel subscription program, notes Tanowitz. DoorDash and Uber Eats




e During th of e v first wa ic m the pande July to (March 1 private 11, 2020) rket label’s ma o wt share gre ared p 18.2% com in % with 17.2 ording 2019, acc to Nielsen

have subscription programs that charge a flat fee for unlimited delivery, while goPuff’s subscription is a paid membership service with unlimited delivery. “We’ve found that the average annual spend on subscriptions is $640 per year, and 34% of Americans feel that number will increase over the next two years,” reports Tanowitz. “This is another powerful arrow in the quiver of the convenience store marketer. Not only does it work alongside the loyalty program as a way to keep customers coming back, but it also enables the marketer to collect valuable information about their customers and their purchasing habits.” That information can then be used to create targeted programs that can continue to drive additional value. “Today’s customers are starting to demand subscriptions because it’s how they’re used to consuming goods,” explains Tanowitz. “The key question for convenience retailers involves understanding true brand promise and how to fulfill that to customers.”

Not just for grocers anymore As consumer demand shifts away from ‘generic’ brands to private label, c-stores are developing innovative private label strategies to better position themselves in the competitive retail landscape. The Private Label Manufacturers Association estimates that private label brands represent close to $180 billion in U.S. retail sales and it’s a market that’s rapidly expanding. During the first wave of the pandemic (March 1 to July 11, 2020) private label’s market share grew to 18.2% compared with 17.2% in 2019, according to Nielsen.


74% of Canadians say they often purchase products or services originating in Canada

“Everyone is chasing it,” says Tony Chapman, a marketing and brand consultant in Toronto. “Where convenience can get into private label is with things like dairy, or savoury and sweet treats—the best milk, sausage rolls and cakes—areas where there is less brand loyalty.” In Canada, Parkland, 7-Eleven and Couche-Tard all have private label offerings. Controlling the cost and quality of private label is key to help retailers meet increased consumer demand for store brand products, says Rodney Blanton, global VP of private brand for Couche-Tard: “Customers are looking for exclusivity and value, which accelerated the development of the private brand space in the last decades to offer not only a value alternative, but products that will delight and engage.” Done correctly, private label can help c-stores maintain profit levels while offering consumers better retail pricing and value options, he adds. These products can’t be found anywhere else, creating loyalty and luring customers back for the flavours and items they like at attractive prices. C-stores are improving the quality and packaging of their own brands to compete with established national products, notes Linda Capusa, Circle K’s global director of private brand execution: “Understanding what matters to customers and staying up to date with packaging and design trends are imperative to making sure PB products are both noticeable and speak on the brand look and feel. There’s more awareness now on the quality and reliability of PB, so brands are getting better at educating customers and driving engaging programs.” Because customers seek quality at affordable price points, transparency about private label products can drive consumer engagement and trust, adds Capusa, especially since many are produced in the same factories as national brands. “It’s a continuous journey to tell that story and open the doors behind the scenes to customers, so they’re aware of where the product originates from,” she says.


Consumers driving the need for transparency and choice The COVID-19 crisis seems to have altered consumer behaviour in Canada, according to a recent Leger study, which revealed that people are seeking out local businesses and products for the first time. The research also showed that 74% of Canadians say they often purchase products or services originating in Canada, and 56% plan to buy Canadian goods and services more often in the future. C-stores are capitalizing on this trend, with organizations such as Ontario Made encouraging stores to stock locally-made products. “Canadians are driven to buy local for economic reasons—in particular, to support the local economy and local jobs,” says Dennis Darby, president and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME). “Although Canadians have always been interested in supporting their neighbours and buying local, a rise in protectionism worldwide, as well as COVID-19, have accelerated the need and awareness for this. Our manufacturing members have been calling for several years for governments to promote local purchasing, both from consumers and in public procurement policies.” Launching the Ontario Made program will allow Ontario manufacturers to increase their local market sales, meet consumers’ needs by making it easier to identify and buy Ontario-made products, and help grow the economy, adds Darby. “In Ontario, polling suggests that nearly 75% of Ontarians are looking to purchase Canadian-made products over imported ones and 56% said they would try more often to purchase domestic goods,” he says. Retailers have a vital role to play in the effort to support Canadians buying local, notes Darby. “We’re encouraging retailers and convenience stores to use the Ontario Made logo in-store and on marketing materials, and when possible create in-store set-aside areas for Ontario-made products,” he explains, adding that the Ontario Convenience Store Association has championed the program, encouraging stores to increase consumer awareness of locally made products. “Little Short Stop is an example of a convenience store chain that has always embraced buying local and has received positive feedback from consumers that they’re able to find locally produced goods at their stores,” says Darby. Buying local is very on-trend, notes Chapman, but can be challenging for c-stores. “It’s tough for convenience to do in terms of managing perishables and inventory,” he says. “I think convenience would be better served by supporting local entrepreneurs and local packaged goods that are less perishable and that they can differentiate themselves with.” ◗



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Cuckoo for cocoa

Consumers’ obsession with chocolate is sweet news Feel good flavours

Pandemic? What pandemic? If you ask big-name chocolate makers, they will say that sales are going strong despite COVID-19, not just in Canada, but also around the world, with chocolate consumption climbing across the board.

Research shows about 17% of c-stores shoppers’ time is spent at check out: Make it count. ➜ It’s prime real estate and space is limited; merchandise only best-selling brands on the counter.

Perhaps it’s a perfect storm of factors fuelling the demand. Producers are enticing consumers with new offerings, from varying cocoa levels to fresh innovations, like ruby chocolate with its subtle fruity notes. Indulgence is in and customers are happy to splurge on something that brings a bit of joy to their world amid turbulent times. Remember the pre-holiday craze for hot chocolate bombs (a Canadian innovation)? Sugar and carb counts be damned. They got endorphins revved up and everyone was grateful. Whatever the reasons are, Canada’s chocolate biz is worth more than $2 billion. The convenience store channel is well poised to grab a bigger slice of the chocolatey pie. Customers aren’t hesitating to embrace guilty pleasures to get them through the day and, if chocolate is sitting near the cash register, they’ll be happy to grab it and go.

Easter expectations Don’t expect chocolate sales to suffer a meltdown any time soon. Manufacturers are already eyeing Easter as an opportunity for another sales boost. “Consumers are looking to create a little fun for their loved ones with special packaging and Easter shapes to add a bit of excitement during egg hunt and family celebrations,” say Jay Seagrove, category sales manager, and Valerie Aguiar, marketing manager, Nestlé Canada. Nestlé’s research shows that chocolate plays a starring role at Easter and the company will have a full portfolio of Easter treats available. Highlights include the KitKat Bunny (29g), which is hopping back to shelves in a repeat performance, and two new SKUs for the convenience channel—KitKat Hide



➜ Track sales history to determine which SKUs should be given the most space at checkout. ➜ Today’s new flavours, formats and SKUs could be tomorrow’s favourites. Entice shoppers to try something new with bundles or two-for deals. ➜ Support consumer promotions with signage and displays. ➜ To promote social distancing and boost sales, set up a queue line peppered with impulse items.

Me Eggs (35g) and Smarties Lil’ Eggs (42g). Those new additions will be also available in larger bags for sharing or baking. Just in time for egg hunts and Easter baskets, the company will have KitKat Bunny (85g), Aero Bunny (100g) and Smarties Bunny (94g). Seagrove and Aguiar say that COVID has increased interest in keeping pantries stocked with chocolate treats to add a bit of variety and fun, especially for households with kids, but adults are also self-treating. “In October, we saw communities get creative to keep the Halloween spirit alive,” they say, “and we’ll see families do the same during Easter (i.e. people celebrating at home or virtually with socially distanced egg hunts or even dropping off surprise Easter baskets to loved ones).


Convenience stores shouldn’t be shy about stocking premium brands and more exotic types of chocolate. Consumers, though indulging their sweet tooth, still want to feel good about what they’re eating and are likely to respond to buzz words like “artisan,” “organic” and “fair trade certified.” They’ll also be open to spending more for bean-to-bar varieties, as well as new and noteworthy products. One to watch is ruby chocolate. Introduced to North American in 2019 by Barry Callebaut, it has been touted as the biggest development in chocolate in 80 years. Made by ruby cocoa beans, it has a natural pink-hue, luscious texture and a fruitiness reminiscent of berries. It is already popping up in baking chips and candy bars (like KitKat).

Taste of innovation One trend to forget is the Franken-creation of one Vancouver chocolate maker that featured bits of crispy chicken. Hard pass. However, vegan chocolate is very much a thing, with artisans paving the way and several major players jumping on board in recent years with vegan options. In addition, the top players are turning old favourites into new kids on the block. Terry's Chocolate Orange is positioning itself as a year-round treat with a tablet format, while Hershey has raised the bar with flavours like strawberries ’n cream, birthday cake and cookies ’n mint. In September 2020, it launched Oh Henry! Level Up with pretzel pieces, peanuts and peanut butter. Last fall, Post Consumer Brands partnered with a chocolate maker to introduce a bar made incorporating Fruity Pebbles cereal. Is that a hint that consumers should be eating chocolate for breakfast? Why not, we say. These are strange times. ◗




Pandemic-era snacking A shift in consumption reflects evolving consumer behaviours, priorities How Canadians eat and drink continues to change and evolve, particularly as we retreat into our homes with government regulations, restrictions and public health guidance continuing to limit our daily movement. During the pandemic, many consumers re-connected to home life as a place of refuge, comfort and belonging. In tandem with this re-connection has been the re-prioritization of meals as pillars to define our days. But, the question remains: “Has the shift to meals impacted Canadians’ daily snacking habits?” The answer is, yes. Although the ‘snackification’ of Canadians’ eating routines has been well-documented for nearly a decade, we often forget that the rise of snacking can be directly correlated to the de-prioritization of meals, as Canadians gravitated to less cumbersome, less work-intensive and more flexible approaches to eating and drinking. As we find ourselves 10 months into the pandemic, our snacking behaviour, while still robust, has softened when compared to the early pandemic days in 2020 and the pre-pandemic period during 2019. While snacking remains a huge behaviour, with more than two-thirds of consumption occasions in an average day continuing to occur outside or in-between meals (at snack), the retreat from snacking has impacted consumers’ choices and the performance of related categories.

Snacking defined At Ipsos, the FIVE consumption tracking study (it has been in the field every day since 2013, tracking eating and drinking behaviour amongst 24,000 individuals aged 2 and over) defines the snacking universe according to consumers’ reporting of what they ate or drank by time of day and occasion. The food and beverage items consumed outside traditional meal occasions are



grouped together and these ‘snacks’ are evaluated by three distinct segments: traditional snack goods (e.g. fresh fruit, potato chips or chocolate) vs. non-traditional snack foods (e.g. pizza, sandwiches, chili) vs. beverages.

Rise of daytime snacking

Top Foods Consumed During Daytime Snack Fresh Fruit Cheese Chocolate Potato Chips Cookies Fresh Cut Vegetables Crackers Granola/Cereal/Snack Bars

Snacking habits continued to shift as we moved into fall and then settled into winter routines, with increasing snacking rates during morning and afternoon occasions. While ‘eat rate’ increases can be traced to kids’ being back at school, there is a considerably large cohort of adults that continue to work from home—wearing out the path from home office to pantry—to meet increasing daytime needs/demands for energy, mental well-being and grazing. Increased daytime snacking at home has resulted in more fresh produce snacking (though potato chips remain strong), particularly when compared to the pre-pandemic period. Fewer carried-from-home occasions and less requirement for portability is having an impact on cookies, crackers and granola bars. The increase in daytime snacking habits has put pressure on the evening occasion; with evening eat rates for snacks declining when compared to early pandemic days.

The snacking pantry The pandemic era has certainly re-invigorated Canadians’ use of the pantry, particularly among families with kids. According to Ipsos findings, almost two-thirds of family shoppers report that they will continue to pantry-load even after lockdown restrictions have ended. New stockpiling habits are also impacting how consumers define convenience,


% Consumption Change vs. Pre-Pandemic Period 9% 5% -17% 30% -10% 1% -4% -15%

Source: Ipsos FIVE 6ME Oct'20 vs. 6ME April'20 % Occurences

with a growing share of individuals reporting that having items on hand is a key factor in making the snacking event both easy and accessible. It is also important to note that the third most reported item identified as a ‘grocery essential’ among a diverse cross-section of food and beverage options was snacks. Interestingly, their importance as an essential ranked ahead of several ‘hard to find’ options coveted in the early pandemic days, such as baking goods. The role of the pantry will likely remain ‘top of mind’ important as we head into the back half of 2021 and more of us venture outside. In our latest FIVE data release (October 2020), carried-from-home snack occasions increased considerably when compared to spring rates, although they remain lower than reported in 2019.

Evolving needs drive choices Undoubtedly, our in-home cocooning and discovery of new routines, new schedules and new ways to entertain have exposed new consumer tensions. Even during ordinary times, many of us struggle to balance work, family and social responsibilities. These struggles have been amplified by both the health pandemic and our new homebound status. CCentral.ca

Beyond ‘point of entry’ needs—hunger, thirst, gap fill and convenience—that motivate snacking choices, there is a growing focus on meeting mood needs (e.g. comfort, stress relief and relaxation) and opting for healthier guiltfree choices, nurturing and nostalgia. In their continuing quest for healthier snacking options, Canadians are moving beyond simply focusing on nourishment and nutrient intake. They are increasingly prioritizing emotional well-being and focusing on metabolic benefits, such as digestion, weight management, boosting immune systems and beauty health, to name just a few. The rise of personal health spaces provides huge growth opportunity.

Post-pandemic snacking As we move through the balance of the pandemic era, there will be undoubtedly more shifts and changes as consumers respond to their environmental circumstances. Beyond evaluating current changes, it will also be critical to identify the legacy impacts of our cumulative confinement experience to determine what impact they will have on consumer snacking habits, as well as category and brand choices. Integrating these factors into future planning will be an important dynamic in shaping the snacking path ahead. ◗ Kathy Perrotta is a vice-president with Ipsos Market Strategy and Understanding, working with the Food & Beverage Group Syndicated Services. Data sources within this group include, Ipsos FIVE and Foodservice Monitor (FSM).



Leading with resilience Cara Keating is president of PepsiCo Foods Canada, leading the Canadian businesses of Frito-Lay North America and Quaker Foods North America. A 15-year PepsiCo veteran, Keating has a wealth of experience across the channel, having also led the company’s national convenience and gas businesses. She has built a reputation as a talented people leader and passionate supporter of PepsiCo’s diversity and engagement agenda. Keating is also recognized for her efforts to champion and empower women, having recently delivered the keynote at the Star Women in Convenience Awards Celebration. She spoke about ‘Leading with resilience’—an apt topic for the times we’re in—and later took some time to answer questions about navigating change.

Tell me a bit about the changes to your business in the last 10 months. CK: Over the past 10 months, we’ve faced an





incredible amount of change in our business and marketplace. While we haven’t changed our fundamental operations, there have been countless changes in how we approach our daily work to keep our people safe, while ensuring that Canadians have access to the foods and snacks they love. I’m proud of how quickly we moved to implement safety measures across our business. Keeping our people safe has been at the heart of every decision we’ve made throughout this crisis. We have a sizeable frontline population, with manufacturing plants and sales associates across the country, who are the engine of our business. We implemented social distancing and hand washing practices early and reinforced their importance often, and it’s been working. In the early days, we saw slower than usual traffic in C&G, while large format was experiencing spikes in buying patterns with fewer trips, but significantly larger basket sizes. In response, we took a number of


steps to better manage our inventories. First, we reduced our SKU assortment to simplify our manufacturing and ensure that our core products were always available. Customer sales data also became critically important to help us anticipate inventory needs and supply customers with the right amount of product. Being a large global organization, we have been able to leverage PepsiCo resources and lessons available to us from our colleagues around the world, which has also helped us navigate this crisis.

In your SWIC keynote, you talked about resilience: How does that apply here? CK: I’m extremely proud of our frontline teams and how they’ve navigated this pandemic. There was a lot of variation in buying patterns across customers, which made it challenging to manage inventory because it was unpredictable. Our front-line sales teams certainly felt this, as our reps were making constant adjustments to inventory levels. And our front-line manufacturing teams were working hard around the clock to support this demand. This pandemic put a lot of pressure on our front-line teams, who worked hard to stay on top of the needs of our customers and consumers. And, all along, they were navigating their own personal safety, along with that of their families, their colleagues and their community. At the same time, our office-based associates have been working from home since March and I’m proud to say that we haven’t missed a beat in our day-to-day operations. That said, we know it’s been challenging for our people to navigate their new normal, managing the demands of work, home and family in the work-from-home environment. We’ve been working hard to stay close to our people and provide physical, mental and financial health resources to support them when they need us most.

How is your brand working with convenience operators to support their businesses? Are there particular initiatives you’d like to highlight? CK: Our teams have had to be flexible and adapt to the new landscape in a number of ways: 1. Service: We are thrilled that our field teams have been able to maintain their high service standards throughout the pandemic. We understand new customers are turning to convenience stores during these times and we want to do our part to ensure that they have a positive experience and that our shelves are fully stocked and ready for business. 2. Assortment: With the mix shifting from single serve to take home, we have adjusted our permanent and temporary displays to ensure we are in stock on our top selling SKUs. Also, as consumers became more focused on healthy living, we increased our distribution on wellness-focused products, like Bare and Off the Eaten Path. 3. Value: With the increase in basket sizes, we adapted our promotion strategies to offer greater value when you purchase more units (adding a 3/$X layer to our typical 2/$X promotions). We also introduced larger pack sizes to offer more value to consumers. From a head office standpoint, our teams are working closely with category managers to continue to move the business forward and ensure that we have strong plans in place for a fast start in 2021.

As a leader, what have you learned during this period? CK: I’ve learned the importance of empathy. Everyone is facing different challenges and circumstances—supporting our people and their personal needs has never been more critical. I’ve spent a lot of time connecting with associates across all levels, roles and geographies to understand

their needs and what’s important to them to ensure we’re providing the right information and resources to navigate this pandemic. I’ve also encouraged our leaders to stay close to their people and be flexible in how we work so our associates feel empowered to make the necessary decisions for themselves and their families. At the same time, we have associates who are living alone and facing mental health struggles due to physical isolation, so we’re also focused on fostering connections and support networks amongst our employees. Mental health is a major focus for us and will continue to be as we battle this pandemic.

Finally, as we move into 2021, what are you excited about in terms of the business, particularly on the convenience side? CK: We’re excited about getting off to a fast start in 2021. Innovation is going to be a huge play for us in 2021, as we shifted our focus to core SKUs for 2020. We have great innovation coming out for the Super Bowl and then a jam-packed front half with lots of new SKUs. We’re also excited to see the growth of e-commerce within the C&G channel, with several banners developing partnerships in this space. We’re excited to partner with all customers to develop this great new opportunity for growth. Finally, we are excited to bring you a more customized approach to assortment. We have invested in technology that will enable our teams to tailor their product offering based on the demographics of each location. ◗

How is your business evolving to meet shoppers' changing needs? We want to hear about it! Email editor Michelle Warren: mwarren@ensembleiq.com CCentral.ca



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JANUARY/ FEBRUARY 2021 Volume 26 | Number 1






Editor’s message Future ready?


Self-service drying Handheld dryer units for selfservice wash bays is a profit centre worth examination


There’s an app for that Convenience and loyalty intersect with marketing programs that target smartphone users


COVER STORY Taking a bite out of ordinary Calgary wash site delivers innovation


Wash trends Upgrading and fine-tuning characterize recent car wash product news


Forecourt innovation Fuel retail sites look to the future with product and service refinements


Featured products New products, equipment and services


CCA industry forum


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20 Eglinton Ave. West, Suite 1800, Toronto, ON M4R 1K8 (416) 256-9908 | (877) 687-7321 | Fax (888) 889-9522 www.CCentral.ca SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, CANADA | Donna Kerry EDITORIAL EDITOR, CSNC Michelle Warren | mwarren@ensembleiq.com EDITOR, OCTANE Kelly Gray | kgray@ensembleiq.com TRANSLATION | Danielle Hart ADVERTISING SALES ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Elijah Hoffman | ehoffman@ensembleiq.com NATIONAL ACCOUNT MANAGER Jacquie Rankin | jrankin@ensembleiq.com VICE PRESIDENT, EVENTS Michael Cronin | mcronin@ensembleiq.com DESIGN AND PRODUCTION VICE PRESIDENT, PRODUCTION Derek Estey | destey@ensembleiq.com DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION Michael Kimpton | mkimpton@ensembleiq.com ART DIRECTOR | Linda Rapini DIRECTOR OF MARKETING Alexandra Voulu | avoulu@ensembleiq.com SENIOR DIRECTOR AUDIENCE STRATEGY Lina Trunina | ltrunina@ensembleiq.com SENIOR DIRECTOR, DIGITAL CANADA & SPECIAL PROJECTS Valerie White | vwhite@ensembleiq.com CORPORATE OFFICERS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER | Jennifer Litterick CHIEF FINANCIAL OFFICER | Jane Volland


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Future ready? Creativity plus effort creates innovation. Innovation delivers new ideas, methods and products. In this issue of OCTANE, we looked hard to find examples of new devices and thinking that are helping both car wash and fuel retail stay ahead of the market curve. A good case in point is Great White Car & Truck Wash in Calgary. The group behind Great White is in the storage business and had not considered vehicle wash as a place they wanted to take the company. For StoreWest, vehicle wash centres were a new territory that created a positive impact on the bottom line. Great White followed through by sourcing innovative equipment that created more than a car wash. Their SpinLite wash system and coloured foams helped them become a site for family entertainment, as well as a great clean. And, through marketing innovation, the company has seen success at promotional events, such as the ‘Tunnel of Terror’ during Halloween. At the forecourt, innovation is happening rapidly. New dispenser technology is making it easier to attract

customers from the pumps into the c-store. There is also better connectivity between cars and forecourt technology. New POS and interactive dispenser systems are also making remote management an everyday function of the fuel business. From new apps to upgrades in hardware and merchandising tools, novel ideas are moving the gas, car wash and convenience sectors onto higher ground. Operators who use new technology and novel thinking are seeing sales boosts and improved customer interaction. Operators also find reductions in cost and waste, as well as seeing their market position improve. Staff also love innovation. Forward-thinking operations are finding that having new ideas and the latest tools in the workplace means less turnover and more committed workers. Where do you stand on making investments in innovation? The future only comes once. Will you be ready?


CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS CANADA / OCTANE is published 6 times a year by EnsembleIQ. CONVENIENCE STORE NEWS CANADA / OCTANE is circulated to managers, buyers and professionals working in Canada’s convenience, gas and wash channel. Please direct inquiries to the editorial offices. Contributions of articles, photographs and industry information are welcome, but cannot be acknowledged or returned. ©2020 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, including photocopying and electronic retrieval/retransmission, without the permission of the publisher.


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Self-service drying Handheld dryer units for self-service wash bays is a profit centre worth examination By Kelly Gray Drying is important. Here in the great white north, a car that comes out of the wash in January can become a four-wheeled ice cube if proper drying technology and technique are not brought to bear. Tunnels and express washes have the benefit of large blowers that shoot warmed air at vehicles as they exit the wash. Selfwash bays, on the other hand, often have no drying systems and customers turn to chamois and paper towels to sponge off excess water before leaving the site. Personal experience suggests this can be ineffective when temperatures hit minus 20ºC. Self-service wash customers typically pay by the minute via coin boxes. Having customers hand-drying vehicles in bay means time wasted and longer lineups. Having a self-service dryer unit that operates alongside the other options such as vacuum, pressure wash, and tire and engine clean is a profit centre that makes sense for Canada. A good example is Red Deer’s Jumbo Car Wash. This site offers 12 self-service bays for standard-sized cars and trucks as well as four, 60-foot pull-thru bays for RV’s and larger vehicles. Jumbo also offers two touchless automatic units. According to owner Terrill Cromie, they see 80% of customers use their dryer units in the 12 self-service bays during colder months. “The rest of the year, the dryers get used primarily from those with higher-end cars and motorcycles,” he says, remarking that at Jumbo they don’t




use coin boxes. “We have a ticket system as well as an app that can handle the payment. Our customers without the app pull up and take a ticket with a time stamp. In the barn, all our bays are fully functioning with all the features. Customers use what they want for as long as they want and pay at the end.” Jumbo charges 0.95 cents a minute in the 12 self-service bays and $1.15 for RVs. While there are several manufacturers and distributors of handheld dryer systems, such as Mosmatic, Coleman Hanna, J E Adams and KleenRite, Jumbo decided to make their equipment in-house. Terrill mentions that the system is comprised of a stainless steel box with a single large motor to move air. “We use clean, dry air from outside that is heated in a furnace unit and moved to bays via hoses. Our customers look to this system to make sure door locks are dry and windows are free of excess moisture before pulling out into the cold,” he says noting that having in-bay dryers is all part of Jumbo’s superior service equation that has made them a local leader. The industry suggests that a site can see an 8% to 13% increase in revenue per year by installing handheld dryer units to self-service bays. This usage translates into an ROI of one year for each dryer unit that could well see sales around $2,000 at an average location. Another Alberta site that is having success with handheld dryers is Calgary’s Top Gear Car Wash on 120th Ave. NE. The

site offers 13 self-service bays, as well as conveyor wash and detailing. At Top Gear, they use a Mosmatic Dryer system for a streak-free finish. According to Top Gear spokesperson Chris Nordrum, they offer dryers in each of the 13 bays. He reports that usage is between 50% and 60% of customers with the most usage in the winter. “Also, our customers use the device to blow out vents as well as blow debris from under seats. It’s pretty versatile. The fact that we use a ticket system for payment means you don’t have to look for more change while you clean your car. You use the equipment as needed and then pay,” he says, remarking that the only challenge customers seem to have is keeping the hose away from the car’s paint finish as they dry the surface with the blower. “But, it’s a small learning curve, and our customers tell us they like the service.” OCTANE

The industry suggests that a site can see an 8% to 13% increase in revenue per year by installing handheld dryer units to self-service bays.




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Three tips for selfservice dryer success PLACEMENT Put the dryers where people can see them. Some operators have tried placing them outside to increase bay through-put. This placement only worked to decrease usage. Once people left the wash-bay they usually kept on going leaving the dryer on its hook unused. Make it visible.

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MOTOR SIZE The transition from three smaller motors to one larger motor has been a significant uptick in dryer quality. The larger motor can be run on three-phase electric power and keeps operating costs down. A larger motor also has a longer life, so there’s less maintenance. A one-motor system has a more powerful airflow that makes drying the vehicle easier.

MARKETING Tell your customers. Tell the world. Signage in-bay will drive increased dryer usage. Highlight the service on apps and loyalty program mailers. Let people know that the dryer is one of the best defences against a spotty wash.

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There’s an app for that Canadians love loyalty programs. Each week some 56%* (*KPMG) of us shop using cards and apps that offer points and rewards as bonuses for repeat business. Internationally, Canada is number two in usage behind Australia (61%). Up here, familiarity breeds loyalty. Canadians prefer to shop and use services from businesses they know. KPMG discovered that 86% of loyalty program users will recommend the company to friends and 46% will remain loyal even after a bad experience. Loyalty apps make the entire promotional equation easier. They reach customers via their mobile devices, they are easy to upload and use, and they offer real value to users. And, they don’t jam-pack your wallet with retailer cards. Car wash and gas operators have been quick to get involved in loyalty apps. For starters, these programs offer opportunities for data capture for businesses that want to learn about their customers’ wants and needs. Information, such as frequency, spend and services used, are all kept on record. This data is invaluable to operators who can then better tailor their service.




“We went to the [Convenience U ] CARWACS Show in Toronto a few years ago. We saw how Valet Car Wash was using a dedicated app to drive business, says Randy Andrusiak, gas bar operations manager at Winnipeg-based Red River Cooperative Ltd. He saw that having a car wash app would be highly beneficial to Red River’s growing car wash enterprise where sites now exceed 17 locations with two new locations to be added in 2021. Andrusiak reports that they collaborated with Federated Co-operatives Ltd. to develop the program and worked with Mosaic (Mosaic Digital Corp.) to create the app that is just going online now as a test with other co-operatives closely following. The Red River app allows customers to purchase a wash code via their mobile phone. The code is then entered at the entry reader. “We have three wash packages that can be chosen. As well, some sites have both touchless and soft-touch washes that can also be selected. You can also buy a single wash or a subscription,” he says, noting that subscription pricing currently runs from $65.99 to $89.99 for a package that gives eight washes a month. “We are test driving the subscription service and asking our members (customers) for advice on what

Convenience and loyalty intersect with marketing programs that target smartphone users By Kelly Gray

they would like to see. This is the first time we have offered a subscription plan. I think there will be some adjustments as we move forward on this.” Promotions are another feature of a dedicated app that is key. The Red River system allows for push marketing notifications where the co-op can offer something like 50% off Tuesday washes or a deep discount on a wash right after a rain. These messages appear on phones. “We have just installed new Wayne dispensers that feature a huge media screen that is great for promotions that get people into the c-store. We think there will be an opportunity to create total connectivity between marketing platforms,” he says, mentioning that the push notifications on phones will mirror specials highlighted on the dispenser media screen as well as on displays in-store. The app also drives loyalty. Red River’s car wash customers receive points that may be redeemed for free washes. For those who refer a friend to sign up for the app, both parties receive a free wash. Red River itself also pays back its members/customers in cash every year as a share of the profits at the co-operative. So, those who are members that use the app get an opportunity to double-dip on promotional goodness. CCentral.ca

Loyalty apps make the entire promotional equation easier. They reach customers via their mobile devices, they are easy to upload and use, and they offer real value to users. And, they don’t jam-pack your wallet with retailer cards.

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Millennials are a key focus of these loyalty apps. Millennials (ages 18 years to 35 years) are the single largest generation currently alive with roughly 7.5 million Canadians falling into this category. Recent studies from FIS Global, a company that provides financial software and services as well as business solutions, notes that 90% of this age group report purchases via mobile phones. In addition to purchases, millennials rely on their mobile phones to make their shopping experience more convenient. For example, those aged 18 to 35 years are the most likely to use their mobile devices for purchases compared to Gen X’ers (ages 40 to 55 years). The study also shows that 52% of millennials will use their phones to purchase online and pick up in-store compared to 38% of Gen X persons. When it comes to loyalty programs, 92% of consumers belong to at least one. Averages show that women hold more loyalty membership than men (7.6 loyalty programs for women and 5.9 for men). Retirees also like loyalty programs and rate free merchandise as a leading cause for joining up. Looking for more business? FIS Global reports that 66% of consumers find loyalty programs offer a tremendous influence on where they shop. “With our app, everything is in one place - our customer’s mobile phone. It’s convenient, offers great value and brings people back to our locations,” concludes Red River’s Andrusiak.OCTANE





TAKING A BITE OUT OF ORDINARY Calgary wash site delivers innovation By Kelly Gray

Calgary’s Great White Car & Truck Wash, 5421 Dufferin Blvd., is big news in the foothills city where the recent build is changing the way people think about vehicle washes. But while it’s top of mind now, the wash site got its start by being a second thought. “We were looking for land for a new storage facility location, and we found the site on Dufferin Blvd.,” says Matt Verity, vice-president of operations with StoreWest Developments, the parent company behind Great White. “Our consultant came to us and said, ‘You’d be crazy not to also consider a car wash here’. We looked at the numbers and had to agree. Then, the consultant asked us if we had thought about adding a truck wash to the mix as well.” According to Verity, the area surrounding the south-east Calgary operation has a population density above 200,000 persons. It is also adjacent to a warehousing district that is home to seven leading distributors. The location was perfect for storage and ideal for a car and truck wash. This was 2016.






Three years later, the facility was up and running as Great White, Calgary’s fastest car and truck wash. On offer for cars and light-duty trucks at Great White is a 110-foot Belanger SpinLite express tunnel, as well as seven self-service wash bays that receive regular cleaning for COVID-19 protection. For truckers and commercial operators, Great White makes a difference with three 110foot wash bays, one of which features the site’s automated Belanger V-Max truck wash. “When we looked at existing truck washes, we saw that few were providing the kind of service we imagined. The V-Max is a touchless gantry system similar to Belanger’s Kondor CCentral.ca

product but on steroids. V-Max is highly flexible and allows us to handle the widest range of trucks from step vans to dump trucks to full-sized highway rigs. We also offer a detailed scrub down or a quick touchless ‘splash & dash’ for those needing a quick turnaround” says Verity, mentioning that the V-Max can take a transport truck from grimy to great in as little as 20 minutes. The wash process starts with an initial chemical pass, then a team of detailers gives trucks a 10-15 minute physical scrub down before engaging the final high-pressure wash process. Wheels and undercarriage also get a full treatment with a Neptune Max II system that uses 24-feet of the tunnel to allow


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for two full tire revolutions of cleaning power. The Neptune system is typically used in the mining industry and features 120 spray nozzles that remove everything from light sand to heavy clays, ice build-up, and sticky debris. The Neptune Max II also provides a water reclamation system that uses a closed-loop to offer as much as a 95% recovery rate. According to Verity, the reclaimed water is used for the undercarriage process, with the rest of the site using fresh water from the municipality. “Clean water is important to us, not just as something we need to clean our vehicles, but as a resource for the planet’s health. We are the first car wash in Calgary to become members of WaterSavers®, a program from the ICA (International Carwash Association) that seeks to create best practices in water use.” Time is money. And, for commercial users, speed and efficiency is the name of the game. “Whether it’s fleet managers looking to optimize productivity or independent operators washing after a long day on the road, the express truck wash has filled a need within our market.” Verity reports that they wanted to go ‘full Disneyland’ for their car and light truck wash with lights and coloured foams. “We were at the ICA Show looking at systems and saw the SpinLite at the Belanger exhibit. We liked the tunnel lighting. We also felt that SpinLite’s slow brush speed would give customers more confidence that their expensive paint finishes would be safeguarded at our site,” he says, adding that they completed the package by going with Zep’s line of ‘greener’ chemicals that are less harsh

on vehicle surfaces. “We wanted to limit our environmental impact and went with products such as biodegradable soaps.” The SpinLite lighting package certainly helped create a splash in the local market. Shortly after opening, Great White announced their Tunnel of Terror, a Halloween promotion that earned them a lot of exposure on social media as well as on radio and TV and in the papers. At the event, customers pay for a wash and get a free scare. “We were turning away 250 cars a night during the promo,” says Verity. He reports they had a team of 25-30 ‘scarers’ of which five worked in the tunnel. “We had ‘hidey’ holes placed in the tunnel, so our people were safe before they jumped out unexpectedly. You could hear the screams blocks away. We also do other promotional events. For example, we gave free washes away during ‘Shark Week’, we offer holiday promotions and are involved with a lot of community organizations as well as local charities,” he says. Great White offers unlimited wash packages with their Shark Club membership. Customers can choose between three programs - Hammerhead (basic wash for $35), Tiger (upgrade with wheel and undercarriage blasts plus wax and other features for $40), and Great White (total package that includes tire scrub and weather barrier for $45). They also have membership programs within the Shark Club for yearly memberships and multi-vehicle family plans. ‘We currently have more than 600 members enrolled in this program with a steady subscription


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build each month. The goal is to reach 1200 members by autumn of 2021’ says Verity. The site also offers a dedicated app where points get customers free washes, digital payments can be made, and products can be selected (for both cars and big trucks). App users can also send washes to others as a gift. According to Verity, they pay a lot of attention to appearances and professional performance. “All our crews are uniformed. Everybody goes through a multiday training program designed to enhance customer service and engage the hearts and minds of our staff. As we grow, we are working hard to maintain a consistent experience for both customers and staff. All locations will work off the same playbook. So, the great wash you get in Calgary will be the same in Edmonton,” he says, mentioning that they are looking at prospective sites in the capital region and are eyeing opportunities across Canada and have a new location coming soon in Calgary’s NE. “2021 is going to be a busy year for us. We have several new sites in the pipeline with a few scheduled to begin construction next year throughout Alberta. The new Calgary site will offer a 145-foot tunnel and seven self-service bays. “Our goal has been to change the way people think about car and truck washing,” he says, concluding that while they may have initially needed a push to get them looking beyond self-service storage facilities, the market opportunities in car and truck washing have taken them to a place where Great White is now their primary business interest. OCTANE



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Wash trends Upgrading and fine-tuning characterize recent car wash product news By Kelly Gray Innovation in car wash is a constant. This is the view of Bill Barber of Mississauga-based Washlinks, a leading supplier to the trade. Barber suggests that he is not currently seeing anyone reinventing the wheel, but is seeing a lot of tweaking and product improvements within the car wash sector. “There is more computer technology available to monitor equipment and help with creating greater operating efficiencies,” says Barber. “We also see more subscription wash programs. With this, there is greater use of license plate recognition systems that have greatly improved their accuracy. We are also seeing more products that are keeping staff and customers safe during COVID-19” Barber comments that more operators are turning to electric motors with-in the wash than in the past. “Car washes are a challenging place for electric motors. Fifteen years ago, there were lots of issues with this equipment. Now, better seals and new designs have made them more reliable. More use of electric motors means less oil and hydraulic fluid leaks, and electric motors work well with computerized systems to further enhance operational efficiency.” Belt conveyors are good examples of how new technologies can be more customer-friendly. “These conveyor systems that came to the market over 10-years ago tend to be more expensive than chain and sprocket systems, but they can improve throughput because cars can be positioned more closely on the belt. Recent innovations have seen conveyors improve their longevity by using more durable materials. “One item that I think is truly innovative is Sonny’s new Dual CounterWeight CCentral.ca

Top Brush (DCW),” says Barber. “The DCW starts close to the ground to wash the front bumper and grille, move along the windshield, and go up to the center of the roofline before reversing the direction of the brush rotation to hug the rear of vehicles. This flexibility greatly improves the cleaning of hard to reach rear windows and tailgates on both trucks and SUVs.” License Plate Recognition (LPR) is a system that has evolved from the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). With RFID, tags are placed on windshields to ID members of loyalty and subscription wash programs. LPR makes RFID redundant by using optical character recognition software to read license plates to identify customers. Systems link with POS and work by reading plates on a single lane of traffic. Customers activate the system by driving over a device that tells the LPR to read the license plate. If they are members of the subscription program, the wash gate opens to make service available. LPR requires less labour than RFID, and readers provide customer identification to POS where payment methods are stored. No tagging is required for subscriptions. Customers can simply use the wash services and drive off. The POS records the transaction. The evolution of online/ automated Ceramic paint protection has its roots in the original hand-applied Ceramic applications in the car detailing business. Zep stands out as a leader in the field and has developed a new range of products based on the latest advances in ceramic technology.

According to Chad Bartlett, senior marketing manager, Zep Vehicle Care, Armor All Professional Ceramic Seal has been able to translate a labour-intense, expensive and time-consuming manual application necessary for traditional hand-applied Ceramic coating applications into an online/automated vehicle wash application. “The product is applied as an additional online extra service application that places the product chemistry onto the vehicle surfaces, with a limited dwell time, providing unbeatable protection and shine to the vehicle surface. While the online application does not create the same hard protective layer as its hand-applied counterpart, it will provide a protective barrier that lasts weeks rather than years, along with a similar shine and water-repellent effect,” he says. Another manufacturer that is revolutionizing the chemical sector is Cleaning Systems Inc. (CSI). CSI is the manufacturer

This flexibility greatly improves the cleaning of hard to reach rear windows and tailgates on both trucks and SUVs.


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(L) Softline - speedy and efficient for the North American market (R) Belanger Cube - multiple cleaning processes at the same time

of Lustra Professional Car Care Products. Recently they introduced C-Force Ceramic to the Lustra line-up. C-Force Ceramic is an infused surface-shield product that is soft to the touch, hydrophobic, intensely reflective, and durable. More, the infused surfactants can be easily removed with a standard wash process to eliminate any build-up due to repeated applications with unlimited club members.

Full package refinements Mark VII is reporting that they have upgraded their Softline 1 brush station from galvanized steel to stainless steel to make it even stronger. Built in the Denver area, Softline 1 has seen all the motors replaced with new electric versions that are more efficient, quiet and leak-free. With these frequency drive motors, brush activity can be fine-tuned.

According to Pierre Leclercq, vice president - business development with Mark VII, the Softline 1 was made more efficient and speedier to better fit the North American market. Mark VII also developed a drive-thru version of the SoftLine 1. “This wash system is ideal for operations such as car rental companies, car dealers and automotive retail where fast systems are required. One car can be washed every 45 seconds,” he says.


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Mark VII is also reporting a new static arch that offers 24 turbo nozzles to remove ice and snow before the wash starts. This feature is also available with fivefoot-tall side blasters. Leclercq reports that these pieces of equipment are just now going into service at sites in Texas and Colorado. The Belanger Cube Wash is Belanger’s new threebrush, in-bay automatic rollover system engineered for maximum performance and customer experience. The Cube Wash System features ShineMitt brushes for quiet, gentle washing that delivers four times the cleaning touches of traditional brushes. More, Belanger’s Cube Wash can be teamed with SpinLite LED-illuminated wash systems that add entertainment to the wash package. Belanger’s parent OPW is making more news with their PDQ Tandem Surfline. The Tandem Surfline features a two-bridge design that allows multiple cleaning processes to take place at one time. This process speeds the wash cycle and allows fast, efficient vehicle cleaning while optimizing the amount of water and chemicals used during the wash process. The two overhead bridges work in unison to navigate around and over vehicles. Together, they adjust speed and positions to ensure complete and superior cleaning. The system also offers two profiling side brushes to remove stubborn dirt from the vehicle’s surface. The top-brush is the widest in the industry and ensures a full cleaning on vehicle rooflines. The Tandem Surfline is a combination of both friction and high-pressure touch-free washing. The system is highly flexible and is designed to fit a wide range of wash bay configurations, and can be installed as a free-standing frame or as a wall-mounted unit. OCTANE

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The way you manage your forecourt is about to change. The launch of our brand-new DFS DX platform is imminent. Find out what the future holds for you and your fuel business by registering to attend one of our exclusive webinar sessions. doverfuelingsolutions.com

© 2020 Dover Fueling Solutions. All rights reserved. DOVER, the DOVER D Design, DOVER FUELING SOLUTIONS, and other trademarks referenced herein are trademarks of Delaware Capital Formation, Inc./Dover Corporation, Dover Fueling Solutions UK Ltd. and their affiliated entities, registered in the United States and various other countries. 4th-DEC-2020

Forecourt innovation

Fuel retail sites look to the future with product and service refinements By Kelly Gray

“The innovative hydrogen refuelling solutions we are building with HTEC continue to reduce our carbon footprint while meeting the evolving transportation needs of our customers"

Innovation at Canada’s fuel site forecourts has been top of mind for operators since the first gas station opened in Vancouver in 1907. Back then, electricity to power pumps and flameless canopy lighting was considered the latest big buzz. Today, forecourts have solar power systems, interactive media, alternative energy fuels and systems that use less energy than ever. Innovation at forecourts is ongoing as operators seek out ways to improve profitability on low margin fuel sales, meet ever-changing consumer demands and deliver on societal needs such as climate change. In Vancouver, Shell and Hydrogen Technology & Energy Corporation (HTEC) have built two hydrogen refuelling stations in the greater Vancouver area over the past couple of years in a move to reduce our carbon footprint. Now, 7-Eleven, alongside ESSO, will be offering hydrogen fueling at two sites of its own in the city, with a third coming to the Okanagan. “The innovative hydrogen refuelling solutions we are building with HTEC continue CCentral.ca

to reduce our carbon footprint while meeting the evolving transportation needs of our customers,” says Norman Hower, vice president & general manager, 7-Eleven Canada. Electric vehicles (EV) use has been ahead of hydrogen in equipment placement. Companies such as FLO (AddÉnergie), IVY (Ontario Power Generation and Hydro One), and Chargepoint are helping to grow the market through partnerships with key industry stakeholders. For example, FLO has inked a deal with Canadian Tire to offer EV charging at locations across the country. Chargepoint, a company with 115,000 chargers worldwide, just announced an agreement with Volvo Canada to provide fast charging for its XC40 customers.

Pump talk Pompe Media is a Quebec based company that is bringing new merchandising tools to the forecourt. Pompe Media puts news, weather and other content such as c-store specials and promotions in front of customers as they fill their gas tanks. Currently, Pompe Me-

dia is partnering with Sobey’s and is present at 90 gas stations in Quebec. In addition, Pompe Media provides a new purchase experience inside the c-stores and is partnering with several hundred c-stores in Quebec, including CoucheTard, Voisin, Bonisoir, and Beausoir. According to Sylvain Béland, VP of development, Pompe Media, dispenser-top systems offer a 21.5-inch display screen that delivers content to motorists while they spend up to four minutes fueling. “The systems create the unexpected for the customer. They also create additional sales for operators who are telling us lottery purchases have increased by 15% to 20% thanks to the prompts from Pompe Media screens that get people into the store to buy merchandise.” Pompe Media joins others such as Bennett Pump, Gilbarco Veeder Root and Wayne Dover with new content laden dispenser systems. Bennett Pump has come together with Gas Pump TV to bring more messaging to the forecourt. Similar to Pompe Media devices, standalone screens on top of Bennett disJANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021

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penser units deliver customized content to thousands of fuel sites in the U.S. At Gilbarco Veeder Root, they have created a powerful media package with Applause TV, a system that works with their Encore dispenser platform. Gilbarco has teamed with NewsBreak Media Networks, a company that creates unique programming for both fuel and convenience channels. The new on-demand product is available with Encore Experience, a system that enables operators to customize what appears onscreen at Encore dispensers. Fuel customers can choose among news, weather, sports and other content instead of watching a linear content loop at the dispenser. The new DFS Anthem UX (user experience) platform on the Wayne Ovation fuel dispenser features a 27-inch colour touch display, loyalty abilities and marketing opportunities delivered by a Microsoft Azure cloud-based platform. The Anthem UX will launch in the fall of 2021. The system will deliver personalized experiences in content and targeted advertising, right at the pump. The innovative platform has multi-language capabilities that allow customers to interact with equipment in their language of choice. Returning customers are recognized and can be offered products based on their purchase history, purchase a wash or receive marketing and loyalty messages that drive in-store business. The Anthem UX platform is built to perform in the harshest outdoor environments. The display is designed to operate across wide temperature ranges and consists of toughened glass with four to five times the durability of regular glass, while still responding to gloved finger touches. Keyless locks give easy access to the dispenser for maintenance while protecting against unauthorized access. And, it accepts contactless payment options for gas purchases, including Apple Pay and other digital wallet tools to protect your customers and your business.

Reducing enviro footprint Canadians use a lot of windshield washer fluid. It is estimated we go through as much as 70 million jugs of the product each year. Now, EcoTank is offering a more sustainable solution to the massive plastic waste from fluid containers. EcoTank is a standalone dispenser that

EcoTank is offering a more sustainable solution to the massive plastic waste from fluid containers. takes up just two square feet of forecourt space. Systems are low voltage and will be powered soon by individual solar panels. EcoTank uses gravity to pump windshield washer fluid to receptacles in cars. According to Robbie Mair, President, EcoTank, they are piloting in the GTA and partnering with companies such as AIR-serv and UltraClear. He reports that the product got its start in the European Union, but EcoTank plans to manufacture in Canada.

Innovation in hand Dispenser nozzles is another important area where constant innovation is key to success. For example, Husky, a leader in dispenser and fueling products and accessories for decades, has just released an upgraded threequarter-inch nozzle exclusively through National Energy Equipment. “Canada became the first country to have this product rolled out nationwide,” says Ray Dugan, Husky Corporation regional manager. He reports that the CXS model features a comfortable lever design that requires half of the squeeze pressure to control the nozzle. “It is the only widely used nozzle in North America that complies with disability requirements regarding hand manipulation of an object. This feature, combined with other upgrades including the tilt poppet and stream shaper, makes a great forecourt impression.” OPW has not been quiet regarding new nozzle developments. OPW reports it has come out with new spout technology designed to enhance the fueling experience with a dripless gasoline nozzle. The new OPW 14E dripless spout is designed to keep gasoline from dripping on customers’ hands, clothing, and vehicles, not to mention the ground. According to OPW, the CARB ECO OPW 14E utilizes a unique interlock system inside the bellows to activate the flow of fuel. OCTANE CCentral.ca





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have two LED strips on each side of the extension arm, which are definitely an eye-catcher. Depending on the installation and connection to the junction box, the booms can indicate different situations. It is possible to illuminate different washing programs, let the booms blink if there is a free washing bay or just light up in matching colours to a company logo. It also provides additional low cost lighting to your washing bays at night. This innovative ceiling boom version is available as inline-, Z- or dual ceiling boom. Mosmatic Canada 844.384.1602 | www.mosmatic.com

EcoTank is a unique, patented solution for refilling windshield washer fluid. By eliminating plastic packaging - EcoTank makes a significant environmental impact! Its modern design, simple installation and easy operation means it's quickly becoming the worldwide standard for gas stations. This ecological solution is suitable for all gas stations, car washes and EV charging locations. EcoTank works on the gravity principle and requires only 24V to operate making installation very quick and easy! EcoTank Canada 519.567.4119 | www.ecotankcanada.com



DIRECTORS Christopher Armena – Morgan Arnelien – Jeff Beam –



Well…..where do we begin? This year has been one for the history books. Who would have thought


we would be heading into the New Year wearing masks and navigating a worldwide pandemic. Here


at the Canadian Carwash Association, 2020 kicked off as it always does taking in the Toronto

Mitchell Easton –


Carwacs Show on March 3rd & 4th. We had a newly styled booth in the tradeshow with our brand new logo and branding, along with some exciting CCA events. On Day 1 of the show, I presented an


education session on the topic ‘Compliance in the Workplace; Are You Ready for an Inspection?’,


followed by a round table discussion as our second education session from CCA’s Jason Kaye and

Jason Kaye –


Jamie Shaw –


Karen Smith –


Tim Walker –



Terry McGowan on ‘Advancing Your Carwash Business’. Day 2 we hopped on our buses for CCA’s annual carwash tour, stopping at Crosstown Car Wash on Jane Street, Popular Car Wash on Dundas, and completing the tour at Auto Spa on Platinum Drive. Both days were rich with insights and very well attended with an inquisitive group of enthusiasts! Our annual general meeting was also held in March, along with some in person networking, a BBQ dinner and of course some entertainment at 401 Mini-Indy Go-Karts, and where I graciously was nominated and became the CCA’s first female National President. Little did I know that week’s later Canadian cities would begin lockdown orders and our world turned upside down.

NATIONAL OFFICE Director of Operations Elizabeth McCaw Accountant Ricky Nason Event Coordinator Martha Feenstra

Canadian Carwash Association Please note our new address: 411 Richmond Street East, Suite 200 Toronto, Ontario M5A3S5


RESOURCES Members have access to a library of resources through the CCA and CFIB partnership. Visit https://www.canadiancarwash. ca/COVID-19-and-the-Industry for more information.

CCA reacted quickly connecting with our partners at the Canadian Federation for Independent Business. We put together a compressive advocacy plan to ensure the Carwash industry was recognized as the essential service is it. Along with advocacy our website was populated with information, bulletins and navigation to our membership. And our Facebook group was launched to encourage operators to share best practices.


Our board of directors made the difficult decision in the spring to cancel the planning of our annual Golf Tournament, a major fundraiser for the association. We truly missed seeing our member’s in-person this year to celebrate the successes of our industry, welcome new members, and network together. It was also our annual day to recognize CCA’s exceptional sponsors. Thank you to our 2020 Platinum/ Gold/Bronze sponsors EmsembleIQ, Erb & Erb Insurance Brokers, Mondo Equipment, Mark VII, ZepVehicle Care, Transchem Group, and PurClean for your continued support. In November, Carwacs West went digital for the first time in its history. We were saddened to not see our friends in Abbotsford in 2020, however CCA hosted two well-received virtual education sessions as part of the event. Thank you to Mike Black, Mike Jacques, Greg Gallo, Tim Walker, Bill Barber, Bill MacDonnell and Brad Metcalf for bringing their insightful knowledge to the table at CCA’s education sessions. Thanks to Soapy Brushy for creating the amazing virtual Car Wash tour video. The Canadian Carwash Association relies on the dedicated volunteers who make up our board of directors. These individuals work tirelessly in the background developing the strategic direction of our association. We recognize the 2020 board and thank them for their hours serving our industry. Vice President - Rudy van Woerkom, Christopher Armena, Morgan Arnelien, Jeff Beam, Mitchell Easton, Michael Howe, Mike Jacques, Jason Kaye, Terry McGowan, Jamie Shaw, and Tim Walker. A special thank you to Terry McGowan who is vacating the board this year due to other commitments. Thank you, Terry! We look to 2021 as a fresh start. A year to reflect on the learnings of 2020 and navigating a new way to do business. As an association, we are making plans to enhance our membership benefits and gather key Canadian industry data to better serve our membership. Providing more education opportunities (webinars) throughout the year and offering our associate members enhanced ways to connect with operators. Our industry “CCA Toolkit” is getting a makeover and will soon be available for purchase online to support those looking to break into the carwash market. Plans are in the works to host an in-person golf tournament this spring! Golf serves as a safe outdoor activity and a much needed in-person networking event for us all! Stay tuned for more information and how to register – all details will be posted early 2021 on our website. I am very excited for the association’s future and happy to announce we have a new Director of Operation from our association management firm, Managing Matters, Elizabeth McCaw, who brings a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to our cause. We also thank our Event Coordinator Martha Feenstra and Accountant Ricky Nason. Bring on 2021!! Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow. Karen Smith President, Canadian Carwash Association CANADIAN CARWASH ASSOCIATION CANADIAN CARWASH ASSOCIATION

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