The 2017 Hot 100

Lighting a match

33%.

That’s how many products in this year’s Hot 100 belong to the tobacco, vape and tobacco accessory category.

Across all the in-store categories, major launches from the first half of this year are well represented. But as retailers and consumers alike search through the CStoreProductsOnline.com product database, nearly one-third of them are looking for tobacco products.

Not Just Another Breakfast Sandwich

Empanadas

The ubiquitous breakfast sandwich has owned the morning for years. Whether in a c-store or limited-service restaurant, the egg, cheese and meat build has stood the test of time.

But innovation marches on.

The breakfast daypart is at peak popularity, and breakfast sandwiches are king. Fifty-five percent of c-store consumers purchase breakfast from a c-store at least once a month, and 51% of those consumers say that they choose breakfast sandwiches when they’re there, according to Chicago-based Technomic’s most recent C-Store MarketBrief data.

Cigarettes Remain on Top But Face Hurdles

Don’t count cigarettes out.

This heavyweight category still tops the list of convenience-store merchandise categories in terms of sales, even though it falls behind in gross-profit dollars and margin percentages, according to preliminary numbers released at the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) Summit, held April 4-6 in Rosemont, Ill.

Counter Cultures

When Alabama c-store operator Narayan Baddam replenishes his refrigerated case with packaged single-serve Dannon yogurts, he owes his stock to his trusty “distributor”: his local supermarket.

Owner of Fuel Zone and Danville Park Shell in Decatur, Ala., Baddam buys yogurt for his c-stores during grocery excursions, eventually stocking them next to the cheese, milk, cottage cheese and sour cream in his refrigerated case. He makes 20% margin on rings of Dannon single-serve yogurt. What he doesn’t sell, he eats.

The Other Shot

nutriblade shot

Repeat after them: “This is not an energy shot.”

Makers of natural/organic supplement shots are on a quest to establish retail relevance and distance themselves from energy shots.

Candy’s Organic Growth

candy

In addition to the buzz around better-for-you products, convenience-store customers are also looking to satisfy their indulgent cravings. Because of this and other cross-channel candy consumerism, the global confectionery market, which was valued at ­$184 billion in 2015, is projected to reach $232 billion by 2022.

Predicaments and Predictions in Alcohol

alcohol

There is no shortage of innovation in the alcohol-beverage category: New products and flavor extensions “keep things interesting for myself and the shoppers,” says Chris Kaden, category manager for Odessa, Texas-based Alon Brands. But with space at a premium, it’s also a challenge.

Here’s how Kaden approaches new-product pitches and how he thinks the category will take shape.

Q: How do you approach new alcohol-beverage items?

Consumers Go Veggie or Go Home

potato chips

Snacks owe their growth in part to consumer sensibilities. Consumers want more options, and they want to eat them more often.

The category is such big business that tried-and-true convenience-store favorites ­potato chips, pretzels, popcorn and jerky‑ aren't even the biggest movers in the category. Healthy alternatives, such as chips made with vegetables, are enjoying considerable growth and revitalizing the category as a whole, according to Packaged Facts' report, Snack Food Nutrition Trends: Pulses, Vegetables and Grains in Salty Snacks and Crackers.

Tobacco Embraces 'Natural'

Natural American Spirits cigarettes

It’s working in other categories in the c-store. Why not in tobacco, too?

Products positioned as “natural” is an attractive subcategory for convenience retailers to consider in the premium-tobacco space. And Illinois retailer Mark Gil is doing just that.

Natural cigarettes are a winner in his single store, he says, because they conjure up a perception of organic, Mother Earthiness—and he considers it well worth the premium price point the subcategory commands.

Equipment to Conserve Energy and Budgets

At this year’s NAFEM foodservice-equipment show in Orlando, Fla., some operators sought upgrades to their tried-and-true kitchen equipment. Others had radical ambitions. But both groups were focused on the same themes: advanced technology and energy-saving features.

Pages

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