6 Out-There NACS Show Products

This year’s conference in Chicago’s McCormick Place was my first NACS Show, and I was not expecting the carnival that greeted me on the show floor.

How can you avoid smiling when you bump into a robot walking the aisles or when you’re chowing down on some Krispy Krunchy Chicken beside what looks like a barn straight out of a cartoon? But some of the most fun and “out-there” sights were products featured at some of the booths.

Click through for a few items that surprised and delighted this first-time NACS Show participant.

Give me a light

Ever had trouble getting a fire to light? Well, I have, and it can be embarrassing when you’re trying to impress your in-laws with your long-forgotten Boy Scout survival skills on a weekend camping trip.

The Light n’ Go Bonfire Log from the Essay Group, based in Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., does not need an outdoorsman to ignite it. All it takes is one match. These logs are pure white birch with paperboard for kindling in the middle. It’s made for indoor or outdoor use, and its design allows it to serve as its own firepit. The log even has a rope handle for easy transportation. Also, it’s completely natural, so those who use it aren’t inhaling plastic when they light the log.

Coming from a city slicker who camps semi-regularly, this seems like it could take the work out of lighting a fire.

Order up

As CSP's tech reporter, I couldn’t help but include a couple of tech products. It’s in my nature. The screen pictured above is a touchscreen ordering platform developed by Arlington, Texas-based Pinnacle, which the company introduced on the NACS Show floor.

Mike Kemp, professional services consultant with Pinnacle, took me through the ordering capabilities on the program, which are intuitive and customizable. But what really interested me about this product was that Pinnacle isn’t selling the hardware. This is a software product. According to Kemp, Pinnacle will work with clients to find the right touchscreen hardware for their store.

Pinnacle also has a food module on its Affiniti mobile app, allowing clients to include mobile ordering in their stores as a part of an existing app. 

Drink no evil

There were a wide range of custom cups at the Whirley-DrinkWorks booth, from these monkeys to a sasquatch hand and even Batman—he’s the refreshment we need, not the one we deserve.

I had no idea that Warren, Pa.-based Whirley-DrinkWorks was behind c-store staples such as the Polar Pop gripper mug and the RaceTrac Sodapalooza insulated dome tumbler.

Judging by the samples on-hand in this company’s booth, it seems like it could create and manufacture just about anything. Now if I could just get my hands on a Luke Skywalker cup ... 

Load me up

These chip-shaped snacks from Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo aren’t really chips at all. They’re gooey cheese and spicy jalapenos encased in a crunchy yet malleable fried outer shell.

I’m normally not much of a cheese guy, but the Doritos Loaded Jalapeno and Cheese Breaded Cheese Snacks were, as advertised, a spicy kick in the mouth, and one I had to keep myself from grabbing again.

Bills, bills, bills

I had read about bill-pay services in c-stores that are designed to ease the burden of unbanked customers trying to pay bills with cash, but until the NACS Show I had never seen or heard of a kiosk that allows bills to be paid with cash automatically.

Enter the PaySite kiosk from U.S. Payments, based in Tulsa, Okla. The device functions in both English and Spanish. Users can insert or scan certain bills directly into the device, which will read the bill, accept a cash payment from the user and immediately notify the utility that the user just paid. U.S. Payments has agreements with some utilities, making paying bills to those select companies that much easier.

Morning cube of joe

Like many Americans, I have a slightly worrisome caffeine addiction. So I was immediately drawn to the Go Cubes from San Francisco-based HVMN, chewable gummies that offer the equivalent of a half-cup of coffee in each cube.

The cubes also include the green tea extract L-Theanine, which HVMN claims offsets the caffeine jitters. The cubes are vegan and gluten-free, and HVMN says the effects last for four to six hours.