The Pacesetters

Trends Behind the Fastest-Moving New C-store Products

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

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“There was no big-bang innovation, so it did make a significant difference in how the category performed,” says Viamari.

But just because it’s niche doesn’t mean it can’t affect your business—especially if you’re one of the few retailers catering to the demographic.

“Some of those niche product variations mainstream quickly, and your sales can exponentially grow,” says Gaskins. “So something like gluten-free, it’s very niche, but I know some retailers have experienced profound success with something that is really geared toward a subsegment, a narrow niche that is just a runaway hit. For all of us, we’re challenged to find that.”

This year’s New Product Pacesetters reflect some quite literal variations on a product, such as Reese’s Minis and Dr Pepper 10. “Overall, this may help incrementally increase sales, but often the unknown is whether or not it really is an increase in sales, or if the consumer just purchased a different form of the same product from the same company,” says Steve Jones, president of Johnny Junxions, a single store in Bedford, Ind.

Operating just one store, Jones is also sensitive to such targeted innovation not resonating in his market.

“If the product will only appeal to a small percentage of my customer base, there is no need to carry it when I can use that space in my store for a product that is going to have a lot more inventory turns,” he says.

Distribution also forces the hand of new-product sales in the channel. McCarty and Jones both emphasize the additional time burden of sourcing products that aren’t easily available through existing distribution channels. As consumers continue to shop retail channels differently—hopping from dollar store to drug chain to big box—the environment is changing for how manufacturers and wholesalers go about distributing product. Suppliers, distributors and retailers alike need to understand not just how consumers shop for a given brand, but also sizes, occasions and category importance.

“Distribution isn’t a no-brainer anymore,” says Viamari.

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