Editor's Note: Setting the Pace

Innovation, new products the keys to category turnarounds

Samantha Oller, Senior Editor/Fuels, CSP

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When IRI announced the 2013 top 10 brands in c-stores—those that posted exceptional sales in their first year—it was striking how many came from categories that at one time were struggling.

Take energy drinks, represented on the Top 10 Pacesetters list by Monster Energy Ultra, Red Bull Total Zero and Starbucks Refreshers. As recently as 2009, the entire category was running in place, held back by the recession and dwindling new-product introductions. Fast-forward to 2013, and dollar sales are up more than 4%, with units growing nearly 6%—not too shabby for a $7.5 billion category.

Another Pacesetter for 2013, NJOY e-cigarettes, is connected to a category that has been in the doldrums for years. Sales of conventional cigarettes continue to erode, but e-cigarettes already rank within the top 50 c-store categories by dollar sales, and they posted the strongest growth as a percentage of dollar sales among all categories—a nearly 177% increase—to reach $530.4 million, according to IRI. Along with smokeless tobacco, they are keeping the tobacco category in the game.

It’s proof that behind the big category numbers, individual new products are making or breaking the business. What follows on this page and in the rest of the issue are highlights of category performance in 2013. Maybe next year we will be able to highlight the turnaround in carbonated soft drinks or gum, thanks to that next big thing. In the meantime, we hope this handbook provides a helpful road map for the coming year and highlights opportunities for c-stores.

Where the Gains Are: Top 10 C-Store Categories

C-store sales, 52 weeks ending Dec. 29, 2013

Among the top 10 c-store consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) categories by dollar sales, energy drinks, smokeless tobacco, salty snacks and chocolate candy posted gains in dollars and units in 2013. Total c-store CPG sales hit $130.6 billion, up 0.7%, according to IRI.

CategoryC-Store Sales ($ billions)PCYAUnit Sales (billions)PCYA
Beer/ale/alcoholic cider (units=cases)$16.41.2%3.1-0.7%
Carbonated beverages$8.6-2.8%5.1-3.9%
Energy drinks$7.54.1%3.05.9%
Smokeless tobacco$5.27.6%1.33.8%
Salty snacks$4.33.9%2.60.3%
Bottled water$3.10.2%2.0-1.4%
Chocolate candy$2.65.1%1.81.4%
Sports drinks$2.5-0.3%1.4-2.5%
TOTAL SALES$130.60.7%44.8-0.5%

Source: IRI

Top 5 Movers by Dollar Percentage Increases and Decreases

Among categories that generated $100 million or more in 2013 c-store sales, electronic smoking devices (e-cigarettes), canned juices and miscellaneous snacks (trail mixes and chocolate-covered snacks) enjoyed the biggest increases as an increase in percentage of sales from a year ago.

CategoryC-Store Sales ($ millions)PCYAUnit Sales (millions)PCYA
Electronic smoking devices$530.4176.5%49.2203.8%
Canned juices$320.148.9%277.531.0%
Misc. snacks$231.120.8%90.416.7%
Refrigerated juices/drinks$569.512.1%245.68.4%
Bakery snacks$631.2-8.9%504.5-4.9%
Cold/allergy/sinus tablets$117.4-4.7%42.8-3.6%

Source: IRI

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