CHICAGO -- Competition, disruption, innovation: The convenience-store foodservice segment was faced with both numerous challenges and flourishing opportunities in 2017. Retailers and suppliers looked for growth avenues through acquisitions, c-stores began to muscle in on the at-home dining trend and brands invested in menu innovation by bringing top-tier restaurant talent on board.
Read on to take a look at these and other developments that influenced the direction of the c-store foodservice channel in 2017 ...
1. Acquisition and integration
From major mergers to smaller-scale purchases down the foodservice supply chain, 2017 represented a year that convenience-store brands and suppliers explored opportunities via strategic acquisitions. Retailer Alimentation Couche-Tard focused on the integration of best practices and effective foodservice operations across its CST/Corner Store, Holiday Stationstores and Nice N Easy brands, while supplier M&A allowed c-store-focused companies to expand product portfolios and regional market presence. These deals included Tyson Foodservice's purchase of AdvancePierre and Original Philly Holdings; Home Market Foods' purchase of Kelly Eisenberg; and US Foods' purchase of All-American Foods.
2. More meal solutions
CSP Daily News highlighted the growth of meal solutions as a trend to watch in the c-store channel in 2018. As third-party delivery, meal-kit companies and supermarket prepared foods increasingly grab share, c-stores and other foodservice locations are angling for ways to offset the competition, by upping the ante on conveniently packaged foods and easy-to-prepare entrees that take the guesswork out of meal planning.
This year, the industry saw this trend begin to take root in top chains such as 7-Eleven, with its broad rollout of locally prepared, globally inspired heat-and-serve entrees, and Sheetz, with its new lineup of 15 kids meals. Regional foodcentric players such as Swiss Farms introduced meal offerings that appealed to a specific customer audience; the Broomall, Pa.-based chain kicked off 2017 with the introduction of mix-and-match meals available in the drive-thru.
3. Regulation rolls on
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officially announced that convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurant chains and other foodservice operations will face enforcement of revised menu-labeling regulations beginning May 7, 2018. The convenience industry spent months debating and submitting comments to the FDA regarding the particular challenges that menu labeling would impose on c-stores, leading the FDA to revise rules on calorie counts listed on posters, billboards, coupons, self-service food and beverage bars and promotional food items.
4. Industry vets
As convenience brands prioritize the foodservice category and work to elevate c-store prepared foods, they're increasingly securing talent from the restaurant world to spark innovation. This year, Pilot Flying J hired McDonald's and KFC veteran Shannon Johnson as vice president of food innovation. Pilot Flying J also partnered with renowned chef and restaurateur Tim Love to create a line of signature dishes for the chain. Meanwhile, Yesway created a new role for chef Carlos Acevedo, who is the retailer's culinary innovation and research chef.