5 Highlights of McLane’s National Trade Show

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP


NASHVILLE -- Convenience-store retailers got a preview of new products that will roll out at next month's NACS Show, as well as the latest news from the industry’s largest distributor, during the McLane National Trade Show. The three-day event was held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, kicking off with educational sessions and including two days of show-floor time.

Here are five big trends and opportunities CSP editors gleaned from this year’s event ...

1. Private-label renaissance


Show host McLane Co. put a big emphasis on its private-label line, Consumer Value Products (CVP), which was also celebrating its 25th anniversary at the event. CVP includes 12 brands and more than 240 products in foodservice, automotive, candy and snacks, general merchandise, grocery and health, beauty and wellness. But it also offers retailers and consumers strong branding—such as Excursion Jerky and YumBees confections. The brands are meant to resonate with consumers while still offering private-label value.

At the show, McLane unveiled two new brands and product extensions to the Consumer Value Products line, including Divinely Sweet, a confection brand with milk-chocolate peanut-butter cups, sea-salt-caramel chocolate grahams and toasted s'mores chocolate grahams. Work Fare Professional, meanwhile, offers back-of-house supplies such as chemicals, foodservice gloves, carryout bags and more.

2. Confection surge


McLane wasn’t the only company rolling out notable new confection items. A number of manufacturers were prepping rollouts that mirror today’s consumer demands, including gummies, sour flavors, dark chocolate, gum-mint crossovers and snack-candy hybrids. Hershey’s had on display its Hershey’s Gold bar, made with caramelized creme, peanuts and pretzels. Tic Tac displayed its new gum, which looks and is packaged just like traditional Tic Tac mints. Albanese offered samples of its new sour 12-flavor Gummi Bears, and Nestle was showing off a number of new products, from Butterfinger Dark to Big Chewy Nerds. Perfetti Van Melle is rolling out Mentos Pure Fresh gum in resealable Velcro packs, as well as a Honeycrisp apple flavor—a unique departure from the more traditional green-apple gum flavor.

3. New tech ops


McLane showcased some of its new technology services to attendees, including Spanish-language capabilities for its mobile handheld solution. It’s also testing a consumer-loyalty app that retailers can customize to their own needs. Options include store locators, coupon redemption and geofencing.

4. Going bold with foodservice


During a breakout session about foodservice trends, speaker Aimee Harvey, retail-foodservice editor for CSP, urged attendees to refine their foodservice offering in favor of standing out and owning a clear point of differentiation. She pointed to unique beverage offerings such as cold-brew, nitro and dessert-style coffees, and how best-in-class retailers are moving toward made-to-order.

The show floor had plenty of opportunities for retailers to deliver on the challenge. Both Kerry Inc. and ASR Group (maker of Domino Sugar, Tate & Lyle syrups and other brands) were showcasing beverages with trend-driven flavors (ASR demoed an iced salted-caramel coffee, while Kerry was sampling a riff on horchata with cold brew). For its part, McLane Kitchen is “pushing the pedal down for phase two” since its launch in the spring of 2015, said Chad Dewberry, category manager of foodservice for McLane. Fresh produce has been a major focus for the group, tied into its commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America.

5. A new advertising opportunity


At the show, McLane was showcasing advertising opportunities for suppliers on its fleet of trucks that criss-cross the country. It is also using truck wraps to get the word out to consumers about its own Consumer Value Products private-label lines, including YumBees.