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E15 Sales Up at Pump & Pantry

Consumer education, infrastructure updates help drive fuel sales
Photograph: Shutterstock

Supporting the local economy and honoring family tradition are the name of the game for Pump & Pantry, a convenience-store chain based in Grand Island, Neb. and owned by the Bosselman family. Founded in 1948, the chain has developed a reputation for offering good food and good service. Over the years, family involvement and ownership has grown, leading to many new ventures, including c- stores, restaurants, hotels and travel centers. For the Bosselman family, maintaining their commitment to customers and keeping a keen eye on the future has been instrumental in the brand’s success.

One way Pump & Pantry c-stores have stayed ahead of consumer needs is by offering a variety of fuel options, including E15. Asked why the company chose to add it to the forecourt lineup, Zac Griess, director of petroleum for Pump & Pantry, said, “Very simple: We believe that it is better fuel and it costs less.”

Consumer education leads to customer adoption

According to Griess, consumer education is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to getting more people to buy E15 gasoline. “Getting consumers to understand that E15 is better fuel and that it is safe to run in their vehicles can be difficult. There is a lot of bad information out there that can steer consumers away from trying something new.”

However, it seems consumers are beginning to come around. “People are starting to realize that E15 is a safe fuel to use in their vehicles and that saving 5 cents per gallon is worth finding a retail location that is offering it. Consumers are making the shift from E10 to E15 and sticking with it.

Updating infrastructure to foster future expansion

Since 2013, the chain has nearly doubled the number of locations that offer E15 gasoline. In Nebraska, the chain has invested more in infrastructure related to E15/E85 gasoline than any other retailer. “Depending on the location,” Griess said, “it can be costly to put in the necessary tanks and dispensers needed to offer additional grades of fuel with greater than 10% ethanol. Additional grants and legislation to help retailers install this infrastructure is needed. Our experience shows that the investment is worth it because gallon and margin growth is possible with offering additional grades of fuel with greater than 10% ethanol.”

And that investment is paying off. Griess said, “We have found that once a customer finds a location offering E15, makes the decision to try it in their vehicle and finds that it does not cause any issues, they will return and continue to use E15 to recognize the cost savings that it offers.”

Bolstering local economies

Beyond increasing customer satisfaction and sales, another benefit of offering E15 gasoline is that it helps to support local economies. Griess said, For us here in Nebraska, one of the main benefits of selling E15 is that it supports local farmers and our local economies. Nebraska is the second-largest producer of ethanol in the United States, and being able to consume homegrown and locally produced ethanol is a real upside for local retailers. Ethanol is made from renewable resources and creates a cleaner-burning fuel. That is a benefit all of us can enjoy for many years to come.”

Working with a helpful partner

Expanding E15 offerings isn’t the easiest endeavor, but with a strong partner, it can be easier. Griess said, “Growth Energy is vital to retailers like us that are investing in the infrastructure and marketing dollars toward offering additional grades of fuel with greater than 10% ethanol. The work that Growth Energy does with getting the correct information in front of consumers is invaluable.”

With sales of E15 growing from 1.26 million gallons in 2018 to a projected 4 million gallons in 2019, it’s safe to say that for Pump & Pantry, continuing the brand’s homegrown legacy is a sure thing.

This post is sponsored by Growth Energy

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