LAS VEGAS -- With the convenience-store industry’s major trade show and conference upon us, CSP editors offer up the topics and trends in each major category that they expect to be the talk of the show floor.
The 2018 NACS Show will be held Oct. 7-10 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Photograph by W. Scott Mitchell
The packaged-beverage category was shaken up by high-profile acquisitions this year, opening the door for new-product opportunities and expanded reach by the major carbonated-soft-drink makers in the United States.
On the M&A front, PepsiCo acquired SodaStream in a deal that puts it at the forefront of carbonated beverages made in the home. PepsiCo says its distribution capabilities, research and development and marketing expertise will combine nicely with SodaStream’s unique product range to position SodaStream for breakthrough innovation. On a similar note, that other home-brewing powerhouse, Keurig Green Mountain, officially took ownership of Dr Pepper Snapple Group to create a new company called Keurig Dr Pepper. In the process, DPSG lost its grip on some of its Allied Brands, which have been a bright spot for the beverage company in recent years.
Meanwhile, Coca-Cola Co. has invested in BodyArmor and purchased England’s Costa Coffee, effectively taking the fastest-growing sports-drink brand out of Keurig Dr Pepper’s hands and gaining a coffee brand with which to challenge PepsiCo’s ready-to-drink Starbucks products. It will be interesting to see how soon Coca-Cola brings Costa Coffee to the U.S.
We’re interested to see how this plays out in terms of products and marketing on the trade-show floor.
This year, the foodservice category will splinter on the NACS Show floor as products veer toward indulgence or health-consciousness, with very few items landing in between. Watch out for stacked, smothered and stuffed proteins and snacks. On the other side of the spectrum, attendees will have their pick of plant-based novelties, especially hemp, nut and lab-grown alternatives.
As consumers continue to expand their horizons beyond soda, modernized beverages will have a presence with on-trend and innovative flavors, such as matcha, kombucha and switchels.
By the end of the show, the convention center will be filled to the brim with coffee snobs. Expect to caffeinate with the help of small-batch, high-tech equipment riding the premium-coffee trend.
Differentiation will be a key theme at the NACS Show, with equipment vendors offering options to make the standard fuel island stand out from the competition. Interactive fuel-pump point-of-sale displays with promotional and entertainment possibilities, Top Tier certification for gasoline and diesel, and fuel management and pricing systems with cloud-based, internet of things and artificial intelligence functionality are just a few of the options that will promise to elevate a retailer’s fuel offer at a time of flattening and declining volumes.
And despite the expected dominance of gasoline for decades to come, alternative fuels will also make news at the show. Expect to see forecourt equipment providers emphasize flexibility, from dispensing equipment that can handle higher ethanol blends to offers that put electric-vehicle charging within reach of the average fuel retailer.
Snacks and candy
Healthy snacking will be one of the hottest topics at the upcoming NACS show.
Convenience-store snacks are constantly evolving, and the past year has seen the once indulgent-only category heavily sway toward the better-for-you sector. Thirty-four percent of consumers say they are snacking on healthier foods today compared to 2016, and 25% plan to snack more healthfully in the next 12 months, according to the 2018 Snacking Occasion Consumer Trend Report from CSP research sister company Technomic, Chicago. By “healthy,” consumers are referring to snacks that offer high-protein and energizing attributes, the report said.
Snack and candy manufacturers are listening loud and clear. The Hershey Co. placed itself at the forefront of the healthy snacking trend in late 2017 by acquiring better-for-you snacking brand Amplify. Now, Hershey has incorporated Amplify as the chocolatier’s healthy-snacking division. Most recently, Hershey added Pirate Brands Inc., the marker of Pirate’s Booty, to this division.
Mondelez International also has invested in healthy snacking in the past year, seeing its “well-being” brands and portion-control snacks—treats that are individually wrapped and/or less than 200 calories—grow at twice the rate of the company's base portfolio.
With frictionless-checkout concepts opening across the country at head-spinning speeds, suppliers will be eager to display technologies that ease the payment process, whether in the car, store or online.
Marketplace, the in-car dashboard payment and reservation program from General Motors, based in Detroit, launched in late 2017. But Houston-based P97, Austin, Texas-based Conversable and other companies behind the platform have not been idle since then. Expect to hear more about the connected car in Vegas.
Meanwhile, retailer Ricker's of Anderson, Ind., recently tapped Skip Checkout, a Salt Lake City app company, for mobile checkout. The tech company will bring a full demonstration of its checkout process to the Koupon Media booth.
Photograph courtesy of Restaurant Business
There's no doubt that booths featuring electronic cigarettes will popular areas on the trade-show floor. Retailers responding to this year’s CSP Outlook Survey (watch for results in the November issue of CSP magazine) said one of the outstanding products for 2018 was the Juul-branded vaping device. Statistics from New York-based Nielsen showed a 113.6% volume increase in e-cigarettes across all channels as of the four-week period ending Sept. 8, according to Wells Fargo Securities, New York, with products from San Francisco-based Juul Labs taking 72.8% of the dollar share.
Any news about the Juul product line; word on New York-based Philip Morris International’s heat-not-burn product, iQOS; and innovation in the category in general will certainly be of interest to retailers roaming the show floor.