CHICAGO -- Like the erosion of massive rock formations, convenience-store food is being shaped by all manner of elements.
In the past sixth months, technology, restaurant competitors, legislation and social change have continued to carve into the category.
To continue the geological simile—because who doesn’t love geology—these top stories represent the surface layers of developments that will continue to distinguish c-store foodservice.
Here are those stories …
1. Coffee causes cancer in California
After eight years, a court case involving California coffee retailers and manufacturers is finally drawing to a close. The companies have been pushing back against a state law requiring them to post signs warning of potential cancer risks associated with coffee byproduct and suspected carcinogen acrylamide.
Enforcing the state’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, the Council for Education and Research on Toxins sued about 90 companies, including Starbucks Corp., Seattle; Walmart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark.; and Costco Wholesale Corp., Issaquah, Wash.
Before a judge ruled in favor of the council in March, major players such as Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc. and La Palma, Calif.-based BP West Coast Products LLC dropped out of the case, instead agreeing to pay fines and post the mandated signage.
The retailers now await a decision on the civil penalties they will have to pay for exposing customers to the chemical.
2. Casey’s takes a step back from delivery
Foodservice operations of all shapes and sizes are getting into the delivery game, or at least enlisting the services of a third-party delivery company. Expanding or testing new means of frictionless service seemed to be a fad in the beginning of the year, with companies from QuikTrip Corp., Tulsa, Okla., to GetGo, Pittsburgh, jumping on board. San Antonio-based grocer H-E-B even acquired food-delivery company Favor.
But not Casey’s General Stores Inc. With back-to-back quarters of lagging foodservice sales and growing labor costs, the retailer decided to scale back its delivery service and hours at more than 100 of it convenience stores.
3. Activists come for plastic straws
Pound for pound, the world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish in just 32 years, according to a 2016 report from the World Economic Forum. Although drinking straws only comprise a fraction of the world’s plastic pollution, the weight of the issue is sparking a movement. U.S. lawmakers and foodservice operators are beginning to adopt eco-conscious policies to answer a growing consumer concern over plastic.
McDonald’s, restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group and dozens of restaurants around the country are pledging to take action on the issue. Is it only a matter of time before the issue spills into c-stores?
4. C-store coffee gets fancy
Following in the footsteps of Starbuck’s upscale Reserve concept, Wawa Inc. and 7-Eleven launched their own lines of rare coffees. The Wawa, Pa.-based chain’s rotating blends come from small-batch beans that make up just 3% of the world’s coffee.
Although the company said it aims to keep up with adventurous consumers, the premiumization of a cup of joe also represents a different trend. While American households earning more than $100,000 a year are enjoying more discretionary income, those who earn less than $50,000 have less money to spend, according to a 2018 Deloitte Report. These respective consumers are leading to growth in both upmarket and value-based concepts.
5. Menu labeling finally, finally takes effect
On May 7, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did the seemingly impossible: The agency finally set menu-labeling rules into effect. Since 2013, the FDA has been trying to finalize rules requiring c-stores and chain restaurants with 20 or more locations to share nutritional information on display boards, as well as print and digital menus. However, implementation of the guidelines were pushed back three times over the past several years.
While the National Restaurant Association welcomed a uniform guideline for the nation’s eateries, NACS called into question the lack of flexibility of the rules.
Not to worry, the FDA said it will focus on education rather than enforcement during this first year.