4 Convenience-Store Experts Share Tips on Foodservice Trends, Mobile Games, More

Jessica Williams, Peter Rasmussen, Bonnie Herzog, Nik Modi talk on first day of Convenience Retailing University
Nik Modi
Photograph by CSP Staff

Convenience-store retailers and suppliers learned how to maximize their loyalty apps, what’s weighing on tobacco consumers, what’s trending in foodservice and more atCSP’s Convenience Retailing University (CRU). The three-day event kicked off Wednesday in Nashville, Tennessee, with educational sessions from four experts.

Here’s what they shared:

Protein Packing a Punch

Protein is a growing trend in foodservice, with convenience-store retailers and quick-service restaurants (QSRs) beefing up their menus with meats.

“We’re seeing lots of meats being piled on unapologetically,” said Jessica Williams (pictured below), founder and CEO of Louisville, Kentucky-based consultancy Food Forward Thinking, in her presentation Craving Success: Navigating Foodservice Trends. “They’re adding bacon, sausage, ham, brisket.”

Williams rolled out a number of examples to support the trend, including The Brisket Egg & Cheese Quesadilla at Spicewood, Texas-based TXB, which has two proteins. “Egg is a protein,” Williams said.

Lubbock, Texas-based Curby’s Express Market offers four Hot Dawg Combos, which include a Brisket Dawg and a Prosciutto Fig & Bacon Topped Dog.

In Williams’ consulting work with Curby’s, they added protein to salads as well. The Proscuitto Salad includes the ham as well as spinach, a spring mix, bacon, blue cheese, dried cranberries, candied pecans and balsamic vinaigrette.

The 3 Meat French Stack at Cliff’s Local Market, Utica, New York, features bacon, sausage and ham and calls itself The Ultimate Breakfast Sandwich.”

“Suddenly, we have a brand new product,” Williams said. “You can charge a premium price and get a good margin.”

Finally, at York, Pennsylvania-based Rutter’s, the Cinnamon Roll Breakfast Sandwich includes a sausage patty, while Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven offers the French Toast Sandwich with sausage, egg, cheese and chipotle bacon mayo.

“It’s gotta be good, right?” Williams asked of the 7-Eleven item. “It’s over the top.”

Jessica Williams

How Mobile Games Can Help Your Social Media Reach

Mobile games within a loyalty app can act as a link to social media, said Peter Rasmussen, CEO and founder of Convenience and Energy Advisors, St. Petersburg, Florida.

“What if you had the opportunity to post your ratings on social media?" he said.

Then the game is not only influencing customers to spend more time on the app, but it’s also providing social media reach and potential engagement.

Mobile games can also be a way for customers to earn points for use inside the store.

When customers have gained enough points, there’s more than one way to reward them. Some companies give customers a choice in how to use their rewards points. Instead of giving in-store offers, retailers can experiment with allowing points to go toward another company outside the convenience-store industry, expanding their offers to outside their own store.

While it’s sending customers elsewhere, retailers could try it and see if it results in more customers or not, Rasmussen said. Maybe they don’t care about getting an offer on a sports drink and would rather spend rewards somewhere else.

Deep Discount Cigarettes, Modern Oral Gain Share

Bonnie Herzog, managing director and senior consumer analyst at Goldman Sachs, New York, offered a detailed outline of the latest results from the Nicotine Nuggets survey. The survey represents about 60,000 retail locations across the United States, including convenience stores.

One finding she shared with the group was how cost is weighing on the consumer. As wallet spend continues to be a factor for consumers, deep discount cigarettes and modern oral categories are gaining share, she said. 

Small in relation to cigarettes, the oral nicotine category, “does look very promising. It's growing quite fast,” she said.

Another topic Herzog discussed during the session was the growing concern of illicit disposable e-cigarettes. Herzog revealed that retailers are broadly pessimistic that enforcement will improve in the near-term.

On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) filed civil money penalty (CMP) complaints against 20 brick-and-mortar retailers, which include convenience stores, for the illegal sale of unauthorized Elf Bar e-cigarette products.

Despite the FDA stepping up enforcement, Herzog said more action is needed.

“I'm not sure the fines are going to be enough to kind of stop individuals or businesses from selling these and it's just become sort of a mess and just in terms of how they manage this whole situation,” she said.

Cater to the Right Generation in Pack Bev

Convenience stores focus heavily on younger generations, like Gen Z or millennials, when marketing packaged beverages—but older generations are worth paying attention to. Nik Modi, managing director at RBC Capital Markets, said 64% of beverage buyers are 45 years old or older.  

“And we don’t talk to them at all… we’re so obsessed with getting these younger consumers that we’ve completely neglected our core consumer base,” Modi said.

By 2030, the baby boomers will still be a significant amount of the population and will lead almost every other age group in the amount they spend, he said.

“We’re living longer, we’re living with disability longer, we’re living more productive lives, and beverages can play a key role in all of that,” Modi said.

He pointed to beverages that target gut health—like functional sodas poppi and Olipop—as well as beverages with adaptogens as areas of opportunity in packaged beverages.

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