Dashboard-Friendly, Latin Flavors Trending Today, Expert Says

Core-Mark’s senior director of foodservice talks with CSP at expo
Core-Mark booth at Expo in Schaumburg March 28, 2024
Photograph by CSP Staff

Anything that's “dashboard dining friendly”—what consumers can eat behind a steering wheel or be a solution in today’s time-starved environment—is hot right now in convenience-store foodservice.

This insight comes from Ryan Malkowski, senior director of foodservice and corporate marketing at Core-Mark, Westlake, Texas.

Also trending now is restaurant-quality food in the convenience space, Malkowski told CSP at Core-Mark’s Expo in Schaumburg, Illinois, on March 28—“sandwiches and the whole gamut from pizza to tacos, burritos and getting into more of the barbecue sandwiches, which has been one of our fastest-growing categories.”

On display at the expo were the five branded programs available through Core-Mark and its parent, Richmond, Virginia-based Performance Food Group: Red Seal Pizzeria, Tru-Q BBQ, Contigo Taqueria, Perfectly Southern Fresh Fried Chicken and Deli 55.

“We like to meet our customers wherever they’re at in their foodservice journey,” Malkowski said.

3 Tiers

Three foodservice tiers are offered, the first being entry-level, which includes roller grill and packaged sandwiches.

The intermediate level includes items fully cooked or bakeable—"something that’s very labor sensitive but beyond just a prepackaged item,” Malkowski said.

Finally, there are the branded programs, which are part of more advanced foodservice offerings, Malkowski said, “that component-based assembling of restaurant-quality food in a convenience store where they’re using components to make a great-tasting taco or great-tasting barbecue sandwich.”

In this final tier, where items can be made to order and customized, all components are largely fully cooked but “can be adopted in a convenience setting with the right equipment and the right framework,” he said.

When asked about trends today, Malkowksi said Latin and Hispanic is one of the fastest-growing categories, which Core-Mark addresses with its Contigo Taqueria program.

This “Latin fusion” program includes tortillas, street tacos, burrito bowls and more. The program, which can be done as a made-to-order concept, can compete with quick-service restaurants (QSRs), Malkowski said.

In addition to the build-to-order experience, the Contigo Taqueria program is available in the grab-and-go format.

Going ‘Extraordinary’

Malkowski said Latin flavors are becoming more popular because “you’re taking ordinary to extraordinary with sauces. You’re changing that flavor profile, whether it's a pepper profile or a sweet heat profile.

“Think about hot honey,” he said. “It’s on chicken today, where it’s that bite of that temperature that complements the protein or whatever that traditional item may be. People are looking for that customization, and to me sauces are going to allow us to lean into some of those more broader flavor profiles.”

Core-Mark’s branded programs allow its customers to get into the foodservice game without having the complexities of a franchise program, he said.

“It’s already built out,” he said. “We have the framework of our programs that allow our customers to get into foodservice without a lot of complexities. It’s customizable.”

Core-Mark is a Performance Food Group company that offers a full range of products, marketing programs and technology solutions to about 50,000 customer locations in the United States and Canada through 37 distribution centers. It services convenience stores, drug stores, grocery stores and other stores that carry convenience products.

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