LITTLE CANADA, Minn. -- Minnesota retailers' homegrown fuel brand continues to expand, with several new gas stations planned for the Twin Cities.
Minnoco (Minnesota Independent Oil Co.), an independent fuel brand created for members of the Minnesota Service Station & Convenience Store Association (MSSA), Little Canada, Minn., opened its first sites a few years ago. The goal of the brand was to give members greater flexibility in their fuel offer—namely, the ability to offer higher ethanol blends such as E15 without having to sign on to a long-term branded contract—and to enjoy greater cost-savings.
Six members currently have Minnoco branded sites in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Shakopee, Maplewood, Fridley and Coon Rapids. But soon the number will increase fourfold with 18 sites slated to convert to Minnoco in the Twin Cities area.
"Our owners believe we have a competitive advantage by offering more fuel choices like E15 to consumers," said Lance Klatt, executive director for Minnoco. "Our new brand not only draws in consumers for more affordable fuels but is also a great business model for retailers."
Minnoco retailers cite the cost savings available through the independent brand.
"I'm able to offer E15 as a more competitive fuel to my customers at a much lower price vs. regular," said Rick Bohnen, president of Minnoco and owner of Penn Minnoco in South Minneapolis. "This is a better business model for me because it significantly reduces my operational costs vs. branded fuels and I'm able to pass the savings on to consumers."
The brand offering includes a fuel rewards program, gift-card program and a mobile app.
Minnoco retailers also have greater flexibility to offer Minnesota-grown and produced biofuels. The roster of fuel types available for sale include E15, E30, E85 and diesel, as well as regular grades of gasoline. Despite warnings from some industry groups such as NACS about unsettled liability issues with E15 in particular, Minnoco retailers do not share these concerns.
Jerry Charmoli, owner of a Minnoco site in Coon Rapids and a seasoned mechanic, said the higher ethanol blends have not caused any performance issues for his customers. "E15 is approved for vehicles 2001 and newer and we've had zero problems. In fact, my customers love the cost savings and extra performance," he said.