Culinary Convenience

Full coverage of FARE 2013.

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How to Tap into Beverage Boosts

After fuel, beverages are the second-most purchased item at c-stores by dollar sales and are a powerful catalyst for even greater sales if managed well. “It’s an opportunity to convert the casual user,” said Tim Powell, director of research and consulting for Chicago-based Technomic Inc., during “Keeping Beverage Sales Hot.” Beverages encourage add-on sales and can attract new consumers. C-stores also rate higher than quick-serve restaurants on quality and variety, according to Technomic consumer surveys.

There are a few keys to strengthening beverage sales: execute consistently, increase variety, focus on freshness and home in on a store’s core demographics, Powell said. In hot dispensed, coffee dominates with 79% of sales, although it has been growing at a slower rate as of late, with a projected growth rate of 2.5% from 2012 to 2015. “Consistent coffee is key,” said Powell, citing QuickChek Corp. as “one of the best” in executing its program consistently well.

Hot chocolate has more of a “snacking position,” Powell said; while it supplies only 3% of sales, it has the highest projected growth rate, up 3.0%. For cold dispensed, CSDs supply 77% of sales, though they have continued to lose share since 2005, according to Technomic. Energy drinks and new functional beverages have been siphoning off sales. Iced tea, with 10% of sales, has seen growth across all segments; juice, at 7% of sales, is another key player. But for all of these beverages, quality is paramount.

One best practice—home in on a store’s core consumer—can be illustrated by looking at a key c-store demographic: Hispanics. One-half of Hispanics surveyed by Technomic said they visit a c-store once a week, and 25% visit two to three times per week. Retailers must keep their needs and preferences in mind for beverages. Hispanics tend to be price-sensitive but also factor in health and wellness, according to Technomic research. The heaviest c-store beverage consumer skews young, male and Hispanic, with a high school diploma, and tends to earn less than $25,000 per year. “Focus on these customers first,” said Powell. “It’s easier to build check averages here.”

Global Look at Foodservice Trends

Each food trend begins as a seed; depending on how it is nourished, it grows in different ways, with consumer behavior at the root. “We used to think the development of food trends was linear,” said Eric Stangarone, creative director of The Culinary Edge, San Francisco, to attendees of a session on global foodservice trends. That is, we assumed trends started at fine dining and filtered down to c-stores and QSRs. And while some trends probably follow this path, most take a “spoked-wheel” track, wherein the globalmarket reacts to itself. For example

Flattening of flavor: Taste profiles with North American origins—barbecue, hamburgers, Cajun, Mexican foods—are being picked up far from their source and translated. In China, premium burgers are picking up pace, while Mexican and barbecue concepts have taken root in London.

Dining going casual: Trends that once appeared to run downhill now happen in reverse. Take as an example fish and chips served on plastic tableware at a fine dining restaurant or a machine that bakes and dispenses baguettes in Paris. Stangarone also highlighted the most trend-worthy countries:

Japan, which combines technology and innovation—see: laser-cut, designer sushi, or frozen draft beer.

Brazil, where creativity and conscious consumerism are expressed through offerings such as edible packaging, and a cafe that offers customers a free salad if they arrive on a bike.

United States, where “we’re pushing out, creating and bring in trends,” said Stangarone. He cited “non-subtractive” health as a trend, which finds ways to be healthy without losing anything—for example, using nutrient-dense superfoods such as kale and blueberries.

Before adopting a trend, retailers must ask: Is this core to my brand? What guest behavior does it fulfill? And who has navigated this trend well and how? “Everyone wants to be Chipotle,” said Stangarone.“Yes, it’s brilliant, but it’s not the right thing for every single person out there.”

Going Knife to Knife

Pair a group of non-commercial chefs and traditional c-store operators together for a culinary competition, and what do you get? A banh mi mock taco, a Tuscan stew with panzanella salad, a grilled chicken cob sandwich with ranch remoulade, and a deconstructed chicken salad served with sautéed root vegetables—all packaged to go for convenient consumption. Four teams competed in the inaugural FARE Culinary Competition. They were challenged with creating and cooking a dish that not only looked and tasted great, but also would fit well on a foodservice-at-retail menu.

The winning dish: the Asian banh mi “maco” from Andrew Franco, executive chef for Nice N Easy GroceryShoppes, Canastota, N.Y., and Laurence Shiner, executive chef for Western Illinois University, Macomb, Ill.

Participants were given 75 minutes to prepare, package and serve an original, innovative on-the-go-style meal item. They were judged on a 10-point scale in four categories, each weighted equally: taste, creativity/innovation, presentation/appearance and portability/convenience. The dishes could be considered grab-and-go or made-to-order and either travel well for later consumption or be easily eaten quickly or on the go.

To create their dishes, teams had to use at least one product from each of the sponsor companies, including chicken from Pierce Chicken, breads from Amorist’s Baking Co., salad dressings from Kraft Foods Inc., to-go packages from Sabert Corp. and condiments from French’s Foodservice. Contestants also had a pantry of staple items to work from. Ingredients were revealed one week prior to the competition, so teammates could begin the brainstorming process.

The winning teammates received personalized FARE2013 chef coats and lodging at FARE 2014, which will be held June 16-18 at the Gaylord Texan outside of Dallas/Fort Worth.


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