ATLANTA — This year’s NACS Show® could be like no other as cannabidiol (CBD) products are allowed for the first time, plant-based meats propagate and six-legged snacks become a thing. CSP’s team of subject-matter experts put their heads together to create this preview of what we think will appear on the show floor in Atlanta.
The packaged-beverage category going into the 2019 show is all about what else a segment can be. Bottled water cut its teeth on being basic hydration, a healthy alternative to just about everything else in the cold vault. In 2019, however, water needs flavor or bubbles, vitamins or electrolytes. Even caffeine or protein isn’t out of the question.
The beer category has expanded to mean much more than it once did. At this year’s show, expect new brands and line extensions that continue to push the definition with ciders, malt beverages, hard seltzers, teas and coffees.
And the energy-drink category could be as active as ever with the emergence of the performance segment that’s driven Bang Energy into the top 10 energy brands with triple-digit growth. We know Monster Beverage is competing with its Reign Total Body Fuel launch and Keurig Dr Pepper with Adrenaline Shoc. Will Red Bull jump into the fray? And how will the The Coca-Cola Co. bring Coca-Cola Energy to market?
Through it all, watch for CBD as the ingredient du jour.
Showgoers should expect to see an onslaught of plant-based items. Sales of plant-based foods compared to animal-based foods such as meat, cheese and eggs increased 17% in 2018, while overall U.S. food sales grew only 2%, according to data from Nielsen and the Good Food Institute. Anticipate these options to appear as cauliflower pizza crusts, vegetarian sausages, corn- and pepper-based burritos and more.
New and improved foodservice equipment will also surface at this year’s show. Expect to see a variety of new coffee machines, meat smokers, dispensed beverage fountains and ovens that are built to accelerate preparation times, support the environment and enhance c-store dining experiences.
And don’t forget about coffee. Consumers are increasingly sipping iced coffee and cold brew more than traditional hot coffee, according to Technomic. Beyond that, global coffee flavors such as German chocolate cake and Arabian have taken off, giving coffee distributors plenty to showcase on the floor.
With E15, the 15% ethanol gasoline blend, receiving regulatory approval for year-round sales, expect a focus from fueling equipment manufacturers on dispensers, tanks and other hardware that are designed to handle the higher ethanol blends, up to E85. Also expect to see more tech-forward solutions to help manage the entire fueling system, as well as artificial intelligence-enabled pricing software to put retailers a step ahead of the competition.
During last year’s show, Gilbarco Veeder-Root introduced its investment in electric-vehicle (EV) charging. Don’t be surprised if similar partnerships between traditional fueling equipment providers and EV charging suppliers are in store for 2019.
And in car wash, lights, colors and other features will again be a trend in equipment, as well as payment and vehicle identification systems that can support membership programs.
Snacks and Candy
Don’t be frightened by the six-legged creatures at this year’s show. One-third of c-store operators said they’re very likely to begin selling cricket snacks in their stores down the line, according to a June 2019 survey conducted by CSP and RBC Capital Markets. Some insects, such as mealworms, contain the same amount of protein and fatty acids as fish and meat, making bugs an appealing option for consumers seeking healthier snacks.
Nontraditional jerky has also emerged on the snack scene in the forms of droewor, a type of coriander-seed spiced sausage jerky; shiitake mushroom jerky; ahi tuna jerky; barbecue chicken jerky; and turkey jerky.
On the candy side, two-in-one flavor combinations have become one of the hottest trends, seen in Starburst Duos, Hi-Chew Plus Fruit and Haribo’s Sour Bites. While these have mainly emerged in fruity and sour candies, expect flavor combos to also pop up in chocolates.
Data is still king, and it will continue to reign at this year’s show. Expect to find analytics-focused data collection and marketing tools, such as a cloud-based POS analytics platform from SwiftIQ and Acumera or iterations of Murphy USA’s rewards program from Hatch Loyalty.
This year will also be the final NACS Show before the October 2020 EMV liability shift occurs. As such, fuel-dispenser manufacturers and security firms will arrive with products both to retrofit existing dispensers with chip-card technology and to replace fuel pumps.
Attendees will hear the buzzword “frictionless” thrown around—and not just referring to checkout innovation—as back-office automation becomes more prevalent.
Also, labor issues continue to plague the industry, so tech suppliers will continue to offer solutions. Expect to see tech-driven human resources products such as the on-demand employee pay app DailyPay, recently adopted by Parker’s.
Even though evolving state and federal laws are keeping the tobacco category in a state of flux, the FDA’s authorization of the IQOS heated tobacco device and the removal of hemp from the U.S. government’s list of controlled substances has cracked open the door for innovation and profitability.
Such developments offer hope at a time when the mainstay of combustible cigarettes has seen a precipitous decline in 2019. Nielsen data for the four-week period ending June 15 put cigarette volumes at an 11% decline year over year, with the 12-week average at 10.3%. That’s almost twice the historic decline rate, which ran from 3% to 5% for most of last year.
Electronic cigarettes provide a more upbeat outlook: Unit sales grew 39% in that same four-week time frame, Nielsen reported.
Retailers searching for innovation on the show floor should look to manufacturers of heat-not-burn products and e-cigarettes, such as Altria Group’s IQOS and R.J. Reynolds Vaping Co.’s Vuse.
Also, hemp-based CBD products in the form of vape pens and combustibles will surely draw interest.