The cold frozen dispensed category is undergoing some major changes these days, with many c-stores adding milkshakes and even energy slushees to their offerings. The additions continue to make the cold and frozen dispensed category one of the hottest in the convenience store industry.
“We’ve had great success with using energy drinks like Monster, Rock Star and Full Throttle in slush puppie machines,” said Eric Huppert, president of Spring Valley, Wis.-based Team Oil. Huppert introduced the energy slushees to his customers using a sign that read, “This isn’t your little sister’s energy drink. When you put an energy drink in the slush puppy machine and then dare people to drink it, it encourages them to try it.”
Huppert, who pulled his store’s fountain dispenser because sales weren’t going well, injected some life into the dispensed category with the addition of a frozen milkshake program about a year and a half ago. The machines let customers customize their milkshakes by adding one or more of eight different flavors to soft-serve vanilla ice cream.
“It was a $14,000 investment, but it’s one of the few things I’ve ever bought that is actually pretty close to what the salesman described,” Huppert noted. “Also, we’ve got the only soft serve ice cream in town, so the machine lets us corner that market.”
John West, director of sales and marketing for Dallas-based Alon Brands, said his company has also experimented with frozen dispensed energy drinks. As the largest 7-Eleven licensee in the U.S., Alon Brands has the option to accept the new Slurpee concepts and promotions that 7-Eleven has already researched.
“We generally jump on board with their special flavors,” West said. “But the two times we’ve done the energy flavors, we didn’t really see a major change. I expected Slurpee sales might drop a little because it had never been identified with an energy-type drink before, but our sales were basically level during the months we offered them.”
Alon Brands hasn’t adding any milkshake machines yet. “We’d like to, but we’ve got a lot of things we’re working on right now. We just brought on a new foodservice manager, and that’s under his category—but he’s got a few other things to attend to first,” West said.
Customers, West observed, are still looking for new and unique products that provide them with instant gratification, and added that he’s impressed with F’Real shake machines.
West noted that machines, whether for frozen Slurpee or dairy products, must be simple to operate and sanitize, but should also have the capability of shutting down if staff fails to do daily maintenance in a timely manner. “That takes out a lot of the issues we’ve had in the past with milk-based products,” he said. “You have to look not only at what the potential risks are, but also at how you can avoid problems in managing the way your employees handle the machine.”